In this Protego Press weekly update, we focus on how tech companies are grappling with the surge in white supremacist-inspired violence.
The past week has seen mourning across the United States for the losses of life in El Paso and Dayton. It has also seen intense engagement—from Washington to Silicon Valley—with the role of the Internet in America’s current surge in white supremacist-inspired violence.
Speaking from the White House, President Trump laid heavy blame on the Internet for its role in fomenting violence, and lawmakers on the Hill urged congressional testimony from representatives of 8chan, the site on which the suspected El Paso attacker posted a screed before committing violence, much as the New Zealand and San Diego attackers had done before.
Perhaps the most concrete change in the wake of the violence came not from the government but from the tech sector, and in particular from Cloudflare, which had hosted 8chan, whose own creator has issued a call to “shut the site down.” A day after Cloudflare’s CEO indicated that he would consider severing ties with 8chan, Cloudflare made the decision to stop providing services to the site. Prince explained, “The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths.”
Meanwhile, the growing concern over the links between online radicalization and acts of violence has added to ongoing debate about whether the immunity provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act should be reconsidered. That’s the same law that a federal appellate court relied on last week to affirm a lower court’s dismissal of a case brought by Hamas victims and their relatives against Facebook.
In other tech news, the Wall Street Journal reported on bots’ pushing racially divisive messaging during last week’s primary debates among Democratic hopefuls. The messaging focused on Senator Kamala Harris and included the embrace and amplification of conspiracy theories.
And the Financial Times discussed Russia’s use of technology to record and tax transactions in real time. The aspiration appears to be tracking all purchases made countrywide. It is a telling reminder that China is not alone in harnessing technology for purposes of entrenching a surveillance state.
On Protego Press, check out a new piece by Sarah Hunt and Meghan Bishop on how fertility-tracking and cycle-tracking apps could be used in court, as well as a new piece by Justin Hendrix proposing how Congress should order the FTC’s recent $5 billion Facebook fine. Hint: it involves providing much-indeed support to journalism . .