By CAPosts 22 January, 2021 - 11:50pm 89 views
“The first week of 2021 will be remembered as a turning point in the history of freedom of expression and the global open internet. It has the potential to be a tinderbox that unravels the heart of the internet as we know it, ”wrote Sam Lessin, co-founder of Fin Analytics and former vice president of product management at Facebook .
His voice joined the discussion on whether or not it is censorship that social networks have suspended the accounts of former United States President Donald Trump to warn that "what is at stake goes much further" and could change two issues central of contemporary society: "What rights do we have with regard to private digital discourse and what access we should have to a global internet and community information . "
Personally, he believed that the action of Twitter , Facebook and other networks that they eliminated Trump, temporarily or permanently, from their surroundings was "the right decision" in the context of the assault on the Capitol . However, he did not consider the measures taken by Amazon Web Services (AWS, which took Parler , a libertarian platform on which many Trump followers communicated) offline , and Stripe : that seemed to him "a threat to digital discourse."
Wrote in The Information : “Tech companies, and not just social media, are now in an almost impossible position . It can be argued that we are on the brink of the collapse of the global internet. "
To illustrate this, he stated that, although" extremist groups seek alternative social networks, "they are not completely cut off. They have, for example, email . If they redouble their outreach and contact efforts on mailing lists, and they can do it perfectly because many are associated with political or community organizations, that “is going to create a problem for large technology companies that have excessively centralized email. ”
Con That example Lessin pointed to the relationship between internet infrastructure and freedom of expression and the right to information . "In practice, some large companies have enormous control over which emails are delivered and which ones are suppressed," he explained, which is a lot like what happened on social media with Trump and the service providers with Parler: companies they are susceptible to internal pressure and political pressure .
“What we have to recognize is that the internet is governed by a set of rules and implicit agreements , when it comes to how digital traffic is handled. That includes the right of people to communicate with others freely ”, he highlighted. “Once those norms begin to crumble, the internet can quickly fall apart.”
Lessin has written many times against the distinction between the benefits of control in public Internet spaces and the freedom that should exist in private ones, such as the email. But for him today the question is that as people move from social platforms to personal communication, "serious attempts at regulation and control will follow . " And he doesn't think it's a good idea to “cross that bridge.”
Using technology “to monitor, censor, and control private expression on a level that was literally incomprehensible” until recently seemed authoritative: “We must vehemently reject that power , for the sake of the future and despite the continued pain and suffering that private hate speech will cause. ”
What if some countries with institutions weaker than the United States asked Big Tech to likewise who suspended Donald Trump, suspend others who the authorities consider a threat ? There is no way Google or Facebook will determine who to suspend in 200 countries, he argued. “It is a role that no private company can play . Even governments are fighting vigorously to do so. ”
And what if the Internet infrastructure providers AWS and Stripe were projected in a similar way? That would imply that the network itself is the problem , you warned in The Information.
"Many countries are going to feel fully justified in taking matters into their own hands and saying that they need to put firewalls , build their own internet infrastructure and control who can speak within their borders," he argued. "This may sound alarmist, but I think such a dismantling of the internet is possible in today's environment , to the extent that US companies have shown that they will take sides in their internal affairs."
This is why Lessin cares little the moral judgment of the actions of Twitter or Facebook: it does not matter if they are right or wrong. What really matters is the fact that " large swaths of the internet have taken a clear political step that is impossible to spread consistently or fairly to the entire world. " Not long ago, just two months ago, if a political party had advocated for silencing its rival online, it would have received a flood of criticism. "But suddenly, that has exactly become a legitimate debate, one that internet companies will lose, no matter what they do."
Perhaps the latest act of the Trump administration was, he speculated, to initiate the chain of events that could lead "to the end of digital globalization and the erection of digital borders, as well as regionalization and censorship. "
Unlike the Roman Empire , which beyond its content had the merit of enduring, the empire of the current Digital communications are endangered by "the lack of a central principle , of organization, of coherence and of standards," he compared. "For global internet companies to survive this period, they need to quickly emerge from the quagmire of content moderation and its complicated policies and adopt simple laws and policies that they can apply consistently and universally. "
Like a lot As a child in the 1980s , the Fin Analytics co-founder and former Facebook executive had "the incredible privilege of growing up as the digital world and the internet expanded ." For many of his generation "it was a fact" that the network was here to stay and connect humanity. Today, instead, he sees that this global project is "deeply threatened." And imagine two possible futures.
"In the first, the internet breaks down in the next few years, " he conjectured. “Service providers lose confidence while regions and communities choose to define themselves and build their own infrastructures. In wide swaths of the world, or perhaps everywhere, people do not trust that they can communicate securely digitally or that the reality they see is indeed reality . Digital borders can become as real as physical ones. In this future, the internet of each country becomes an extension of the country itself , with its own policies, rules, and providers. ”
In the second potential scenario,“ internet companies of all kinds drastically simplify and tighten their rules , eliminating the human judgment of the equation ”. That, too, will require great technological progress.
For now, he concluded, the only thing clear is that "the debate about trust, fairness and control has remained ambiguous for too long ." So long, in fact, that "the risks have grown too high for this confusing status quo to survive."
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