Tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies shun hate groups

Google, GoDaddy, PayPal take ac­tion against web­sites

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Tracy Jan and El­iz­a­beth Dwoskin

Sil­i­con Val­ley sig­nif­i­cantly es­ca­lated its war on white supremacy this week, choking off the abil­ity of hate groups to raise money on­line, re­mov­ing them from In­ter­net search en­gines and pre­vent­ing some sites from reg­is­ter­ing at all.

The new moves go be­yond cen­sor­ing in­di­vid­ual sto­ries or posts. Tech com­pa­nies such as Google, GoDaddy and PayPal are now re­vers­ing their hands-off ap­proach about con­tent sup­ported by their ser­vices and mak­ing it much more dif­fi­cult for right-wing fringe or­ga­ni­za­tions to reach mass au­di­ences.

But the ac­tions are also height­en­ing con­cerns over how tech com­pa­nies are be­com­ing the ar­biters of PayPal has cut off nearly three dozen hate groups that used the on­line pay­ment plat­form to process do­na­tions. free speech in Amer­ica. And in re­sponse, right-wing tech­nol­o­gists are build­ing par­al­lel dig­i­tal ser­vices that cater to their move­ment., a so­cial net­work pro­mot­ing free speech, was founded shortly af­ter the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion by Sil­i­con Val­ley en­gi­neers alien­ated by the re­gion’s lib­er­al­ism. Other con­ser­va­tives have founded In­fo­galac­tic, a Wikipedia for the alt-right, as well as crowd­fund­ing tools Ha­treon and WeSearchr. The lat­ter was used to raise money for James Damore, a white en­gi­neer fired af­ter crit­i­ciz­ing Google’s di­ver­sity pol­icy.

“If there needs to be two ver­sions of the In­ter­net so be it,” Gab. ai tweeted Wed­nes­day morn­ing. The com­pany’s spokesman, Ut- sav San­duja, later warned of a “re­volt” in Sil­i­con Val­ley against the way tech com­pa­nies are try­ing to con­trol the na­tional de­bate.

Some ad­her­ents to racism, white na­tion­al­ism and anti-Semitism said in in­ter­views they will press for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to step in and reg­u­late Face­book and Google, an un­ex­pected stance for a move­ment that is skep­ti­cal of gov­ern­ment med­dling.

“Doo­fuses in the con­ser­va­tive move­ment say it’s only cen­sor­ship if the gov­ern­ment does it,” said Richard Spencer, a white na­tion­al­ist. “YouTube and Twit­ter and Face­book have more power than the gov­ern­ment. If you can’t host a web­site or tweet, then you ef­fec­tively don’t have a right to free speech.”

He added that “so­cial net­works need to be reg­u­lated in the way the broad­cast net­works are. I be­lieve one has a right to a Google pro­file, a Twit­ter pro­file, an ac­cu­rate search ... We should start con­ceiv­ing of these things as util­i­ties and not in terms of pri­vate com­pa­nies.”

The cen­sor­ship of hate speech by com­pa­nies passes con­sti­tu­tional muster, ac­cord­ing to First Amend­ment ex­perts. But they said there is a down­side of thrust­ing cor­po­ra­tions into that role.

On Wed­nes­day, Face­book said it can­celed the page of white na­tion­al­ist Christo­pher Cantwell, who was con­nected to the Char­lottesville rally. The com­pany has shut down eight other pages in re­cent days, cit­ing vi­o­la­tions of the com­pany’s hate speech poli­cies. Twit­ter has sus­pended sev­eral ex­trem­ist ac­counts, in­clud­ing @Mil­len­ni­al_Matt, a Nazi-ob­sessed so­cial me­dia per­son­al­ity.

On Mon­day, GoDaddy delisted the Daily Stormer, a prom­i­nent neo-Nazi site, af­ter its founder cel­e­brated the death of a woman killed in Char­lottesville, Va. The Daily Stormer then trans- ferred its reg­is­tra­tion to Google, which also cut off the site. The site has since re­treated to the “dark Web,” mak­ing it in­ac­ces­si­ble to most in­ter­net users.

PayPal late Tues­day said it would bar nearly three dozen users from ac­cept­ing do­na­tions on its on­line pay­ment plat­form fol­low­ing rev­e­la­tions that the com­pany played a key role in rais­ing money for the white su­prem­a­cist rally.

In a lengthy blog post, PayPal out­lined its long­stand­ing pol­icy of not al­low­ing its ser­vices to be used to ac­cept pay­ments or do­na­tions to or­ga­ni­za­tions that ad­vo­cate racist views. The pay­ment pro­ces­sor sin­gled out the KKK, white su­prem­a­cist groups and Nazi groups — all three of which were in­volved in or­ga­niz­ing last week­end’s rally.

“For the long­est time, PayPal has es­sen­tially been the bank­ing sys­tem for white na­tion­al­ism,” said Kee­gan Hankes, an an­a­lyst for SPLC.


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