Technology is a dominant force in our society. It influences our personal, professional, and political experiences more and more.
Last week, the real world and the digital one collided head-on. We used social media to organize, energize, act, observe, comment, and censor. The role technology played forced us to consider its capabilities, possibilities, and responsibilities.
Now, we’re asked to draw the hard lines on what type of internet we’ll accept.
Banned & banished
Twitter began placing labels on some of President Trump’s tweets before the election. The tweets were marked as “disputed” or possibly “misleading”. After the election, Twitter added “Election officials have certified Joe Biden as the winner of the U.S. Presidential election.” This past week Twitter blocked his tweets, temporarily locked him out, and later, permanently suspended his account.
Trump was (is?) no stranger to creating buzz online (see Wikipedia’s Donald Trump on social media for a full chronicle) but this time was different. Twitter found his last posts to be inciting violence and took action. Many (most?) other social media companies followed suit, banning Trump’s accounts from their platforms.
Soon after, Apple and Google removed Parler from their app stores for the role it played in the riot at the Capitol. Parler is a platform that describes itself as an unbiased social media network.
Again, other tech companies followed. This time, it was tech infrastructure companies like Amazon Web Services and Twilio that took action. Without hosting or other capabilities, Parler was essentially banished from the internet.
We like to think of the internet being free and unrestricted except in the most clear and aggressive scenarios (violence, doxxing, etc.). It follows the First Amendment.
Yet, these actions confront us with the reality that tech companies operate in their own terms of service. This realization spurred conversation about the slippery slope our society is sliding down. At the bottom of the slope is either the…