Former US secretary of state says censorship on college campuses keeps him up at night more than the Taliban

Mike Pompeo
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

  • Mike Pompeo in an interview said college censorship is scarier to him than the Taliban.
  • “I met with the Taliban, I met with Chairman Kim. None of that scares me as much as what’s happening in our universities and on our campuses today,” he said.
  • Pompeo said thinking about censorship on college campuses keeps him up at night.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he finds censorship on college campuses more disturbing than the Taliban.

“I get asked all the time, what keeps you up at night,” Pompeo said in an interview that aired Friday. “What’s the thing that worries you the most?”

Speaking to businessman John Catsimatidis on his radio show, “Cats at Night,” Pompeo said he’s “met with a lot of bad people” during his time as an official working under the Trump administration.

“I met with the Taliban, I met with Chairman Kim,” he said. “None of that scares me as much as what’s happening in our universities and on our campuses today.”

“Wow,” Catsimatidis said in response.

Pompeo continued, elaborating but not citing specific examples:

“I watch what’s taking place there and the inability for us to speak our mind, the fact that people want to put pressure on people who have a conservative mindset, and just deny them the space to go speak,” he said. “The fact that we now are accusing people who are just saying things that are common sense about how to treat everyone equally, fairly, are being accused of being racist – those are dangerous things in our democracy, in our republic.”

Pompeo went on to say the country’s founders “created a nation that depended on people with virtue and character and faith.”

“If we lose those things,” he said, “if we lose the bubble on those, you can send diplomats to 180 countries in the world and none of it will matter because if America is weak at home, our capacity to influence the world is diminished.”

Colleges and universities all over the country have previously uninvited speakers like far-right commentator Ben Shapiro and trans activist Janet Mock.

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Microsoft Bing censored image searches related to the Tiananmen Square massacre on its 32nd anniversary – even for US users

Microsoft-owned search engine Bing was displaying no image search results for "tank man," a reference to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
Microsoft-owned search engine Bing was displaying no image search results for “tank man,” a reference to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

  • Microsoft search engine Bing is showing no image results to users searching “tank man.”
  • The phrase references the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, where Chinese troops killed protestors.
  • The apparent censorship comes as Beijing cracks down on vigils honoring those killed.
  • Sign up for the 10 Things in Tech daily newsletter.

Microsoft-owned search engine Bing was not displaying any image results to US users who searched for the term “tank man” on Friday, and appeared to be down-ranking some image searches for other terms related to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Vice earlier reported that users in France, Switzerland, and the UK also saw no results when searching Bing for images of “tank man.”

Insider was able to confirm the lack of image results for US users, and also found significant discrepancies between the image results for “Tiananmen Square tank man” shown by Bing versus Google.

“This is due to an accidental human error and we are actively working to resolve this,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Insider.

Microsoft Bing showed users pictures of Tiananmen Square's "Gate of Heavenly Peace," while Google showed the infamous image of a protestor in front of Chinese tanks.
Microsoft Bing showed users pictures of Tiananmen Square’s “Gate of Heavenly Peace,” while Google showed the infamous image of a protestor in front of Chinese tanks.

Microsoft’s apparent censorship came on the anniversary of the student-led protests, in which the Chinese military killed at least hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators. The phrase “tank man” refers to an infamous photo of a single protestor obstructing the path of Chinese tanks.

Beijing has recently cracked down on vigils and protests within China and Hong Kong seeking to mark the Tiananmen Square protests.

This is a developing story….

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Social media was a lifeline for Indians as COVID-19 overwhelmed hospitals. But the government wants to censor it.

India coronavirus
A relative of a COVID-19 patient breaks down at LNJP Hospital, on April 21, 2021 in New Delhi, India.

  • India’s second coronavirus wave has overwhelmed hospitals.
  • But the government is focused on censoring discussion of its failures on social media.
  • A new law threatens social media employees with prison if firms don’t comply with takedown orders.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

For countless Indians, Twitter has been a way to track down medical supplies for friends and family sick with COVID-19, as a second wave overwhelmed hospitals.

But when one man appealed for oxygen for his sick grandfather in April, he was arrested and charged with spreading misinformation. Authorities in Uttar Pradesh, where the man lived, claimed there was no shortage, dismissing “rumors and propaganda on social media.”

