For Silicon Valley companies that must balance the right to free speech with the risk of empowering and broadcasting abhorrent beliefs, the violence in Charlottesville has been a clarifying moment.
In a cascade of notes to employees and public statements, technology executives rushed to condemn the hatred and bigotry that underlay an attack on protesters who were rallying against a white supremacist march in Virginia. Apple CEO Tim Cook specifically denounced Donald Trump for asserting a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis and told his employees the company would match donations to anti-discrimination groups to which he was personally directing $2 million.
There were more concrete developments than C-suite condemnations. One after another, companies moved to cut off services to customers linked to the bloodshed and to the constellation of beliefs surrounding it - or, at the minimum, to reiterate that they could.
Domain name service provider GoDaddy said it would no longer work with the neo-Nazi forum Daily Stormer, as did Google and Cloudflare, whose CEO called the site reprehensible.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed in a post that the company would be vigilant in removing posts that promote hate crimes or acts of terrorism. PayPal released a statement saying it would not provide services to groups like the Ku Klux Klan or Nazis that "promote hate, violence or racial intolerance",and Apple nixed Apple Pay support for websites that sell white supremacist apparel. Uber said in a statement that it opposed discrimination of any kind and retained the right to ban users from the app.
Even the dating app OKCupid piled on, saying in a tweet that after discovering a white supremacist using the app, Within ten minutes we banned him for life.
In explaining those moves, companies said they were simply hewing to preexisting policies that govern how their services are used and prohibit violent threats.
This is not a shift or new policy, just a reiteration of our existing commitment to remaining vigilant against the advancement of hate, intolerance and violence on our platforms, PayPal spokesman Justin Higgs said in an email.
But the rush of tech firms announcing their right to refuse service to avatars of hate could signal a larger change underway, business experts predicted, with Silicon Valley now facing a heightened expectation of policing violent views.
Particularly in the Valley, theyre all about freedom and not being the arbiters of opinion, said Kellie McElhaneyof the Center for Responsible Business at UC Berkeley. But now that is changing and they are taking a stand.
Companies likely felt compelled to act stand in part because of pressure from customers and from employees, said MsMcElhaney, who recounted hearing from tech workers demanding their employers draw a line. But firms that have positioned themselves as altruistic drivers of innovation have also set a high bar.
Theres an evangelist streak to a lot of the companies that get attentionthe goal is to make the world a better place through better geo-location apps, for example, said Jo-Ellen Pozner, a fellow in the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara Universitys Leavey School of Business. If youre putting that in a front and center in your corporate mission and vision and the communications you have internally and externally, and youre confronted with a value-based challenge - you said youre a company that wants to make the world a better place, and now you have to do it.
Even if there is really only a public statement with no underlying action, that is important, MsPozner added. Im not so cynical to think this is all window-dressing.
Related video:The cast of Detroit discuss Charlottesville violence
Debate has raged for years over the responsibility that comes with running a global platform that allowsideas to spread and groups toorganise regardless of their aims. Some tech companies, particularly Facebook and Twitter, have faced criticism in the past for not being quick enough to ban users or scrub content that harasses others or incites bigotry.
What theyre doing now, I think, is laudable, but it doesnt come out of nowhere, said Joseph Holt, a professor of business ethics at the University ofNotre Dame. Companies have tried to resolve the tension between two competing ideals, Mr Holt said: were neutral, we just host the sites, we don't supply the content versus these other values around protecting users from violence and just general civility.
I think a lot of values are getting a little more weight now, Mr Holt said. It seems clear that some of what the companies are doing is a response to social pressure - but I don't think the social pressure is what makes them espouse a value. It just gives more weight to the other side of the equation. How deep and lasting a change that is I think remains to be seen.
Those competing priorities were evident in GoDaddys justification for booting Daily Stormer. While the company said it generally supports free speech, even in the case of sites offering tasteless, ignorant content, Daily Stormer crossed the line by violating a prohibition on promoting, encouraging, or otherwise engaging in violence.
Where companies draw that line is now likely to come under more scrutiny. The risk, Mr Holt said, is that companies swing too far in one direction and begin censoring or blocking potential customers before theyve done anything objectionable, where companies preemptively removed a company, kicked them off the web, took away their domain name because given their ideas they might say something that incites violence.
That possibility was not lost on Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince. Even as he defended severing ties with Daily Stormer, saying in a CNBC interview that life was too short to deal with jerks like this, Mr Prince cautioned that tech firms wield significant power to shape what type of speech survives in the world.
