Online Harms Need A Structural Solution: Ham-Handed Censorship Won’t Fix It
There is no doubt about it. Internet 2.0 made some people a lot of money. The quandary of the early 2000’s of how to monetize the Internet was answered by the rise of surveillance capitalism, and those positioned to grab the data in Silicon Valley have made (and in some cases lost) vast fortunes.
But as the early 2000’s receded, it became abundantly clear that the economic miracle of the monetized Internet had grave societal harms. Not just the obvious one of the institutionalization of an oligopoly of Big Tech firms who had scaled beyond any semblance of real competition, but kitchen sink harms that included the exploitation of children and youth, sexual abuse, black markets for harmful drugs and guns and the spread of virulent disinformation.
Not surprisingly, the large-scale distribution and increasing visibility of harmful content led to desires to make the “bad content” go away, some broadly recognized as such and other more ambiguously characterized as such depending on ideology.
Janine Jackson: While an ethics fellow at Harvard, young programmer and activist Aaron Swartz downloaded articles en masse from the academic database JSTOR, triggering the aggressive pursuit of MIT’s IT department, and eventually what’s been described as a grand jury runaway train gone off the rails. Threatened with decades in prison and a seven-figure fine because, in the words of US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, “stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar,” Swartz took his own life in 2013. After his death, it was revealed that he, in fact, had authorized access to JSTOR from MIT.
The persecution of Aaron Swartz was a sign of the animus with which some system-representing actors will go after relatively powerless individuals they choose to make examples of. It’s also been taken up as a call to advance the demand to liberate data, for regular citizens to be able to get the information they need to confront power, and to have a say in decisions affecting them.
Joining us now to talk about that work is Tracy Rosenberg, executive director of Media Alliance and co-coordinator of the group Oakland Privacy. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Tracy Rosenberg.
After pop singer Brittney Spears testified dramatically about wishing an end to a lengthy conservatorship administered by her father, her remarks were smuggled from the courtroom into the public domain.
In response, the LA Superior Court chose to end all remote access to all court proceedings for the media and members of the public.
USA Today contested the LA Superior Court decision, both on constitutional grounds and on public health ones, given the current panedemic. At their request, Media Alliance filed an amici letter to the CA Supreme Court asking them to review USA Today’s petition.
On November 8, we found out that the CA Supreme Court has agreed to ask the LA Superior Court to respond to USA Today’s petition.
Oakland residents shared the stories of their personal experience; a broad coalition of advocates, civil society organizations, and local internet service providers (ISPs) lifted their voices; and now the Oakland City Council has unanimously passed Oakland’s Communications Service Provider Choice Ordinance. The newly minted law frees Oakland renters from being constrained to their landlord’s preferred ISP by prohibiting owners of multiple occupancy buildings from interfering with an occupant’s ability to receive service from the communications provider of their choice.
San Francisco-Last night, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen told 60 Minutes that Facebook is misleading the public about lies, hate and disinformation on its platform. We wish we were surprised. Time and time again, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has put Facebook’s profits ahead of truth, safety, health and democracy.
That’s why today the Facebook Users Union launched a #FireZuck campaign telling Facebook that it’s time for Mark Zuckerberg to go. They launched petitions on several platforms and are calling for a protest outside of Mark Zuckerberg’s house in Palo Alto on October 17.