Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Laying the First Bricks of the Western Great Firewall

Western neoliberal orthodoxy, though discredited, its high priests headed off to retirement or the unemployment line, appears to be in need of a quick and dirty technological patch.

As soon as Trump won the U.S. presidential election, stories started appearing in the mainstream media about the role Fake News played in securing his victory.

Fake News has a neo-McCarthyite overlay in that all this false information that is purportedly pulsating through the internet is of a Kremlin origin.

So the empire strikes back. You could see this coming in stories from Europe published in the last couple of weeks. Fake News was being mentioned in the same sentence as hate speech. Clearly the plan is to conflate the two, and have the giant tech companies -- Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter -- design a filter, a censorship program, to remove offensive content. In other words, a corporate Western version of the Chinese Great Firewall. Europe will test the beta version, and then the U.S. will follow.

The tech giants actually kicked things off on Monday when they announced an effort to censor terrorist content on the internet. Then yesterday the European Commission published its "Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online." All that needs to be done is to categorize Fake News as a variant of hate speech. And lo and behold! We have ourselves a Western Great Firewall.

Yves Smith weighs in this morning with "Witch Hunt: “Fake News” Software Touted by CBS Smears Naked Capitalism, ShadowProof, TruthDig, Others; Creator Admits He Made Up Who Went on Hit Li[s]t":
The faith in coders coming up with a magic bullet for information validation is similarly questionable. The concern about “fake news” on the Internet is almost comical given that more citizens encounter “fake news” via seeing National Enquirer and National Examiner covers in grocery stores than via websites. It is not hard to imagine that much of the tender concern expressed by the mainstream media is commercial: independent news and analysis sites threaten their legitimacy by exposing how dependent they are on stories planted by government or business source that these press outlets often fail to vet adequately.
Hallelujah! The irony of this post-election Fake News crisis is that if there is any substance to the issue it is due to the ad-driven revenue model of the tech giants. Fake Newsies aren't agents of the Kremlin but people of modest means hustling to concoct click bait to generate income from ad placement (see "Inside a Fake News Sausage Factory: ‘This Is All About Income’."

Let me quote Mark Scott's "Europe Presses American Tech Companies to Tackle Hate Speech" in full. The first bricks of the Western Great Firewall are being laid.
European officials pushed on Tuesday for American technology giants to do more to tackle online hate speech across the region, adding to the chorus of policy makers worldwide demanding greater action from the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter.
The rebuke came a day after many of those companies announced that they were joining forces to fight the spread of terrorist content on the internet, agreeing to share technology and information to prevent propaganda and other dangerous materials from being disseminated on their services.
Amid growing security tensions in much of the Western world, governments, intelligence agencies and advocacy groups want Google, Microsoft and other technology companies to take further steps to curb hate speech on digital platforms, as well as to clamp down on how terrorists circulate information online.
But freedom of expression campaigners have warned that such demands may limit people’s ability to communicate across the internet, and they have cautioned that the line between hate speech and legitimate political discussion can be blurry.
In a report published on Tuesday, however, the European authorities signaled that only 40 percent of material flagged as possible hate speech online (albeit in a relatively small sample of 600 posts, videos and other online material) had been reviewed by the Silicon Valley companies within 24 hours. Of those 600 postings, just over a quarter was eventually taken down, the report said.
“While I.T. companies are moving in the right direction, the first results show that the I.T. companies will need to do more to make it a success,” Vera Jourova, the European commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, said in a statement. “It is our duty to protect people in Europe from incitement to hatred and violence online.”
Press officers for Google and Microsoft declined to comment. Representatives for Facebook and Twitter were not immediately available to comment.
In a recent interview, Richard Allen, Facebook’s head of public policy in Europe, said that the social network was committed to tackling hate speech online, but that there was a fine line between what was legitimate under freedom of speech laws and what was required to protect people online.
“Our policies provide protection from hate speech,” Mr. Allen said last month. “We shouldn’t apply media regulation to the speech of ordinary citizens.”
The report on Tuesday is part of European efforts to coax American technology companies to take more responsibility for what is published through their services. In May, companies including Google, Facebook and Twitter signed a voluntary code of conduct, agreeing to do more to tackle the rise of online hate speech across the 28-member European Union.
Some lawmakers, though, are not satisfied.
In Germany, where Facebook, in particular, has come under scrutiny, a government-backed task force is to report early next year on whether the social network, among other companies, has met national targets for responding to — and potentially eliminating — hate speech. Officials want companies to remove at least 70 percent of online hate speech within 24 hours of it being reported.
Heiko Maas, the German justice minister, has said that Facebook could even be held criminally liable for illegal hate speech posts, and he has called for legislation if the company does not meet its legal commitments.
“Facebook has a certain responsibility to uphold the laws,” Mr. Maas said.
The social network denies any wrongdoing.

No comments:

Post a Comment