One head of an NGO in New Delhi, who asked for anonymity for fear of reprisal, told Insider he was called by police and told to shut down a Telegram channel he was running to procure medical supplies for those in need.

Authorities have been going after the platforms themselves too. Earlier this week, police went to Twitter’s offices in Delhi after the company labelled tweets by ministers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP party as “manipulated media.”

Tweet manipulated media BJP member
BJP member of parliament Dr. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe was among those whose tweets Twitter labelled “manipulated media.” He shared a document claiming it was an opposition party plan to use the COVID situation to embarrass the Government. The opposition claimed it was fake.

They are also clamping down on more trivial matters. Last week, the government ordered Facebook and Twitter to remove references to the “Indian variant” of coronavirus – despite the fact the government itself was happy to call another variant “South African.”

Indian authorities’ attempts to censor criticism have become more pronounced in recent months.

A flashpoint came during anti-government farmers’ protests in January, when Twitter refused a government request to permanently ban accounts on free speech grounds.

At that time, COVID-19 cases were low and ministers encouraged people to resume normal life. But a more severe second wave struck. Earlier in May, the country set a global record for cases recorded in one day – 414,188 – and its seven-day average of daily cases is still more than 200,000, more than double the peak of the first wave in September.

India COVID daily cases May 28
The seven-day average of India’s daily COVID case rate shows the scale of the second wave.

Ministers have been condemned for not only failing to prepare for second wave, but allowing and even staging mass gatherings. In late April, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook were asked to censor dozens of tweets and posts that criticized such failures.

This week, the standoff is coming to a head. A new law came into force Wednesday that threatens tech companies and their employees with prosecution and potentially imprisonment if they don’t comply with takedown orders within 36 hours.

Twitter issued a statement Thursday condemning “intimidation tactics” against their employees and the new rules’ “potential threat to freedom of expression.”

The statement vowed to continue a “constructive dialogue with the Indian Government” but added: “We plan to advocate for changes to elements of these regulations that inhibit free, open public conversation.”

Platforms like Twitter and Facebook have been refuges for dissent in India. A US State Department report noted in March that Indian government officials were “involved in silencing or intimidating critical media outlets” through physical attacks, pressuring owners, as well as targeting sponsors and “encouraging frivolous lawsuits.”

Raman Jit Singh Chima, the Asia Policy Director at Access Now, a non-profit promoting digital civil rights, said the government’s actions were creating a “chilling impact on free speech.”

He added the repressive action tended to happen “when they think they are under pressure or come under more online criticism.”

Pratik Sinha, who founded one of India’s leading fact-checking platforms, AltNews, said the government had been content to leave social media alone before the farmers’ protests, when it was enjoying praise and India appeared to have avoided a COVID-19 disaster.

Indian Farmers Protests
An elderly farmers shouts slogans as protesters block a major highway during a protest at the Delhi-Haryana state border in India on December 1, 2020.

But Sinha said: “As soon as the narrative changed, people started using the very medium that has benefitted the ruling party for such a long time to voice their discontent … they don’t want these critical voices to come out.”

“These are clearly diversion tactics that the government is adopting in the middle of a pandemic.”

Samir Jain, policy director at digital rights think-tank the Center for Democracy and Technology, said threats of imprisonment were akin to “hostage provisions.”

He added the new rules would “only empower the government to escalate its attempts to stifle legitimate speech and further imperil the future of online free expression in India.”

Facebook and Google have both issued carefully-worded statements in response to the new rules, in contrast to Twitter’s strongly-worded response.

Google said it would “ensure that we’re combating illegal content in an effective and fair way, and in order to comply with local laws in the jurisdictions that we operate in.”

A Facebook spokesperson told Insider that the company would “comply with the provisions of the IT rules and continue to discuss a few of the issues which need more engagement with the government.”

WhatsApp, which belongs to Facebook, is suing the government, saying the rules would allow authorities to trace the source of messages, a violation of the app’s end-to-end encryption.

Senior BJP member of parliament and former party vice-president Dr. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, whose tweet was among those labelled “manipulated media” by Twitter, told Insider in a statement: “The refusal and reluctance of social media platforms to abide by the rules and regulations made applicable by the government is inexplicable.”

“Law of the land is supreme and nobody can disregard India’s constitution,” he added.

“Besides, the opaqueness of their algorithms and lack of transparency in their decision making makes their case of taking a unilateral decision of flagging some Tweets totally undemocratic.

