If Americans think they’re mad at tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter for censorship and suppression of speech, they should know that their anger apparently doesn’t compare to the disgust these companies have for each other.
Google, for example, is aiming its “transparency” project directly at Facebook and claiming that the embattled site is “hosting and inadvertently promoting extremist pages” by auto-creating pages for terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al Qaeda.
Facebook’s algorithm has automatically created over 100 pages for US-designated terrorist groups like Islamic State and Al-Quaeda, according to a new report by the Tech Transparency Project (TTP).
TTP is a research initiative of non-profit watchdog organization Campaign for Accountability that, according to the TTP website, “uses research, litigation and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life.” TTP began as the Google Transparency Project in 2016 and has expanded to cover several major tech companies.
The Capital Research Center [disclosure: I work for CRC], another non-profit watchdog founded during the Reagan administration, described TTP as left-leaning in its politics although the group itself does not claim to identify with a political bent.
Specifically, CRC’s Influence Watch describes the Campaign for Accountability this way:
“The Campaign for Accountability (CfA) is an ostensibly nonpartisan left-wing advocacy organization founded to expose supposed misconduct and corruption in the government and private sector. CfA typically targets conservative government officials or organizations in its investigations and has two Democratic operatives serving on its board of directors. [It] was formed by alumni of another left-wing “watchdog” organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [and] is a former project of the Hopewell Fund, a left-of-center 501(c)(3) funding and fiscal sponsorship nonprofit and part of the multi-million-dollar “dark money” network managed by Arabella Advisors, a consultancy in Washington, DC. CfA has called for the investigations of dozens of conservative lawmakers and Cabinet secretaries including former Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar…CfA also runs a research initiative backed by Oracle called the Google Transparency Project, in which it explores Google’s influence on various governments and public policies.”
This cultural revolution on the left seems pointed directly…at itself.
But it makes sense for Google to start banging the drums about how other tech platforms are misbehaving. They are, after all, currently facing some pretty serious charges in a couple of lawsuits that made it all the way to the Supreme Court. And those lawsuits — in a less than shocking twist — also are related to terrorism.
In Gonzalez v. Google, Gonzalez’s survivors claim that the tech giant Google should compensate them for the loss of their loved one. In a separate suit, Twitter v. Taamneh, Alassaf’s relatives make similar claims against Google, Twitter, and Facebook.
The thrust of both lawsuits is that websites like Twitter, Facebook, or Google-owned YouTube are legally responsible for the two ISIS killings because ISIS was able to post recruitment videos and other content on these websites that were not immediately taken down. The plaintiffs in both suits rely on a federal law that allows “any national of the United States” who is injured by an act of international terrorism to sue anyone who “aids and abets, by knowingly providing substantial assistance” to anyone who commits “such an act of international terrorism.”
Is it too much to hope that the Big Tech companies, partisan though they are, continue this tradition of policing each other so the government regulatory regime has less of an interest in doing it for them? That’s not to suggest they’ll be ethical in their competitive regulatory regime, but the less government is involved in private enterprise, the better.