Posted by on December 6, 2016 10:30 pm
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Categories: Computing Digital media Economy facebook Google New York Times Social information processing Social Media Social networking services Software Technology Twitter Universal Windows Platform apps

The spread of so-called “fake news” has captured the imagination of the entire world since being blamed for Hillary’s stunning defeat on November 8th.  The idea that they may no longer exercise complete control of the national media narrative, and therefore popular opinion, has mainstream news outlets and social media giants frightened to their core. 

The tech titans of Silicon Valley are so frightened, in fact, that they’ve teamed up to create a centralized database which will allow them to “efficiently” block content simultaneously across multiple platforms.  According to Yahoo News, the database is expected to be up and running in early 2017 and more companies could be brought into the partnership over time.

Web giants YouTube , Facebook , Twitter and Microsoft will step up efforts to remove extremist content from their websites by creating a common database.

The companies will share ‘hashes’ – unique digital fingerprints they automatically assign to videos or photos – of extremist content they have removed from their websites to enable their peers to identify the same content on their platforms.

“We hope this collaboration will lead to greater efficiency as we continue to enforce our policies to help curb the pressing global issue of terrorist content online,” the companies said in a statement on Tuesday.

Of course, while the database is being sold as a way to censor “terrorist content” (because who wouldn’t want to stop terrorists?), we suspect that once it’s established the subjective definitions of “terrorist” and “extremist” content will gradually morph over time to include anything that is not deemed mainstream. 

To that end, the New York Times is reporting this morning that “European officials” are already calling on the large tech companies to use their new censoring weapon of mass destruction to target “hate speech.”  Of course, with Twitter recently threatening to ban President-elect Trump for “harassment and hateful conduct,” a person who was just elected with 60mm votes, one has to question the ability of social media giants to impartially distinguish “hate speech” for legitimate political discourse.

European officials pushed on Tuesday for American technology giants to do more to tackle online hate speech across the region, adding to the chorus of policy makers worldwide demanding greater action from the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter.

The rebuke came a day after many of those companies announced that they were joining forces to fight the spread of terrorist content on the internet, agreeing to share technology and information to prevent propaganda and other dangerous materials from being disseminated on their services.

Amid growing security tensions in much of the Western world, governments, intelligence agencies and advocacy groups want Google, Microsoft and other technology companies to take further steps to curb hate speech on digital platforms, as well as to clamp down on how terrorists circulate information online.

But freedom of expression campaigners have warned that such demands may limit people’s ability to communicate across the internet, and they have cautioned that the line between hate speech and legitimate political discussion can be blurry.

But, as we’ve said before, the tech and media giants who decide to push further left and censor dissenting views do so at their own peril.  The 2016 election is evidence that the American population has grown extremely skeptical of a biased mainstream media and to the extent the social media giants wish to match their bias then we suspect they’ll quickly meet the same fate.

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