Well, let me clarify that a bit. Anger, frustration, outrage at the open attack on democracy and a level playing field in the marketplace of ideas are all legitimate reasons for someone to default to “there ought to be a law!,” but there is no excuse for elected officials like Abbott and Texas legislators displaying such ignorance of the Bill of Rights.
Stipulated: what Big Tech and the social media platforms are doing right now, deliberately and brazenly attempting to slam their fists down on the scales of democracy to make it as difficult as possible to communicate opinions, news and other expression that our rising woke dictators find inconvenient, is a genuine threat to the nation’s values and existence. However, those same values will be weakened if laws mandating companies to be fair and ethical undermine the First Amendment. As the giddy AUC and my Trump Deranged Facebook friends immediately reply to any criticism of the growing censorship of conservatives and especially President Trump, a private company has a nearly absolute right to decide who has access to its free services. As the social justice crusaders don’t say, but prove every time they make this kneejerk observation, they are thrilled to see their fellow citizens muzzled this way, since it advances their own interests. Big Tech and the social media companies have the right, but it is not right for them to abuse it this way when they have so much control over public debate and information.
The best thing about “The Circle,” the dystopian social media-on-steroids drama starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, is that you now can watch it as part of a double feature with Netflix’s new “The Social Dilemma,” and consider how much of the movie is coming horribly true. Without offering too many spoilers, the film is the story of a young woman (Watson) who believes she has found her dream job working for an Amazon/Facebook-like Big Tech company run by creepily a slick and charismatic Tom Hanks. He is the prophet of over-sharing, developing and peddling products that will feed every aspect of everyone’s life into Big Data-storing and manipulating computers and banish privacy forever, all for the Greater Good, of course. The young woman, Mae, is quickly corrupted, and soon a force within “The Circle,” as Tom’s creation calls itself, to expand and use the company’s power to facilitate universal, indeed mandatory voting, for example. Law enforcement! Social control!
Mae’s epiphany is that secrets are bad, the equivalent of lies. She decides to become the first person to share every waking moment—except three minutes to use the toilet—with Hanks’ ubiquitous social network.
The movie, which is basically a long “Dark Mirror” episode, was panned by critics for its predictability, lack of originality and unambiguous ethical issues. They were right. (The movie was a box office success anyway, because apparently fans of Harry Potter will watch anything with Emma Watson in it. Watson has even less screen presence as an adult actress than fellow ex-child star Natalie Portman, something I wouldn’t have believed possible.) Continue reading →
1. Quote of the Day: David Bernstein on Instapundit: “What do you call a candidate pool with too women, a gay man, a jew, a half-Jew, and a Catholic? If you’ve drank a certain type of Kool-Aid, you can this “not diverse”–even though there has been only one Catholic president, and no gay, Jewish, or woman presidents. The obsession with arbitrary and artificial “official” minority status may be the single worse feature of the modern chattering classes.”
Well, of course the problem is “white”: the Democratic party has been demonizing whites for years, and anti-white bigotry is accepted and even cheered. I also disagree that the “obsession with arbitrary and artificial “official” minority status may be the single worse feature of the modern chattering classes.” I can think of worse features, but it’s certainly a bad one.
Her lament fits squarely into Big Lie #5 (“Everything is terrible.”) What is amusing and telling is that even though Salon’s readership is as hard left as the site, virtually every comment on her piece is negative. Here is the first one to come up, but the rest pretty much echo it:
Summary: The author is an atheist who doesn’t even believe in the central premise of Christmas, doesn’t have a great relationship with her family, and never really put forward an effort to celebrate the holiday in the past, but somehow Trump has ruined Christmas. She still likes Thanksgiving, however, because it has fewer cultural attachments.
Reaction: How in the world something this mind-bendingly stupid managed to get published by a major company is beyond me, and it’s an example of how the fanatical left has adopted a rhetoric of self-perpetuating trauma around this presidency. “How dare you vote for Trump because it makes me sad! Yes, linoleum makes me sad too, but especially Trump!” It is as if, somehow, they consider the rest of the country responsible for making sure that no part of their eggshell-tranquility is maintained, regardless of the fact that their fragility is entirely of their own making. News flash: No one cares.
You know when I mentioned that Ted Lieu was NOT the most “foolish, dumb, frightening” member of Congress? Steve King was one of the people I was thinking of.