“India is a robust and institutionalized democracy and the Government cannot allow any company to take us for granted.”

AltNews’s Sinha said the government could not continue to suppress its failures over the pandemic.

“People are grieving. There’s anger,” he added. “You can’t just suppress anger, it’s bound to come out.”

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The new Florida law that fines tech platforms for removing politicians has a huge loophole for companies that own theme parks in the state

congress ron desantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law targeting big social-media companies.
  • Private citizens will be able to sue tech platforms for up to $100,000 if they’ve been treated unfairly.
  • The rules protecting free speech do not apply to companies that own theme parks in the state.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A specific exemption included in a new law signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to draw fire from critics including the Internet Association, an industry group representing 40 of the world’s leading internet companies.

The legislation, SB 7072, was signed by DeSantis on Monday and bills itself as a way to hold tech companies accountable and protect individuals’ ability to post, share, and access content on social media.

The law forces social-media companies to host all candidates for political office in the state, regardless of what they say, or face fines of up to $250,000 per day. In addition, private Florida citizens who feel they have been unfairly treated by the big tech companies will be able to sue the platforms for up to $100,000.

“Many in our state have experienced censorship and other tyrannical behavior firsthand in Cuba and Venezuela,” DeSantis said in a statement. “If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable.”

But there’s a massive loophole written into the law that exempts companies that own theme parks in the state.

“Social media,” as defined by the bill, “does not include any information service, system, Internet search engine, or access software provider operated by a company that owns and operates a theme park or entertainment complex.”

In other words, the new law won’t apply to Disney, which operates Disney World in Florida, and Comcast, which operates Universal Studios. And other companies like Facebook and Twitter could avoid liability simply by opening – or simply buying – an amusement park in Florida.

Indeed, one Democratic lawmaker asked that very question in the debate over the bill back in April.

“If Facebook buys a theme park, does that prevent us from being able to regulate what happens on Facebook?” asked Rep. Andrew Learned, according to NBC Miami.

“If they bought a theme park and named it Zuckerland and he met the definition of a theme park under Florida statute, then yes,” Republican Rep. Blaise Ingoglia replied.

According to the statute, Zuckerland would need to have at least “25 contiguous acres” and serve at least 1 million visitors per year to be legally allowed to ignore the content rules on Facebook.

The bill also requires social-media companies to inform users of what types of content are allowed on their platforms – like the terms of service and acceptable use policies that users already must agree to in order to access their accounts.

Companies would be further required to give notice when changing their policies, like those emails users already get that say “We’re updating our policies.”

If a news story is clearly untrue, but just so happens to come from a news outlet, social platforms would be prohibited from taking steps to make sure the fake news doesn’t go viral, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“We the people are standing up to tech totalitarianism with the signing of Florida’s Big Tech Bill,” DeSantis said on Twitter.

Another law in Texas, Senate Bill 12, echoes much of the language from the Florida legislation, calling for “protection from censorship or discriminatory enforcement of content regulations.”

Some Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have claimed that platforms like Facebook and Twitter censor right-wing voices, but research shows conservative content dominates online platforms.

Florida’s SB 7072 is “more about politics than prevention, as the bill arbitrarily exempts major mass media corporations as long as they are also in the theme park business,” said the Internet Association’s senior vice president of state government affairs, Robert Callahan, in a statement on Monday.

In addition, both the Florida and Texas rules apply only to platforms with more than 100 million users. Parler, a favorite app of conservatives, has just a fraction of that, and a Texas lawmaker’s proposal to have the law apply to platforms with 25 million users was defeated.

“This type of legislation would make children and other vulnerable communities less safe by making it harder for us to remove content like pornography, hate speech, bullying, self-harm images and sexualized photos of minors,” said Facebook’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis, in a statement to the Austin Business Journal.

Florida’s measure goes into effect on July 1, 2021.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Apple refused to remove negative ratings for the Facebook app left by pro-Palestinian activists upset over censorship

facebook apps
  • Pro-Palestinian activists have accused social media sites, including Facebook, of censorship.
  • In a coordinated effort, they’ve tanked ratings on the Facebook app.
  • Apple denied Facebook’s request to remove the negative ratings, NBC News reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Apple refused a request from Facebook to remove negative reviews in the App store after pro-Palestinian protesters coordinated an effort to tank ratings because of censorship of Palestinian content, NBC News reported.

