from the don't-be-████ dept.
Google, continuing to distance itself from "Don't be evil.", has produced an internal document that endorses political censorship to influence elections and more. The argument is that free speech (an "American tradition") is not viable on the internet due to various factors such as the 2016 election of President Donald J. Trump.
The document admits that big tech companies "control the majority of online conversations" and have made a "shift towards censorship" over the popularity of political choices that they are unwilling to accept. This directly contradicts the repeated assertions that the political bias of big tech company executives doesn't end up affecting the products.
Fortunately for free speech, that document has leaked and now you can see the thinking of those who deem themselves your masters.
According to the briefing itself, it was the product of an extensive process involving "several layers of research," including expert interviews with MIT Tech Review editor-in-chief Jason Pontin, Atlantic staff writer Franklin Foer, and academic Kalev Leetaru. 35 cultural observers and 7 cultural leaders from seven countries on five continents were also consulted to produce it.
The Breitbart report is divided into several parts:
- Leaked Google Briefing Admits Abandonment of Free Speech For "Safety and Civility" - explains the desire of Google, Twitter, and Facebook to "create well-ordered spaces for safety and civility" on the grounds that the "European tradition" "favors dignity over liberty and civility over freedom."
- Leaked Briefing Says Google Must Move Away from 'American Tradition' of Free Speech to Expand Globally, Attract Advertiser $$$s - explains that Google's grounds is simply to make more money.
- Google Briefing Accused Trump of Spreading 'Conspiracy Theory' - for saying that Google suppressed negative news about Hillary Clinton.
- Google Document Suggests Web Must Be Controlled Because 'Users Are Behaving Badly' - which focuses on "cyber harassment", "cyber racism" including nationalism, and venting about frustrating experiences. It must be noted that Google invited several notorious online harassers to speak as "anti-harassment" experts.
- Google Growth Strategy: 'Shift Towards Censorship' to Appease Authoritarian Governments - explains that Google's motivation is to appease foreign governments and advertisers.
- Google Briefing Admits Censorship Makes It Akin to a 'Publisher' - suggests that Google may now be legally liable in the United States for the content it carries.
The "leaked" presentation was quickly framed by some as a roadmap to censorship and that it demonstrated the company was examining how to suppress certain viewpoints or crack down on internet freedoms. Yet, a closer read of the presentation would suggest precisely the opposite: a company at the center of many of our debates about the future of the online world grappling with the existential question of the modern web: how to absolutely preserve freedom of speech, while at the same time preventing terrorists, criminals, repressive governments and trolls from turning this incredible force for good into a toxic and dangerous place that undermines democracy, advances terrorism, assists fraudsters and empowers hatred? How do we elevate the voices of the disenfranchised and give them a place at the table of global discourse, while not also awakening the trolls that seek to repress them? How do we empower the free expression of ideas and bring an incredibly diverse and divided world together, while embracing the differences that make us who we are? How do we reach across countries and cultures, across languages and landscapes, to have meaningful conversations about the future of our shared planet? Most importantly, how can technology play a positive role in helping facilitate the good, empowering civil discourse, while discouraging the bad, from terrorist recruiting to fraud to toxic speech and trolling?
[...] Reading the final report today for the first time alongside the rest of the web, my own take on it is very different than the framing that seems to have emerged in certain quarters. I see not a company charting a future of web censorship, but rather a company in its 20th year reaching out to experts across the world trying to make sense of what the web has become and what its own place should be in that future. To me it is extraordinary to see Silicon Valley actually listening, absorbing and reflecting on what the world is saying about the state of the web. This is the Valley as it should be – listening to its users and understanding the web from their vantage, rather than dictating its own vision for the future of our online world.
Stepping back and looking at the themes of the Google presentation, what one sees is essentially a summary of the state of the web today and the pragmatic reality that in the anarchy of the anything-goes free-for-all of the early web, the darkness began to eclipse the light.
Three former Google software engineers who sued the company yesterday claim they were fired for following Google's famous "Don't be evil" mantra.
"Google terminated each plaintiffs' employment with it for adhering to the directive 'Don't be evil' and calling out activity by Google that they each believed betrayed that directive," according to the complaint filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court by Rebecca Rivers, Sophie Waldman, and Paul Duke. The ex-employees say Google falsely blamed them for a data leak after they circulated an internal petition.
The lawsuit notes that the Google Code of Conduct "that each full-time Google employee is required to sign as a condition of employment" specifically instructs them not to be evil. The ex-employees say they tried to uphold the "Don't be evil" policy in August 2019 by circulating a petition "requesting that Google affirm that it would not collaborate with CBP [US Customs and Border Protection] or ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] with respect to enforcement of the Trump border control policies."
"[E]ach plaintiff protested Google's engagement in supporting BCP policies that resulted in separation of families and 'caging' of immigrants who were seeking asylum in the United States," the complaint said.
Google's firings of Rivers, Waldman, and Duke are also part of an ongoing case in which the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Google.
(2018-10-13) Google Leak: The Good Censor
(2018-09-14) "Senior Google Scientist" Resigns over Chinese Search Engine Censorship Project
(2018-05-19) "Don't be Evil" Disappearing From Google's Code of Conduct