Big Tech's Authoritarian Practices Are Accelerating. Will You Submit?
Glenn Reynolds has deactivated his Twitter account, citing the banning of Jesse Kelly for no apparent reason as the immediate cause of his disillusionment with the platform. Explaining his decision, he wrote:
Why should I provide free content to people I don’t like, who hate me? I’m currently working on a book on social media, and I keep coming back to the point that Twitter is far and away the most socially destructive of the various platforms. So I decided to suspend them, as they are suspending others. At least I’m giving my reasons, which is more than they’ve done usually.
He may have beaten the digital bouncers to the door by only a little. The Thought Police are rushing to ensure that everyone toes the line. The Straits Times reports that "Facebook will allow French regulators to 'embed' inside the company to examine how it combats online hate speech, the first time the wary tech giant has opened its doors in such a way, President Emmanuel Macron said."
The trial project is an example of what Mr Macron has called "smart regulation", something he wants to extend to other tech leaders such as Google, Apple and Amazon.
The move follows a meeting with Facebook's founder, Mr Mark Zuckerberg, in May, when Mr Macron invited the chief executive officers of some of the biggest tech firms to Paris, telling them they should work for the common good.
The officials may be seconded from the telecoms regulator and the interior and justice ministries, a government source said. Facebook said the selection was up to the French presidency.
It is unclear whether the group will have access to highly sensitive material such as Facebook's algorithms or codes to remove hate speech. It could travel to Facebook's European headquarters in Dublin and global base in Menlo Park, California, if necessary, the company said.
This is the same Emmanuel Macron who is worried that protests by the French miserables against his crushing environmental fuel taxes could hurt the government's image:
The French president told ministers at a cabinet meeting on Monday that the government must respond after images were relayed around the world of police firing teargas and water cannon at protesters who set up barricades, lit fires and smashed restaurants and shopfronts on the Champs-Élysées.
It's not just Macron who is leaning on Google. The government of China is also exerting pressure on the tech companies to help them to build a social media surveillance state. Here's Ben Gomes, Google's search engine chief who "joked about the unpredictability of President Donald Trump and groaned about the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, which has slowed down Google’s negotiations with Communist Party officials in Beijing, whose approval Google requires to launch the censored search engine":
China I think is one of the most interesting markets, arguably the most interesting market in the world today. Just by virtue of being there and paying attention to the Chinese market, we will learn things, because in many ways China was leading the world in some kinds of innovation. We need to understand what is happening there in order to inspire us. It’s not just a one-way street. China will teach us things that we don’t know. And the people, as you work on this, both in the Chinese offices and elsewhere, paying attention to the things that are happening there is incredibly valuable for us as Google, potentially not just in China, but somewhere else entirely.
One of the things China will pioneer, as the New York Times reports, is to use "A.I., shame and lots of cameras" to control its population:
With millions of cameras and billions of lines of code, China is building a high-tech authoritarian future. Beijing is embracing technologies like facial recognition and artificial intelligence to identify and track 1.4 billion people. It wants to assemble a vast and unprecedented national surveillance system, with crucial help from its thriving technology industry ...
China is reversing the commonly held vision of technology as a great democratizer, bringing people more freedom and connecting them to the world. In China, it has brought control.
“The goal is algorithmic governance.”
The control system China is implementing creates two classes of citizens: the Woke and the Haters. The former will be rewarded and the latter banned from any responsible role in life:
China’s plan to judge each of its 1.3 billion people based on their social behavior is moving a step closer to reality, with Beijing set to adopt a lifelong points program by 2021 that assigns personalized ratings for each resident ... The Beijing project will improve blacklist systems so that those deemed untrustworthy will be "unable to move even a single step."
As Tyler Grant notes in The Hill, the basic algorithms behind the Chinese social scoring system and Western hate speech systems are essentially the same. "It’s tempting to think this government overreach is purely reserved to China, after all they did just forfeit significant freedom by electing Xi Jinping president for life. This is incorrect thinking. The rest of the world is steps away from trailing the Chinese into a surveillance state":
The U.K. fines and even imprisons people for hate speech or speech deemed abhorrent to the prevailing norms of society. The U.S. is not far behind. Last week, a Manhattan judge ruled a bar can toss Trump supporters for their political viewpoints. A recent proliferation of politically motivated boycotts seeks to punish "bad" viewpoints; protesters are eager to shout down incorrect speech. In this political climate, it’s not difficult to imagine businesses or the government assessing social benefit or worth based upon a variety of factors including political speech.
With incredible data collection, the plumbing is already in place for such a system to take hold. Our tech companies catalogue large quantities of data on everyone. As we saw with Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 election, this data can be used to steer particular viewpoints; it’s not a far cry to imagine information being used to control viewpoints.
There's nothing to lose by quitting if they're coming for you anyway. At least you get a head start.
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