Google employees are aghast that the company they work for has been secretly developing a search engine for China that meets the communist regime’s needs for strict censorship of its people. More than 1,400 employees have signed a letter protesting the project, known as Dragonfly.
Google abandoned its Chinese projects in 2010 due to concerns over that country’s strict censorship and human rights abuses. But now, the employee letter states, “Dragonfly and Google’s return to China raise urgent moral and ethical issues.”
Ryan Gallagher at The Intercept has reported that the new search engine “would remove content that China’s authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.”
“It would ‘blacklist sensitive queries’ so that ‘no results will be shown’ at all when people enter certain words or phrases, leaked Google documents disclosed,” Gallagher writes.
The anxiety over helping China crush the free exchange of information among its people is laudable. But it begs the question:
Where is the concern by Google employees over similar efforts already underway in America today?
Facebook, Apple and YouTube – which is owned by Google – orchestrating a synchronized de-platforming of popular conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should send shivers down the backs of those worried about free speech on the Internet.
As popular conservative YouTube host Mark Dice said in response to the move:
“Love him or hate him, Alex is like the canary in the coal mine. And these big tech companies conspiring together to de-platform him on the same day changes everything.”
But flat-out banning undesirable opinion is not the only way Google’s YouTube can squelch unfettered discourse online. Last year YouTube debuted its “limited state” censorship policy for videos that did not violate its user terms but nevertheless were considered “inappropriate or offensive to some audiences.”
WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange said scornfully of the policy:
“What’s interesting about the new method deployed is that it is a clear attempt at social engineering. It isn’t just turning off the ads. It’s turning off the comments, embeds, etc. too. Everything possible to strangle the reach without deleting it.”
And then there is Twitter’s use of shadow banning – a way of lowering a user’s visibility – against conservative accounts on the social media giant.
But you won’t find liberals horrified by these attempts to diminish the free exchange of ideas in cyberspace. Indeed, they are quite enthusiastic about the opportunities moving forward.
Mark Dice’s video shows prominent leftist voices clamoring for President Trump and climate change “deniers” to be given the Alex Jones treatment.
A “Tech” article labeled “Internet” on the leftist British news site The Guardian heralds the Jones ban as a potential harbinger of “a new era of big tech responsibility”:
“By moving beyond the knee-jerk framing of Jones’ removal as a free speech issue, we can view his de-platforming as an attempt to clean up the waters he has muddied with misinformation and hatred.”
It then provides a chilling quote from Cornell University professor Tarleton Gillespie, who is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research New England. Microsoft describes Gillespie as “the newest permanent member of the Social Media Collective.”
What exactly is that, you may ask?
According to Microsoft’s website, the collective is “Microsoft Research’s team of sociologists, anthropologists, and communication & media scholars studying the impact of information technology on social and political life.”
Professor Gillespie not only welcomes the Jones ban, he sees it as a fruitful start.
“It seems like the beginning of a recognition that platforms can ban hateful tactics, not just explicitly hateful speech; that they can protect public discourse by banning those who strategically work to sour [it],” The Guardian quotes him as saying.
One can only wonder what constitutes “hateful tactics” in the professor’s mind. That he feels such a loosely defined concept is grounds for wiping a person off the biggest platforms utilized by the general public on the Internet tells us all we need to know.
Who needs Big Tech partnering with state-sponsored censors in communist nations when we have them already feverishly at work on developing a socially engineered Internet right where we live?
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