What Im concerned about is that technology companies like Facebook, like Google, like Cloudflare, that control huge swaths of the Internet, could make a determination without any kind of legitimacy or political responsibility and literally wipe someone off the Internet, Mr Prince said.
Striking the right balance is going to be an ongoing process that requires examining cases one by one, said MsMcElhaney, who acknowledged the peril of tumbling down a slippery slope. But she said tech companies did not have the option to stay idle.
When youre running the largest most influential companies in the world and you can register large-scale change with one move, thats huge, she said. They represent so much power and visibility as a communication vehicle for these groups.
- The Rise And Fall Of The Technology Companies - Forbes - December 13th, 2019
- Understanding the ethics behind use of HR technology - Human Resource Executive - December 13th, 2019
- Konka Group, A China TV Technology Powerhouse, Announces Brand Expansion Into The United States And Canada - PRNewswire - December 13th, 2019
- These Are The Technologies That Will Transform The 2020s - From 5G To Vertical Farming - Forbes - December 13th, 2019
- The State and Technological Revolution | by Benedict Macon-Cooney - Project Syndicate - December 13th, 2019
- The AI community needs to take responsibility for its technology and its actions - MIT Technology Review - December 13th, 2019
- 4 Stocks to Play the Way Technology Is Changing Everything About Finance - Barron's - December 13th, 2019
- Watch Advancements to Discover How Technology is Altering our World - PR Web - December 13th, 2019
- How to Organize Your Life With the Help of Technology - Entrepreneur - December 13th, 2019
- Mambu taps into card processing technology with Marqeta partnership - IBS Intelligence - December 13th, 2019
- What Can the Police Tell From Your Digital Activities? - Technology Networks - December 13th, 2019
- Where are we in the information technology revolution? - Furniture Today - December 13th, 2019
- CES 2020: Bosch presents intelligent technology that is Invented for life - Automotive World - December 13th, 2019
- Secure Technology Alliance Announces New TWIC Security Training and Certification Program - HSToday - December 13th, 2019
- As battery technology charges forward, the transport industry is benefitting from real change - EuropeanCEO - December 13th, 2019
- Growing Cleveland's start-up culture could come from new technology and a new place to work - News 5 Cleveland - December 13th, 2019
- Emotion recognition technology should be banned, says an AI research institute - MIT Technology Review - December 13th, 2019
- Indian IT companies deploy hitech technologies at home and abroad - Economic Times - December 13th, 2019
- Mmmm... fresh, delicious tenders: Forget G-Cloud, this 6.5bn Technology Products and Associated Services framework is where it's at - The Register - December 13th, 2019
- Technology To Make Healthcare More Effective, Indian Rep Tells UN - Inc42 Media - December 13th, 2019
- Scientists at School of Mines and Technology create a tool that drastically lowers medication prices - Kotatv - December 13th, 2019
- Port Authority To Look Into Technology That Could Save Bridge And Tunnel Carpool Discount - CBS New York - December 13th, 2019
- Universities at the forefront of technological innovation - Study International News - December 13th, 2019
- Heilind Asia Wins the 6th China IoT Technology Innovation Award - Business Wire - December 13th, 2019
- New Jersey Self-driving technology will be tested on some NJ buses Greg Mocker 7:31 - WPIX 11 New York - December 13th, 2019
- What does it take for teachers to make smart use of technology in classrooms? - The Dallas Morning News - December 13th, 2019
- Academics and 'The Intelligence Trap' | Technology and Learning - Inside Higher Ed - December 13th, 2019
- From AR to AI: The emerging technologies marketers can explore to enable and disrupt - Marketing Tech - December 13th, 2019
- Inflation-target renewal, impact of technology highlight Bank of Canada's 2020 work plan, Governor Poloz says - Bank of Canada - December 13th, 2019
- How Technology Is Transforming Executive Coaching - Harvard Business Review - December 1st, 2019
- Let us give thanks for the good technology - Business Day - December 1st, 2019
- Will the future of work be ethical? Perspectives from MIT Technology Review - TechCrunch - December 1st, 2019
- Adam Kay: the technology making life more complicated and driving us crazy - The Times - December 1st, 2019
- GeekWire Calendar Picks: How to live without a smartphone; new technologies in art; and more - GeekWire - December 1st, 2019
- This infographic reveals the top ten ways in which facial recognition technology could transform our lives - Digital Information World - December 1st, 2019
