Saturday, August 14, 2021

Internet infrastructure and financial institutions looking harder at connections to extremist speech, but it is too much in the eye of the beholder


Goose Creek, Loudoun VA 2021-8

A few big references today, although not the time to expand on all the implications.

Reuters has a story on Paypal’s looking into its services inadvertently used by extremist or white supremacy or anti-semitic groups or purposes, by Anna Irrera. This leads to another story by Irrera about platform bans regarding products or services traceable to "Qanon"  (none of this is very objective).

 Allson Morrow interviews Edward Brawer about the story,  Brawer talks about  the need for financial companies to have their own “Section 230” (embedded video below). 

Starting in 2018 we have heard stories about a few people with supposedly extremist ties (on the right) having bank accounts closed, as “business risks”.  This leads to hasty action without "due process" (like the Santa Clara principles for online issues).  

It would be plausible for banks to look into misuse of estate money for these purposes, especially given political (even “anti-racist”) pressures from the Left.

Since Charlottesville (and reinforced by January 6), we have seen even core infrastructure companies like web hosts or content managers, domain name registrars, or security processors concerned about perceived ties to promoting extremism (remember Cloudflare c. “Daily Stormer” after Charlottesville, for openers).  Speech that is “gratuitous” – that is not paying its own way – is more likely to be perceived as disrupting public health or stability (partly because of pervasive inequity). Another related idea is that "silence is violence" and speech ("the fist") can be compelled if a person is to be heard. 

I wanted to point out Umair Haque’s screed this morning tying Trumpism to personalized Fascism, where people don’t want to be personally associated with others whom they see as “losers” – at least you can read his essay that way.  This is significant in my life and we’ll come back to that later.

Ray A. Smith talks in the Wall Street Journal about how “Vaccination status has Americans picking sides”, which feeds back partially to Haque.  It’s partly about an unprecedented challenge to individualism and personal agency (from the entire global Covid crisis, including masks and lockdowns) – but public health concerns do that (remember HIV in the 80s).  From a public health perspective, mass vaccination needs to happen fast, or it may encourage mutations and variants to evolve – that’s at least a major theory. Social media companies and even web hosts can be reasonably concerned that speech on their platforms, even when motivated by normally reasonably intellectually honest debate – will slow down vaccinations and exacerbate the long term public health crisis everywhere (Morrow pointed that out in the video above).





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