On Saturday, the Facebook app had a 2.3 out of five-star rating in the App store compared to a more than four-star rating last week. The largest category of ratings is one-star reviews, with many comments saying their rating is due to Facebook censoring hashtags like #FreePalestine or #GazaUnderAttack.

“User trust is dropping considerably with the recent escalations between Israel and Palestine,” said one senior software engineer in a post on Facebook’s internal message board, NBC reported. “Our users are upset with our handling of the situation. Users are feeling that they are being censored, getting limited distribution, and ultimately silenced. As a result, our users have started protesting by leaving 1 star reviews.”

An internal message reviewed by NBC showed that the company was very concerned about the coordinated effort to tank ratings, categorizing the issue as an SEV1, which stands for “severity 1.”

Facebook App rating page
Ratings on Facebooks App in the App store were down to a 2.3 out of 5 on Saturday night.

Facebook contacted the App store to have the negative reviews removed and Apple denied the request.

Pro-Palestinian activists have complained that many social media sites have restricted or deleted pro-Palestinian content and accounts.

Instagram restricted posts with hashtags referencing Al-Aqsa, the holy mosque in Jerusalem, telling some users who posted with the hashtag that their content was associated with “violence or dangerous organizations.”

The restrictions came as Israeli airstrikes fell on Gaza and Hamas fired thousands of rockets towards Israel. The 11-day conflict would eventually kill 12 Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians and displaced thousands more in Gaza.

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, said it mistakenly labeled the location as being associated with a terrorist organization.

Users of both platforms have also said that their posts about the conflict had been removed. The company blamed a glitch in moderation algorithms for the removals,

The Los Angeles Times reported that some users resorted to using an ancient Arabic script that was void of dots and marks to trick online algorithms to not pick up and remove posts about Palestine.

Others intentionally misspelled words like “Palestine” or “Israel” or used COVID-19 themed stickers on their posts to make them more visible.

Facebook did not reply to Insider’s email request for comment at the time of publication.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Encrypted messaging app Signal appears to be blocked in China alongside Jack Ma’s Alibaba browser, as Beijing cracks down on social-media platforms

jack ma alibaba
Alibaba founder Jack Ma in January 2018.

  • China has reportedly blocked Signal and an Alibaba browser as it cracks down on social-media apps.
  • Signal users in China couldn’t send messages on the app from Monday evening.
  • Alibaba’s browser was pulled on Tuesday after the group was accused of misleading advertising.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Signal, a messaging app that rivals WhatsApp, and a internet browser made by Jack Ma’s Alibaba appear to have been blocked in China, as Beijing continues to crack down on tech firms and social media sites.

Signal users in China reported on other platforms that they had difficulties working the app from Monday evening, including not being able to send messages, the Washington Post reported.

Despite this, users can still access Signal via a virtual private network (VPN), which hides users’ locations.

“Signal has been walled,” users wrote on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, the Post reported.

The app is still available for download via Apple’s China App Store, CNBC reported, but it’s unclear whether it will remain on the site for much longer.

Signal didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The free messaging app offers end-to-end encryption, making it very difficult for third parties, including authorities, to see messages sent on the app. Signal is popular among tech giants, cybersecurity experts, journalists, and government officials.

Alibaba UC Browser pulled from app stores

Ecommerce group Alibaba had its internet browser pulled from Chinese app stores on Tuesday, the Financial Times first reported. Chinese authorities accused group’s UC Browser of promoting misleading online ads that directed patients to private hospitals instead of public ones.

App stores operated by Chinese tech companies including Huawei, Xiaomi, and Tencent have blocked downloads or removed the browser, the FT reported.

It’s the latest hit to Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma. Last year, Chinese authorities halted a $37 billion initial public offering of Ant Group, Alibaba’s fintech affiliate.

Buzzy social media app Clubhouse was also blocked in China on February 8, after people flocked to it to discuss political and sensitive topics, such as Xinjiang’s Uighur detention camps. Clubhouse conversations aren’t recorded, making them difficult to monitor, and access is available by invitation only.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Librarians are debating how to handle the Dr. Seuss controversy – but the books will stay on the shelves for now

Dr Seuss picture
John Simpson, project director of exhibitions for The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, paints a mural based on artwork in the Dr. Seuss book “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?”