- Fujifilm Showcases Artificial Intelligence Initiative And Advances at RSNA 2019 - Imaging Technology News - December 1st, 2019
- UKtech50 2019 the most influential people in UK technology - ComputerWeekly.com - December 1st, 2019
- 3 Ways Technology Has Changed the Pet-Care Industry - Entrepreneur - December 1st, 2019
- Video Conferencing Equipment Supplier, IVCi, Lists and Explains the Top AV Technologies for Government Services - PRNewswire - December 1st, 2019
- Four technologies tackling the problem of plastic pollution in rivers - Dezeen - December 1st, 2019
- Handbook of Nanomaterials for Manufacturing Applications, 2020 - Micro and Nano Technologies - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Business Wire - December 1st, 2019
- GE Healthcare Unveils Novel Contrast-enhanced Mammography Solution for Biopsy - Imaging Technology News - December 1st, 2019
- Slowly, HIV is being beaten - The Economist - December 1st, 2019
- How Technology Is Improving The Future Of Home Service Installations - Forbes - November 27th, 2019
- Meet The Family Behind QWIN: Revolutionizing CBD Technology - Forbes - November 27th, 2019
- Why Technology Is Crucial For CRE -- And Why Investors Now Expect it - Forbes - November 27th, 2019
- Project Understood makes Google voice technology more inclusive to those with Down syndrome - TechRepublic - November 27th, 2019
- IDTechEx Research Reports: The Cardiovascular Disease Technology Market Will Exceed $40 Billion by 2030 - PRNewswire - November 27th, 2019
- Audio Visual Classroom Solutions, IVCi, Explains How AV Technology is Continuing to Shape the Future of Higher Education - MarTech Series - November 27th, 2019
- American Express Unveils The Shopping Technology of the Future as it Celebrates 10 Years of Small Business Sat - Black Enterprise - November 27th, 2019
- TSA testing new technology like "Innovation Checkpoint" and "digital dog nose" to speed up screenings - CBS News - November 27th, 2019
- How the technology behind deepfakes can benefit all of society - World Economic Forum - November 27th, 2019
- Gator Technology opens operations in Midland - Midland Reporter-Telegram - November 27th, 2019
- How cities are using technology to solve their trash problems - CNN - November 27th, 2019
- Katalyst Technologies and Bernstein Team Up to Provide Instructional Support for Chicago Schools - PRNewswire - November 27th, 2019
- Technology vendor of the year: Murex - Risk.net - November 27th, 2019
- Clean energy technology was thought to be uninvestable. One fund thinks otherwise - CNBC - November 27th, 2019
- Technology helps cut the cost of steel framing in new projects - Business in Vancouver - November 27th, 2019
- The top technologies that enabled digital transformation this decade - TechRepublic - November 27th, 2019
- 'Maximize the positive' from new technologies, for our digital future, Guterres urges - UN News - November 27th, 2019
- Former CIA Director: We worried arming Ukraine would hand technology to Russian spies - NBC News - November 27th, 2019
- Technology talent pool on the rise in Greater Victoria - Times Colonist - November 27th, 2019
- 16 Predictions on the Future of Technology - Barron's - October 24th, 2019
- Technology Investment Must Go Beyond Single Use Cases - Government Technology - October 24th, 2019
- Samsung Showcases Its Latest Silicon Technologies for the Next Wave of Innovation at Annual Tech Day - Samsung Newsroom - October 24th, 2019
- We Could Go to Venus with Today's Technology, Scientists Say - Space.com - October 24th, 2019
- We Have the Tools and Technology to Work Less and Live Better - Singularity Hub - October 24th, 2019
- Why the World of WATCHMEN Rejected Technology - Nerdist - October 24th, 2019
- Electron Beam Technology researched at Texas A&M - KBTX - October 24th, 2019
- The most in-demand technologies for IT professionals - TechRepublic - October 24th, 2019
- Toledo Technology 5k to support battered women - 13abc Action News - October 24th, 2019
- Technology may make umpires a job of the past - New York Post - October 24th, 2019
- Broadway in Bed: Technology Is Remaking How We See the Ancient Art of Theater - NBC New York - October 24th, 2019
- BP to test technology to recycle plastic bottles again and again - Reuters - October 24th, 2019
- The Antique Technology Still Taking the Ocean's Pulse - Hakai Magazine - October 24th, 2019
- Twitter shares slump as revenues dip and costs rise - The Guardian - October 24th, 2019
- Caregiving Online Technology and Dementia: How to Keep Your Loved Ones Safe More families face dilemmas - Next Avenue - October 24th, 2019
- Looking back at the future of warfare - MIT Technology Review - October 24th, 2019
- Geospatial peacekeeping: How soldiers and technology can help fight poverty - Brookings Institution - October 24th, 2019
- How India's farmers are using technology to feed more than a billion people - CNN - October 24th, 2019