Posted on 06-05-2020.
For decades Google has been widely criticized for privacy breaches and turning its host of services into a perfect global surveillance mechanism. But it took a while until this global corporation owned up to the criticism, albeit silently. It was the year 2018 when Google officially dropped its long-standing “don’t be evil” motto and shifted to a much more sustainable “do the right thing.” Evil may be a vague concept, but often immediately identifiable by onlookers. The right thing, on the other hand, is just what someone thinks is right for them.
“Some will say that Google was always a bad corporate actor, with less than transparent privacy practices. But there is a significant difference between serving ads based on a Google search and working with the Chinese government on artificial intelligence or hosting the applications of the Saudi government, including Absher, an application that allows men to track and control the movement of their female family members,” Google ex-Head of International Relations Ross LaJeunesse wrote in his blog.
“For a long time, we thought of censorship in terms of governments and nation-states, and I think now we’re in an era in which people are starting to realize that private companies, probably more than ever before, control people’s ability to amplify their voices, and whether or not their speech stays up or comes down, also what they see and what they can listen to, what they can read,” the presentation quotes the Internet scholar Kalev Leetaru.With great power comes great responsibility. Google sees itself as King Solomon trying to resolve a seemingly unresolvable grievance. One side champions free speech, while the other demands censorship of “bad behaviour,” The presentation then attempts to rationalize why the scales are tipping on the side of censorship. It mentions the first amendment and subtly hints that it just might be outdated because people, due to the peculiarities of their very nature, tend to misbehave. “Human beings en masse don’t behave very well,” the presentation quotes scholar Jason Pontin. And while “the Internet was founded on the utopian principles of free speech” it so happened that “the early utopian period of the Internet has collapsed under the weight of bad behaviour.” The premise here is that Google wielding power over global social and political discourse can dictate the public at large what is good and what is bad behaviour (even outside the U.S. law). Google decided to impose moral authority upon its users who must be protected from each other’s bad behaviour by a corporation that was caught being naughty on multiple occasions. The concept of a “good censor” is no different from the concept of a “benevolent tyrant” whose despotism is, as John Mill put it, “a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement.” It is important to note, that this presentation came at the time when Google was working on Project Dragonfly, a tool meant to help the Chinese government spy on its citizens. The project was since discontinued. But this document, apparently concocted to justify the necessary revision of values within the framework of Google’s cooperation with China, still haunts the Internet.
“I don’t see any of these projects actually being decentralized. Any company that is hosting your content is responsible for your content. If one of these projects, whether its Steemit or BitTube or Hive, gets big enough they will become YouTube. And they will censor you all the same,” he said.Our Occupy the Internet project in part started to challenge this idea. But it is becoming obvious that Tone was correct in his assessment of the situation on many levels. Even now Steemit is involved in censoring its recent offshoot Hive. Platforms like Mastodon were also seen exercising arbitrary censorship. Mastodon instance admins can basically deny users of their instance the ability to discover certain other instances within the network, thus filtering and controlling the flow of information. Mastodon has also donned the “good censor” mantle. Even legacy media sees decentralized solutions not as ideological rivals but only as a means to conveniently alleviate some of their current burdens and are ready to embrace and co-opt them. https://twitter.com/jack/status/1204766078468911106