Bookstores will soon be without six Dr. Seuss titles found to be offensive, but library borrowers will still be able to find them on their shelves.

On Tuesday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which oversees the author’s estate, said it would cease publication of six books found to have racially insensitive imagery.

For libraries, the removal of offensive books is a complex issue. Leaving books on the shelves may lead to backlash, but pulling them could be seen as a form of censorship.

“Libraries across the country are having conversations around how to balance our core values of intellectual freedom, with the harmful stereotypes depicted in many children’s classics,” said Olivia Gallegos, communications manager at the Denver Public Library.

At the New York Public Library, the six Dr. Seuss titles are expected to be available until they’re too worn out to be borrowed. When that happens, the library won’t be able to replace them with new versions, so they won’t be replaced.

“In the meantime, librarians, who care deeply about serving their communities and ensuring accurate and diverse representation in our collections – especially children’s books – will certainly strongly consider this information when planning storytimes, displays, and recommendations,” said Angela Montefinise, NYPL senior director of communications.

The American Library Association, which has a Bill of Rights and Code of Ethics for US libraries, offers guidelines for librarians. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s ‘s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said she can’t speculate on how each individual library will handle the books, since US public libraries are mostly controlled by local governments.

“But an author’s or publisher’s decision to stop publishing a book should not be grounds alone for removing a book from a library’s collection,” Caldwell-Stone said.

She recommended librarians seek out ALA guidelines on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and other topics.

Insider this week asked librarians around the country for their thoughts about the six books. Some said the books presented an opportunity for parents to broach difficult conversations with readers of all ages. With the help of a librarian and the right context, they could be powerful tools for combating systematic racism, the librarians said.

The Denver Public library didn’t have plans to pull any Dr. Seuss books from its collection. Like most libraries, DPL makes removal decisions based on whether books are in demand, have up-to-date information, and are in good condition, said Gallegos.

At the Los Angeles Public Library, librarians encourage parents and guardians to help their young ones select books, said a library spokesperson.

“Our collection includes the six Dr. Seuss titles that will be discontinued by Dr. Seuss Enterprises. We recognize the challenges this presents, and our goal is to promote critical thinking and evaluation of literature among patrons of all ages,” said Peter Persic, director of public relations and marketing.

None of the librarians contacted by Insider said they would remove the books from the shelves, at least for the time being.

“Brooklyn Public Library stands firmly against censorship so while we do not showcase books with outdated or offensive viewpoints, we do not remove them either, using them instead as a springboard for conversations about healing and moving forward,” said a spokesperson for the Brooklyn Public Library.

But the DC Public Library said it will conduct an internal review. It will also consult with peer libraries and library associations to decide what to do with the six books, said George Williams, media relations manager.

“Library materials may be removed from the collection when the material is no longer timely, accurate, or relevant,” Williams said. “We also recognize that sometimes a title in the collection may need to be reconsidered or moved to another location for research or consultation.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Librarians are debating how to handle the Dr. Seuss furore – but say the books will stay on the shelves for now

Dr. Seuss Book If I Ran a Zoo Out of Print.JPG
A copy of the children’s book “If I Ran The Zoo” by author Dr. Seuss, which the publisher said will no longer be published.

Bookstores will soon be without six Dr. Seuss titles found to be offensive, but library borrowers will still be able to find them on their shelves. 

On Tuesday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which oversees the author’s estate, said it would cease publication of six books found to have racially insensitive imagery.

For libraries, the removal of offensive books is a complex issue. Leaving books on the shelves may lead to backlash, but pulling them could be seen as a form of censorship. 

“Libraries across the country are having conversations around how to balance our core values of intellectual freedom, with the harmful stereotypes depicted in many children’s classics,” said Olivia Gallegos, communications manager at the Denver Public Library. 

At the New York Public Library, the six Dr. Seuss titles are expected to be available until they’re too worn out to be borrowed. When that happens, the library won’t be able to replace them with new versions, so they won’t be replaced. 

“In the meantime, librarians, who care deeply about serving their communities and ensuring accurate and diverse representation in our collections – especially children’s books – will certainly strongly consider this information when planning storytimes, displays, and recommendations,” said Angela Montefinise, NYPL senior director of communications.

The American Libraries Association, which has a Bill of Rights and Code of Ethics for US libraries, offers guidelines for librarians. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, ALA director, said she can’t speculate on how each individual library will handle the books, since US public libraries are mostly controlled by local governments. 

