Sunday, January 10, 2021
[Update at 1/12/2021 at 10:34pm: Additional firms and companies blackballing or removing services are listed below. This list may not be complete or current. Source: Yahoo and publicly available news sites.]
The big news of the weekend is that four big software tech firms have decided to mute and not give voice to the leader of the free world which is quite stunning. Joining in with these are a few others and at last count these came to about 11 firms. These are gigantic tech firms and used worldwide. Many of these companies are known as media platforms that can reach a wide audience.
What happened? A speech that energized a political groups as well as others to show up and march to the Capitol which ended up in injuries and casualties. It was said to have several thousand attendees with according to one estimate was up to possibly 30,000 per park permits applied. Also campaign rhetoric post-election causing division of electors and voters.
We’ll go through each company one by one. Each of the follow companies has taken some action to limit further speech to the above individual whom we’ll just call “the offending party”. From limiting posting and interaction on its site or app to outright ban you’ll see a side by side breakdown.
1) One company which uses a letter ‘f’ silhouetted on a blue background and was founded in 2004. According to stats on Wikipedia it has at least 2.7 billion active users monthly.
Actions take: factuality moderation, temporary suspension to longer term suspension, block and potential bans.
2) Another platform which has a reddish orange theme and what appears to be a cute alien mascot with antennas. The site is known as a social news aggregator and mostly is text based. It was founded in 2005 and per Wikipedia’s statistics is the 17th most visited site in the world.
Actions taken: removal of political group supporting a particular individual.
3) The next company is a video streaming site that normally focuses on video gaming. It was launched in 2011. It’s a subsidiary of a larger company, the most popular online shipping store where you can buy things with one single click. This store will be mentioned also in a bit.
Actions take: Suspension of the individual’s channel.
4) Another store that was founded in 2006 in Canada and deals with creating e-commerce and point of sale applications.
Actions: Removal of individuals selling certain merchandise related to a political affiliation or campaign.
5) A popular messaging appear that features the ability to view messages for a short time before they disappear which is popular with teens and the young demographic. It shows video feeds, facial recognition filters and audio, visual capability. This company was created in 2011 and per Wikipedia statistics has 229 million active users a day.
Actions: suspension of a particular account. Removal of controversial posts. Account locks.
6) This popular minimalistic search engine based company is a massive company made of innovations in artificial intelligence, self driving cars, phone operating systems, audio and video search capability, maps, cloud computing, video streaming and much more. It was founded in 1998 and is one of the most well known brands in the world.
Actions: removal of a particular piece of app software that was popular among users to message and spread campaign messages. Interestingly enough originally the platform that was the primarily method of communication was a different social media mentioned below in #12.
7) As stated in #6 above the search engine company also owns the popular online streaming and viewing website. But many may not have known that this company was its own company for many years and started in 2005 before it was bought in 2006 by the search engine company for between $1.5 to $2 billion.
Action: take down of individual videos and banning certain users that advocate certain opinions related to a particular group or groups.
8) This picture sharing and showing platform was originally for sharing photos and subsequently allowed for short videos. At first it was released for iOS before an Android version became available. This company which was founded in 2010 belongs to the company mentioned above in #1. It was acquired for approximately 1 billion in 2012.
Action: Removal from platform.
9) Another company was a picture sharing platform that uses pins for a virtual bulletin board and idea generation. The site allows rapid saving of images and had about 400 monthly active uses according to Wikipedia.
Action: Banned, despite news that the individual may not necessarily have an account.
10) This social network company allows uses to make short videos that often have comedy, dance and educational themes. This company was founded in 2016 and is very popular in the Chinese market. It became mired in controversy in 2020 when a trade war erupted between the U.S. and China.
Actions: Take down of videos related to individual and certain speeches.
11) This company allows video and voice calls, text message and transmissions of files. It allows private chats and has a community of persistent voice and text based chat rooms. According to Wikipedia it has at least 250 million users. It was founded in 2015.
Actions: Ban of a pro-politics server related to individual.
12) This company is classified as a social network and as Wikipedia states it, a “microblogging” platform. Originally created to be used in conjunction with SMS services it thus has a character limitation. It allows picture and video sharing. This service was created in 2006 and is home to more that 321 million active users. This was the method of contact most preferred by the “offending party”.
Actions: Labeling of messages based on factuality. Suspension to totally disabling and denial to the platform.
