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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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For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Support the Belmont Club by purchasing from Amazon through the links below.

Books:

Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America, by T.J. Stiles. Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in History, this book paints a portrait of Custer that demolishes historical caricature, revealing a volatile, contradictory, intense person -- capable yet insecure, intelligent yet bigoted, passionate yet self-destructive, a romantic individualist at odds with the institution of the military (he was court-martialed twice in six years). The key to understanding Custer, Stiles writes, is keeping in mind that he lived on a frontier in time. In the Civil War, the West, and many other areas, Custer helped to create modern America, but could never adapt to it. Stiles casts surprising new light on a near-mythic American figure, a man both widely known and little understood.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, by Sebastian Junger. We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding or "tribes," a connection now largely lost. But its pull on us remains and is exemplified by combat veterans who find themselves missing the intimate bonds of platoon life at the end of deployment and the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by military veterans today. Combining history, psychology, and anthropology, Junger explores what we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty, belonging, and the eternal human quest for meaning. He explains why we are stronger when we come together, and how that can be achieved even in today's divided world.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres

Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free

The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age

Storming the Castle, why government should get small

No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.

Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific

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