Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Glory of Delete

My delete key (Delete) has always been a friend; as a scalpel and as a club, as comfort and as vengeful therapy.  Delete went from friend to indispensable partner last fall. I run many Google Alerts and other search bots, and not only was more garbage showing up, but the rate at which it was repeated was mind numbing. Delete certainly saved my sanity.

Delete has also been a great help in improving my personal relationships. It wasn't bad enough my bot army was returning mountains of crud, but some of my conservative friends and colleagues felt it incumbent on them to overshare representations of their political ideology. Delete helped me sustain those relationships. Of course I am being hypocritical as I  am also likely guilty of the same thing in their eyes.

I hope everyone honors their Delete. Perhaps we need a day to show our appreciation of this unsung hero of free speech. National Delete Day, when we excise wonderful control over our own personal environments for just one day.

Most of all. I hope that all my friends, neighbors, colleagues,  readers, viewers, community and acquaintances use Delete on my emails, posts, videos and comments as I have used it on theirs. That is free speech too. I can respect that above all else.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Free Speech Differential

For years I have followed, watched, read, wrote about, spoke about and discussed cyberhate in all its  manifestations; stalking,  trolling, doxxing, racism, anti-Semitism, spoofing, forging, marginalization, disinformation and just good old outright viciousness.

For all those years,  I have worked with the ADL in reaching out to industry players. Our efforts have not been censorship or promotion of a particular agenda, our objective has been to illuminate the depth and nature of the hate online so that the companies can establish their own, meaingful, platform relevant policies.

We have long supported the ability of almost anyone to have an online presence. That's the principle of free speech. However, when individual items, pages or players go over the line into incitement, targeting, marginalization, scapegoating and vicious bigotry, I would suggest it is time platforms give that material especially close consideration. Hate needs to be challenged.

Words lead to actions. I have long maintained this and deeply regret to have been proved correct time and time again.

The internet industry has long considered the issue of cyberhate and grappled with its implications and the damage it can and has caused. In most cases, and especially with the major companies, they have expended considerable resources to develop intricate and well-considered mechanisms and terms of service.

The events of Charlottesville have brought this issue  home to the industry in a very real way. Now,  many of the companies are interpreting and applying their long considered terms of service and we are all faced with what it means to respond to cyberhate on a large scale.

The internet industry responding to cyberhate is nothing new. It has been going on for years. Every major platform has been suspending accounts, removing posts and issuing content warnings for a long time. Now, when these suspensions happen to high profile hate websites, the question of whether or not companies should be making these decisions has come to the forefront.

The question is not should the companies be the arbiters of content thresholds, but who should be? The government?  The internet mob? Should there be no limitations at all? The companies are more familiar with this problem and its impact than anyone. Regardless of the ultimate answer, the companies are an integeal part of the solution.

No one can tell you what bumper sticker to put on your car or who to vote for or the kind of store you must shop in. Not all the issues are equal. Not all hate is equal, but if our ability and obligation to speak out against it becomes limited, the experience of Charlottesville may soon be coming to a town near you.