Tech News, Food For Thought

Events in Charlottesville prompt tech companies to crack down on hate speech

In the aftermath of an white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville that left one woman dead and 19 injured, several major tech companies, including GoDaddy, Google, Facebook, and Paypal decided that providing web services to high-profile alt right groups may be bad for business.

As the proprietors of the Daily Stormer learned last week, they can no longer post hate speech with impunity. GoDaddy and Google both kicked them off their servers after the site, which had heavily promoted the rally in Charlottesville, continued to incite violence. "We are going to start doing this nonstop across the country," said a post on the website. "...We are going to go bigger than Charlottesville. We are going to go huge." The post also said, "We are now at war," and threatened to "take over the country." Facebook banned accounts (on Facebook and Instagram) of at least one white nationalist who attended the rally.

But this begs the question as to why these web giants were providing services to the Daily Stormer in the first place. GoDaddy had already been warned that the neo-Nazi website was violating its terms of service. These terms banned customers from "defaming, abusing or threatening third parties" as well as doing anything "racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable on their sites. On July 6th, the website the Daily Beast posted an article asking why GoDaddy continued to provide services to the Daily Stormer since the website was violating its terms of service. In response to this article, GoDaddy didn't terminate the Daily Stormer's services. But it did take action: It secretly removed all prohibited activities from its service agreement.

It was only last week, after Internet users across the country, outraged by the website's defamatory insults of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer, that GoDaddy finally cut off the neo-Nazi website. The reason GoDaddy cited was that the Daily Stormer was "inciting additional violence." Ironically, inciting violence was no longer prohibited by the company's service agreement.

Tech giants like Twitter, Spotify, and even markedly anti-censorship Cloudflare are taking action against racists and neo-Nazis on their platforms too. Twitter suspended accounts associated with the Daily Stormer and Spotify moved to remove "hate bands" from its music streaming service. It's clear that the recent events prompted a collective reassessment of the responsibilities of tech companies for the content they host and support.

The lesson here is that we cannot trust internet companies to protect our interests or keep us safe. The only thing that will protect us in the weeks and months to come is constant vigilance. "If you see something, say something."  Whether we're on the MBTA, on the Boston Common, or on the Internet, we need to take action.

 

Some of the information above is taken from this article in The Daily Beast:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/godaddy-secretly-its-deleted-racism-ban-before-neo-nazi-firestorm

and Business Insider:

http://www.businessinsider.com/tech-companies-crack-down-hate-speech-charlottesville-2017-8 

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