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posted by chromas on Sunday October 14 2018, @05:20AM   Printer-friendly
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:

The Good Censor [alt link (Dropbox download)]

Forbes disagrees:

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.

Also at The Verge, Digital Journal, The Hill, Dexerto.

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Phoenix666 on Monday October 15 2018, @01:38AM (1 child)

    by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 15 2018, @01:38AM (#748779) Journal

    It is weird, but we're living in weird, weird times. When CNN started I watched the channel constantly. Now I can't bear to watch it for five seconds. I used to read the New York Times every day, then one day they decided to cheerlead the invasion of Iraq under the phony pretext of "Weapons of Mass Destruction." I was an NPR addict for 30 years, even having gone for 3 years in graduate school and afterward with no other form of mass media but that. Now I can't listen to them.

    Breitbart now is the least weird, least hysterical. Every other outlet has no intention every day but "GET TRUMP!!! OMG, OMG, OMG WE GOTTA GET TRUMP!!!"

    I suppose it should have been obvious that somebody was fucking with our time line when the National Enquirer started scooping the "real" media on stories, like when they took John Edwards down. It should have been obvious the MSM didn't care one whit about the journalistic mission when none of them went to bat for Wikileaks and Julian Assange. We should all now have no doubt where things stand that the New York Times refused to break the Weinstein story. We should none of us harbor any further illusions when NBC worked for years to cover up and excuse sexual harassment by Matt Lauer and others there.

    Honestly, the relativistic effects of the black hole we're all spiraling into are enough to make a person's head spin.

    Nevertheless, free speech is the right thing to stand for. It is an unalloyed good. The Founding Fathers didn't invent it out of thin air, but instead were channeling a thousand years of hard experience of not having it in Europe. It is a key plank of the Western Tradition and the Enlightenment. It ought to lead us to condemn what Google is doing, and what Facebook is doing, even though those have made protestations about being our friends, of doing it for our own good.

    I would go even further and say what they are doing, and what others mean to do with enforcing standards of conversation for reasons of decorum, is incredibly dangerous. Coarse speech and harsh words, raw emotion and combative tone, signal that deeper things are going wrong. It warns of us against approaching catastrophe that will occur if we don't fix those deeper things immediately. If we censor all that out for a tailored, Pollyanna illusion we are effectively removing the fire alarms in the house of the public discourse because they keep going off.

    Washington DC delenda est.
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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Azuma Hazuki on Monday October 15 2018, @03:17AM

    by Azuma Hazuki (5086) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 15 2018, @03:17AM (#748802) Journal

    Agreed with all of that except the part about Breitbart being the least bad of the lot. Other than that you're spot on. I have not taken what any news outlet tells me at face value since 9/11, and was skeptical beforehand too. Money ruins everything, authoritarianism ruins everything, and it can be anyone doing it regardless of their stance on the economy.

    I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...