How The New NAFTA Trade Deal Lets Big Tech Squelch Conservative Speech
By Jeremy Carl 13, 2018
Less than two weeks ago, President Trump signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement intended to be the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has attacked for decades. The White House says the agreement will “better serve the interests of American workers and businesses” and “includes the strongest digital trade … provisions of any United States trade agreement.”
Unfortunately, an obscure article in one provision of the agreement only serves the interests of the largest tech monopolies by granting them special privilege to censor conservatives. Congress should demand the removal or amendment of this article before giving consent to confirm section 230.
How did this happen? Big Tech lobbyists orchestrated the quiet insertion of a seemingly innocuous provision (Article 19.17) into the deal that is based on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230, much beloved by big tech, and an essential building block of their monopolistic dominance, holds that platforms like Facebook cannot be held liable as a “publisher or speaker” of their users’ content.
Under the right circumstances, there’s good reason for tech companies to have this type of immunity. If Facebook were legally responsible for everything its more than 2 billion users post, then it would enforce overly restrictive rules and restrictions and block lawful posts. Because Congress explicitly acknowledged that these platforms served as a “forum for a true diversity of political discourse,” it granted this important privilege.
Congress Should Reconsider Big Tech’s Special Legal Privileges That Foster Censorship
Jerry A. Johnson 14, 2019
On Jan. 9 we sent letters to the chairs and ranking members of the House Judiciary, House Energy and Commerce, Senate Judiciary, and Senate Commerce committees requesting hearings on this matter in order to seek an appropriate governmental remedy to online censorship.
This request comes after we have carefully tracked and documented viewpoint censorship for years. Repeatedly, we have urged Big Tech leaders to adopt a free speech charter to ensure their platforms are an even playing field for debate. In December 2017, we launched Internet Freedom Watch to draw greater attention to this problem. For many years we have amassed evidence of viewpoint censorship on the internet, illustrating it with a timeline with more than 40 high-profile examples.
In addition to Graham, the timeline is a veritable who’s who of Christian and conservative leaders and causes, including cases involving Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Susan B. Anthony List, PragerU, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Alliance Defending Freedom, NRBTV, Erick Erickson, Dr. Michael Brown, Live Action, D. James Kennedy Ministries, Dr. Carol Swain, Ray Comfort, Phil Robertson, Todd Starnes, Chuck Colson’s Manhattan Declaration, and other Christian leaders and ministries, as well as conservative leaders and organizations.
The common denominator is espousing viewpoints progressives oppose and increasingly seek to squelch in the public marketplace of ideas. Although some of these cases of censorship were later corrected, that the problem persists and is growing indicates it is systemic.
‘The goal is to automate us’: welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism
Sun 20 Jan 2019
…The headline story is that it’s not so much about the nature of digital technology as about a new mutant form of capitalism that has found a way to use tech for its purposes. The name Zuboff has given to the new variant is “surveillance capitalism”. It works by providing free services that billions of people cheerfully use, enabling the providers of those services to monitor the behaviour of those users in astonishing detail – often without their explicit consent.
“Surveillance capitalism,” she writes, “unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data. Although some of these data are applied to service improvement, the rest are declared as a proprietary behavioural surplus, fed into advanced manufacturing processes known as ‘machine intelligence’, and fabricated into prediction products that anticipate what you will do now, soon, and later. Finally, these prediction products are traded in a new kind of marketplace that I call behavioural futures markets. Surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, for many companies are willing to lay bets on our future behaviour.”
While the general modus operandi of Google, Facebook et al has been known and understood (at least by some people) for a while, what has been missing – and what Zuboff provides – is the insight and scholarship to situate them in a wider context. She points out that while most of us think that we are dealing merely with algorithmic inscrutability, in fact what confronts us is the latest phase in capitalism’s long evolution – from the making of products, to mass production, to managerial capitalism, to services, to financial capitalism, and now to the exploitation of behavioural predictions covertly derived from the surveillance of users. In that sense, her vast (660-page) book is a continuation of a tradition that includes Adam Smith, Max Weber, Karl Polanyi and – dare I say it – Karl Marx.
Google Staff Tell Bosses China Censorship Is “Moral and Ethical”
August 16 2018
Google employees are demanding answers from the company’s leadership amid growing internal protests over plans to launch a censored search engine in China.
Staff inside the internet giant’s offices have agreed that the censorship project raises “urgent moral and ethical issues” and have circulated a letter saying so, calling on bosses to disclose more about the company’s work in China, which they say is shrouded in too much secrecy, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter.
The internal furor began after The Intercept earlier this month revealed details about the censored search engine, which 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. The search platform is to be launched via an Android app, pending approval from Chinese officials.
The censorship plan – code-named Dragonfly – was not widely known within Google. Prior to its public exposure, only a few hundred of Google’s 88,000 employees had been briefed about the project – around 0.35 percent of the total workforce. When the news spread through the company’s offices across the world, many employees expressed anger and confusion.