“But an author’s or publisher’s decision to stop publishing a book should not be grounds alone for removing a book from a library’s collection,” Caldwell-Stone said.

She recommended librarians seek out ALA guidelines on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and other topics. 

Insider this week asked librarians around the country for their thoughts about the six books. Some said the books presented an opportunity for parents to broach difficult conversations with readers of all ages. With the help of a librarian and the right context, they could be powerful tools for combating systematic racism, the librarians said. 

The Denver Public library didn’t have plans to pull any Dr. Seuss books from its collection. Like most libraries, DPL makes removal decisions based on whether books are in demand, have up-to-date information, and are in good condition, said Gallegos. 

At the Los Angeles Public Library, librarians encourage parents and guardians to help their young ones select books, said a library spokesperson.

“Our collection includes the six Dr. Seuss titles that will be discontinued by Dr. Seuss Enterprises. We recognize the challenges this presents, and our goal is to promote critical thinking and evaluation of literature among patrons of all ages,” said Peter Persic, director of public relations and marketing. 

None of the librarians contacted by Insider said they would remove the books from the shelves, at least for the time being. 

“Brooklyn Public Library stands firmly against censorship so while we do not showcase books with outdated or offensive viewpoints, we do not remove them either, using them instead as a springboard for conversations about healing and moving forward,” said a spokesperson for the Brooklyn Public Library. 

But the DC Public Library said it will conduct an internal review. It will also consult with peer libraries and library associations to decide what to do with the six books, said George Williams, media relations manager.  

“Library materials may be removed from the collection when the material is no longer timely, accurate, or relevant,” Williams said. “We also recognize that sometimes a title in the collection may need to be reconsidered or moved to another location for research or consultation.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Trump calls on states to ‘punish’ big tech with sanctions if they ‘silence conservative voices’

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 28: Former President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference held in the Hyatt Regency on February 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Begun in 1974, CPAC brings together conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders to discuss issues important to them. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference held in the Hyatt Regency on February 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida.

  • During his CPAC speech, Donald Trump accused big tech of censorship.
  • He said section 230 should be repealed and that states should act if the federal government won’t.
  • Trump said states should sanction Twitter, Google, and Facebook if they “silence conservative voices.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

During his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday, former President Donald Trump encouraged states to “punish” big tech if they “silence conservative voices.”

Trump spoke on the final day of CPAC in Orlando, Florida. It was his first public speech since leaving the White House last month.

“All of the election integrity measures in the world will mean nothing if we don’t have free speech,” Trump said. “If republicans can be censored for speaking the truth and calling out corruption, we will not have democracy and we will only have left-wing tyranny.”

Trump has frequently accused tech companies of censorship over his removal from both Facebook and Twitter for violating their policies.

“The time has come to break up big tech monopolies and restore fair competition,” Trump said, adding that section 230 – a piece of internet legislation passed into law as part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 – must be repealed.

Section 230 gives websites the ability to regulate the content that appears on their platforms. It also protects sites from being legally liable for content shared by users.

“If the federal government refuses to act then every state in the union where we have the votes – which is a lot of them – big tech giants like Twitter, Google, and Facebook should be punished with major sanctions whenever they silence conservative voices,” Trump said.

Trump cited Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who announced new proposals earlier this month aimed at social media companies. One proposal aims to block the suspension of accounts of political candidates and would impose fines for each day said account is blocked.

It’s unclear if the state would have the authority to enforce such laws, the Associated Press reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The Trump ban across social media wasn’t censorship – it was a series of editorial decisions by media companies that call themselves social platforms

Jack Dorsey Twitter CEO
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

  • Becca Lewis is a PhD candidate in communication at Stanford University who researches online social movements and extremist groups.
  • She says decrying Trump’s bans on social media as censorship distracts from the real issue: that companies like Facebook and Twitter are really simply media companies who use editorial intervention and oversight.
  • We’ve begun to see platforms make decisions that implicitly, if not explicitly, acknowledge this, she writes.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In the wake of Trump’s permanent ban from Twitter and indefinite ban from Facebook, right-wing public figures cried censorship. Media personalities and politicians alike claimed the situation was Orwellian, akin to the events of “1984”; on right-wing cable news networks, show hosts wryly welcomed their viewers to “Communist China.”