In case you haven’t heard the widespread mockery, King asked Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai at this week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing about alleged bias and abuse of power by the tech behemoth,
“I have a 7-year old granddaughter who picked up her phone during the election, and she’s playing a little game, the kind of game a kid would play. And up on there pops a picture of her grandfather. And I’m not going to say into the record what kind of language was used around that picture of her grandfather, but I’d ask you: How does that show up on a 7-year old’s iPhone, who’s playing a kid’s game?”
Pichai responded, “Congressman, the iPhone is made by a different company.”
Nah, Google doesn’t abuse its power 0r manipulate information for a political agenda! Why would anyone suggest such a thing?
Chuck Schumer suggested that the Senate Office Building, currently named after the late Senator Richard Russell, 1897-1971, a Georgia Democrat who served in the Senate for almost 40 years, be re-named in honor of the late John McCain.
It’s a good suggestion. Russell was an adamant white supremacist, and opposed, unapologetically, civil rights measures his whole career. I’ve been rather surprised that the building’s name wasn’t changed long before, when Democrats controlled the Senate. Why didn’t the Democrats try to get Russell replaced by Edward Kennedy’s name, for example?
Go ahead, guess why.
But it’s not Google’s role to lobby for the change, or worse, to make it unilaterally, as it did today on Google Maps. This was especially bad—but helpful!– timing for the giant tech company, as it is under fire for political bias by the President, who tweeted that the search engine was “rigged,” and Congress, and Google’s CEO just refused to be questioned on the Hill. These companies, like Facebook, Amazon and Twitter, are arrogant beyond all measure, drunk with their growing power, and ethically inert. You can regard this episode as just a funny glitch if you like.
1. From the “Bias makes you UNBELIEVABLY stupid, especially, apparently, if you’re a journalist” files: Ann Althouse posted this screen shot of memeorandum, an excellent news aggregator page:
I wrote earlier about how many of the anti-Trump mob, in the news media and out of it, appeared to be actively rooting for the President’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea to fail, and how his Negotiation 101 move of symbolically walking away from the planned summit would probably be misunderstood and misinterpreted because of the current toxic combination of bias and ignorance, but this is ridiculous. Writes Althouse—who despite multiple polite requests refuses to put Ethics Alarms in her links despite its covering a lot of parallel territory, despite the many frivolous or largely inactive blogs she does link to, and despite the multiple plugs and links I give her, but hey, I’m not bitter— Continue reading →
“By agreeing to these Terms, you’re agreeing that, when using the Services, you will follow these rules:
iv. Don’t publicly display or use the Services to share inappropriate content or material (involving, for example, nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity).
b. Enforcement. If you violate these Terms, we may stop providing Services to you or we may close your Microsoft account. We may also block delivery of a communication (like email, file sharing or instant message) to or from the Services in an effort to enforce these Terms or we may remove or refuse to publish Your Content for any reason. When investigating alleged violations of these Terms, Microsoft reserves the right to review Your Content in order to resolve the issue. However, we cannot monitor the entire Services and make no attempt to do so.”
I do not trust Microsoft to decide what is “offensive language” in my communications, or anyone else’s. Many people, for example, believe that it is offensive that I assert the duty of citizens to allow an elected President to do the job their fellow citizens exercised their rights to select him to do, and that they have an ethical obligation to treat him with the respect the office of the Presidency requires.
We are already seeing indefensible bias on the part of other big tech companies, such as Google, Twitter, Apple and Facebook, as they favor specific ideological and partisan positions and use their platforms to censor and manipulate public discourse. These are private companies and not constrained by the First Amendment or core ethical principles like fairness and respect for autonomy (and, as we all know, definitely not respect for privacy). The problem is that the big tech companies are ideologically monolithic, virtual monopolies, possess the power to constrain free expression and political speech while leaving no equivalent alternative, and are increasingly demonstrating the willingness to use it.
The big tech companies have proven that they are unethical, ruthless, lack integrity, politically-active and willing to abuse their huge and expanding power to advance their own agendas. At the same time, their products and services have become essential to the daily lives, recreation and occupations of virtually all Americans. This is a dangerous combination.
They must be regulated as the public utilities they are, and the sooner the better.