We noticed that a platform for news decided to post the name and details regarding the persons involved in the march in Washington for a few reasons it seemed. To name shame, identify, and for accountability with intent seemingly to assist for law enforcement or also for the public interest. This is an American company that was founded in 1994 and has search engine technology and other services, most notably its sports and mail services. It appears to write a lot of articles that slant toward or against a particular political candidate or have contributors writing with innate biases. Although it’s not one of the above companies it is interesting to note that the framing of certain individuals for the actions before any formal charges to them.
Each broadcast media, journal and news outlet has its own decisions how much and how long to feature a particular individual or candidate and in some cases the length is dictated by law due to ties to politics.
There are alternative platforms that are being considered for many users that are being banned and suspended simply for their beliefs although the beliefs in some cases are labeled by people that oppose those beliefs as “conspiracies”, “far out” and “unproven” and other similar words.
In the interests of research and being able to make your own judgment, here are a list of the alternate social media platforms available that some have considered. We have not listed open source and free libre networks because they don’t seem to get much news attention. But they are an available source for communication. Beware though that there may be several ideas or ideologies that are offensive to other groups or appear extreme or polarizing to particular groups and identities.
Alt platforms in no particular order:
1) An American News aggregator and social networking where things of interest were organized by subverses. This was shut down on December 25, 2020.
2) This is the current most considered alternative to the other microblogging platform that is widely popular. Its name means “to speak” in French. This is very popular to the current groups associated with the political group that is currently under undetermined account suspensions. This company was founded in 2018. It has about 10 million uses and nowhere near the reach as the other platforms. Many have migrated to this platform as they have been blocked or censored on other platforms. However news has come out that this platform will block on posts that advocate violence.
3) This platform is an alternate to the widely popular social media site with the “f” symbol. The company labels itself as the Next-Gen Social Network. The name seems to have be a play on inclusivity. It may also be a shortening of the CEO’s first letters of his name. Its selling point is it advocates more data privacy as opposed to the other social media platform it’s trying to compete against.
4) This platform is also widely popular with individuals who have been banned on other platforms. Known for attacting and being a haven of ideas that are extreme in nature, it has an app and also deals with microblogging. Its company was founded in 2016 and has also developed a web browser as well. Many critics note there seem to be individuals clustered around the platform based on racial ideologies. The platform claims to allow free speech and liberties. It was originally a fork of a free open source self-hosted social networking service. The primary users of the platform were highly incendiary and controversial and wanted a way to continue sharing content and revenue and reaching its users. They were told to build out the platform and they actually created a separate service for their users.
5) This company is an alternative online video platform. You can make money on it. A lot of people migrated to this one when they were blocked from the other most popular video sharing platforms which affected their bottom line of making revenue streams through their video content. It is also a social medial platform and was said to be in existence as early as October 2013. There also is a lottery system for the platform. The app helps you look for the best videos and reward the best ones and win cash prizes, uploading and voting.
6) This video hosting company was created in 2017 and allows uploading of material. It avoids many of the restrictions on other video platforms that caused users to be demonetised. Many of the users have content that are considered extreme or conspiracies also. The site does also allow sending direct payments to video creators and it also uses peer-to-peer technology to decentralize hosting and help reduce a lot of its costs.
There are likely many more platforms out there but these are just a few. What is concerning is that researchers and people that are interested in the opinions of the individuals no longer have access to the information. Plus it createds a world that is more black and white with no room for deviation and alternate thoughts. Some individuals say this sets a bad precedent for freedom of thought, liberty and speech. Steve Jobs used a marketing campaign based on thinking differently in a commercial titled 1984 where everyone looked alike, thought alike and listened to the same program.
In 2012 when massive leaks of U.S. secrets were reveals large companies like Mastercard, Visa, Western Union, Bank of America and PayPal were some of the companies to pull funding. But there was a big “blowback” according to CBS as people that supported the leaks created a disruptive hack to the company websites. The line of thinking was probably to get the companies to realize that there were people that opposed the actions and actually supported the actions of the leaks. In many cases there are people for and against any ideology. You saw a split of opinion regarding the Korean and Vietnam War just as people were split in opinions in joining WWII or the ideas during the American Civil War.
The development of a blockchain based decentralized technology to counteract future likelihood of censorship of important websites and cutting off of funding at the throat via money was what spurred the mass appeal of cryptocurrency. A lot of people didn’t like being losers in the housing market 2008 fiasco and didn’t support some of the actions taken to prop up companies with tax dollars. They didn’t like that there was some political double standard in the pursuit of a particular agenda. Even with the Kaepernick controversies a few years, a lot of people can see the double standards post-January 6th after events unfolded with protests in the Capitol vs racial movements in 2020. There was more pronounced police and law presence in 2020 while the supporters were seen likely by the political leader in question as fans on his side which may be why law enforcement may have held back or fallen back.
