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Tech firms moving against alt-right

by on17 August 2017

Comment: Sea change as liberal tech companies realise they created a monster

There appears to be a change of heart in the liberal technology companies. Once insisting that socially retarded, Neanderthal types should beallowed to speak their misogynistic race hate mantras online as free speech, tech companies are cracking down.

To be fair, tech companies historically not want to be put in a position of acting as government or lobby group censors, but it appears that Charlottesville, Virginia changed their mind. Images of KKK, neo-Nazi saluting, torch bearing white men, gun-armed alt-righters, and escalating violence has created a shock in the liberal technology market. Rather than enabling free-speech, and rational debate about the government, the free internet has created an established hate movement as conservative white men try to claw back power as they find themselves heading towards the minority.

More technology companies removed white supremacists from their services in response to weekend violence in. Social media networks Twitter and LinkedIn, music service Spotify and security firm

Cloudflare were among the companies cutting off services to hate groups or removing material that spread hate. Earlier in the week, Facebook, Alphabet and GoDaddy also took steps to block hate groups.

Tech companies have taken down violent propaganda from Islamic State and other militant groups, in part in response to government pressure. But most internet companies have traditionally tried to steer clear of making judgments about content except in cases of illegal activity.

Cloudflare, which protects some six million websites from denial-of-service attacks and hacking, on Wednesday afternoon dropped coverage of the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer.

Cloudflare Chief Executive Matthew Prince told employees that he woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the internet. Prince admitted he was conflicted, because it could become harder to resist pressure from governments to censor.

"You don't have to play this game too many moves out to see how risky this is going to be", Prince said. "'What about this site? What about this site?'"

Cloudflare is well-known for defending even the most distasteful websites, and services like it are essential to the functioning of websites.

But Daily Stormer helped organise the weekend rally in Charlottesville where a 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 people were injured when a man ploughed a car into a crowd protesting the white nationalist gathering.

The site has been accessible only intermittently the past few days after domain providers GoDaddy and Google Domains, a unit of Alphabet, said they would not serve the website. Ironically it tried moving to a Russian based internet domain but a few hours later was no longer accessible at that address.

Facebook also said it had removed accounts belonging to Chris Cantwell, a web commentator who has described himself as a white nationalist and said on his site that he had attended the Charlottesville rally. Cantwell's YouTube account also appeared to have been terminated.

Reddit this week eliminated one of its discussion communities that supported the Unite the Right rally, saying that the company would ban users who incite violence. The company says it has more than 250 million users.

Spotify, based in Sweden, said it was removing musical acts from its streaming service that had been flagged as racist "hate bands" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"Illegal content or material that favours hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us", the company said in a statement, adding that record companies should also be held responsible.

Last modified on 17 August 2017
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