Remember my words: American government will use the “Russian trolls” conspiracy to implement online censorship with the Big Tech firms’ help.
Here’s a nice article on online discrimination:
As investigations into the alleged Russian government’s interference in the 2016 presidential election continue, the big tech firms whose platforms were used by armies of pro-Trump trolls are finding themselves under ever-mounting pressure.
In the latest news on the apparent complacency of the most influential content sites, Twitter came under fire when it became known that a notorious Russian troll had reappeared with a new account. The infamous “Jenna Abrams” came back to Twitter recently, flaunting her “Russian troll” status in her Twitter handle. Abrams, or the group or individual behind the online identity, was one of the most influential pro-Trump accounts during the 2016 election period and had gained a massive 70,000 strong following on Twitter before being shut down by the site.
Only after the US media revealed that Abrams had returned did Twitter take down the most recently opened account.
This incident is just the most recent in a series that highlights Big Tech’s rush to stave off outside perceptions of these organizations as accessories to Russian conspiracy.
As policymakers have been prying into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 race, Big Tech has been forced to answer to their passive roles in these efforts. Following testimony by executives of the some of the largest online platforms, it became known the extent to which these companies were utilized in Russian troll operations. Google, Facebook, and Twitter accounts numbering in the tens of thousands were part of the this orchestration, possibly exposing over 100 million American’s to the propaganda.
Of course, it does not look good to have been a troll in a Russian conspiracy targeting an American election. As these revelations began to come out, these companies immediately began tightening policies to close down troll accounts. As the recent incident with the Jenna Abrams Twitter account shows, the public – and the media – is demanding that they do.
All can agree that America cannot allow an opening for foreign governments to meddle in their electoral process. The obvious answer seems to be some sort of change in policy governing which online accounts are permissible. This type of crackdown has been going on already for a while in combating Jihadism and other forms of extremism online, specifically on social media. Now it seems that Big Tech has taken steps to address this new threat of political sabotage via the net.
There may be some cause for concern however.
Capitol Hill has taken the direction of demanding that responsibility be placed on companies to vet users on their own sites. In the absence of a legal framework governing which accounts constitute subterfuge and which do not, what may this trend of independent scrutiny on the part of individual firms mean for the future of online censorship?
For a while now protest has been growing, primarily from alternative media voices, that the big content sites have become discriminatory in who they allow to use their platforms based on political orientation. The cases of these critics are often not without basis. Discrimination tactics such as demonetizing videos, or in some cases closing accounts altogether, have been used against groups promoting a range of policies, from LGBT activists to political conservatives. YouTube for example has admitted publicly to restricting content in these ways in at least one instance.
With Congress increasingly on top of tech giants for a variety of reasons, it is almost certain that the ongoing investigations into the Russian meddling will push these firms to even more extreme practices.
If the big online platforms remain charged by Congress to independently crack down on “undesirable” users outside of any legal guidelines, how long will it take for discrimination to get out of hand?