The alarm has been sounded by some though that censorship is coming and further censorship will be even more restrictive. These big tech companies wield monopolies over groups that think differently and speak differently and may feel they have just as equal right to voice their opinion and view things as hypocritical that their individual freedoms are not honored.
One solution may be to uses decentralized, immutable blockchains so that messages and tweets can be read in the future and for more companies to build out additional platforms that can reach a wider audience. One key con or disadvantage about being deplatformed among many is that all that hard work is lost forever when banned or restricted. And also you have to start from scratch or lose viewers and individuals as you migrate to another platform. It’s true that perhaps not everything needs to be immortalized forever in the interest of forgiveness but it would be useful to self-hose some content with automatic decentralization to other servers. It’s a complex task as there’s always calls for censorship, regulation, and policing of content in the case of content that’s either illegal, extremist, or in violation of certain policies. However if it would be fascinating to find out where technology would take us so that each person in the world one day might have their own immutable decentralized blockchain. However, taken to the extreme one could imagine as they do in certain countries that perhaps one day someone could use that information that’s publicly available forever to count against you in a form of some kind of social credit score. They could essentially blackball you for difference of thought.
That’s what happened to people in this cancel culture. That’s what happened to Kaepernick, Kathy Griffin, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Chick Fil-A, a wedding cake bakery, and several others like them. When your business and revenue and job is linked to your political beliefs it can cause issues.
Perhaps we should add also to not just freedom from discrimination of race, creed, gender, religion, but also political beliefs? One can only wonder what will happen as politics gets more divided.
In closing, the title of are article references the movie The Terminator. In it, the technology is based on a self aware artificially intelligent circuitry that believes that humans are intent on destroying the supremacy of the machines. It may be in jest, but if we keep extrapolating that one day we’re going to keep building out technology that is more and more decentralized and more and more unable to be overridden by a single man or failsafe, perhaps when AI reaches the point of singularity we’ll one day have machines analyze all the decentralized data, the various platforms and all that and determine that humans just can’t get along and decide to further spawn its programming and shut us all down. It’s truly fantastic, in a fictional way, but then again who would have thought half the things would happen that they did in 2020 and 2021?
All actions have consequences, words, and actions that we take to block or allow things on our platforms. We must be careful to balance our actions so that trying to do what’s arbitrarily defined as “good” or at least what’s considered good for one group of people, race, creeds doesn’t impair another group’s thought and opinions and right to coexist. Wars have been fought and treaties and alliances made to prevent further atrocities or actions fought in the name of protecting other for the greater good, but at the cost of invading personal freedoms that decades from now, our next generation that have no connection to the actions or have a clue what precipitated conflict and the punishing action to occur. They will be punished for years to come. In Santa Comes to Town, the seemingly bad actions of Burgermeister Meisterburger to a slip on a toy cause toys to be banished and a whack-a-mole style fight of law versus a mischievous good-doer toymaker. It’s not till years later till the story hints that after the mayor or leader is gone that people have forgotten about why the punishments and restrictive laws were done and the rules lifted. These stories and allegories are simple, but it’s because they’re simple warnings from previous generations to future generations about what can happen about too much power wielded in the hands of the too few and powerful. The people that designed the Constitution realized also that there would always be differing scenarios that required intelligence, wisdom, mercy and compassion to handle future interpretations of rules and laws. Perhaps if people were not so quick to pass judgment and cast stones these days we could all coexist more peaceful.
Here is the additional list updated tonight in addition to the ones listed above of companies that have restricted services or in talks or considering restricting services: Hallmark, Blue Cross, Marriott, R&A, Deutsche Bank, New York City, Salesforce, Dow Chemical, Citigroup, AT&T, American Express, Mastercard, Intel, Morgan Stanley, General Electric, Comcast, Commerce Bank, Visa, American Airlines, Best Buy, Cisco, Goldman Sachs, JPM, 3M, Ford, Vanguard Group, Valero Energy, UPS, Marathon Petroleum, Smithfield Foods, The American Investment Council, Archer-Daniels-Midland, Boston Scientific, BlackRock, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy, Edison International, FirstEnergy, Freeport-McMorRan, Hilton, Investment Company Institute, Marathon Petroleum, BP, and Coca-Cola, Stripe, PGA. This list was partly from Yahoo! and other various sites throughout the web and may not be complete or accurate in real time.