Becca Lewis
Author Becca Lewis.

As an academic who researches social media platforms and the extremist groups that thrive on them, I agree that the Trump bans raise important questions about the role of Facebook and Twitter in shaping political discourse and information online.

But framing this as an issue of censorship distracts from the real issue.

What we actually observed last week was the platforms making a decision.

Donald Trump’s voice has not been silenced: Until the inauguration, he still has an entire press corps devoted to covering his positions via his press secretary. Even after he leaves office, he will have access to a thriving right-wing media ecosystem that can amplify his ideas and opinions.

What Facebook and Twitter have done is simply decide that he will not have a direct line through their platform to broadcast his ideas to millions of people at a time.

Read more: Trump wanted to dramatically change the way Big Tech ran their platforms. His attempt to overturn the election may have done just that.

We’re used to this kind of editorial decision when it comes from television or print news.

These outlets make choices every day about what to cover, who to interview, who to publish in their op-ed sections, and who to invite as talking heads. They even decide when to air video messages from the president and how to contextualize them. 

If this decision-making seems strange to us in the context of social media, it’s partly because platforms have spent the last 10-plus years telling us that they aren’t media companies – that, in fact, they’re revolutionizing public discourse, removing media gatekeepers, and democratizing the spread of information.

In 2012, Twitter executive Tony Wang famously called the platform the “free speech wing of the free speech party.” Mark Zuckerberg has consistently claimed that Facebook is not an “arbiter of truth.” As internet scholar Tarleton Gillespie has pointed out, even using the term “platform” was a strategic decision – the word is flexible enough that it evokes both the vaguely progressive ideal of giving everyone a voice while also suggesting it is merely a “neutral” technological architecture.

In reality, social media companies have always been media companies – or at least as long as they have been monetizing content through advertising.

As internet policy scholars Robyn Caplan and Phil Napoli write, “Being in the business of providing content to audiences, while selling those audiences to advertisers is a defining characteristic of the media sector.”

Caplan and Napoli likewise point out that, while these companies claim they are neutral arbiters who make no editorial interventions, the algorithms they build make these interventions all the time. They surface, recommend, and suppress content, and in the process, they shape what information we see and engage with.

As social media companies have gotten more involved as intermediaries in news and political coverage, the difference between how they present themselves and how they actually function has been reaching a breaking point. 

This’s why, in the past few years, we have begun to see platforms make decisions that implicitly, if not explicitly, acknowledge their roles as media companies.

If they acknowledge it too openly, that would put them at risk of increased regulation and oversight, and it could potentially put them on the hook for more costly and robust moderation decisions. It would also force them to develop a more rigorous and consistent approach to the difficult decisions about which voices deserve to be amplified.

Read more: Author of book on how Trump’s Twitter presidency ushered in white rage says social media companies must be held accountable for not taking action sooner

At the same time, the platforms are learning that it’s not good for their brand reputations to incite genocide or become the mouthpiece for powerful leaders with authoritarian tendencies.

Even Pornhub, the adult entertainment giant built on the premise that anyone can upload amateur videos, officially announced at the end of 2020 that they are now removing all videos not uploaded by official content partners.

None of this is to say that there aren’t important consequences around political speech and information, or that the removal of Donal Trump is not something we should take seriously. To the contrary, it shows just what powerful media forces Facebook, Twitter, and others have become in our contemporary political world. Neither am I claiming that these companies are the same kind of media companies as TV news networks or print newspapers.

They come with a host of their own challenges and concerns that don’t apply to older forms of media and that have important consequences. And on the flip side, they also lack certain civic ideals that have become entwined with traditional media companies – for example, there’s no public broadcasting equivalent in the world of social platforms. 

But these are precisely the problems we need to work through in the coming years. We now know that a lot of what we were told about platforms early on wasn’t ultimately true: They haven’t revolutionized speech, spread democracy throughout the world, or given everyone a neutral platform from which to speak.

By making claims of censorship, we partially reinforce the expectation that platforms play these roles that they don’t. Instead, we need to acknowledge their role as editorializers so we can hold them accountable for what they actually do. 

Becca Lewis is a PhD candidate in communication at Stanford University and a graduate affiliate at the University of North Carolina Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life. She researches online social movements and their uses of digital media technologies.

Read the original article on Business Insider