In the wake of the terrible terror attack in New Zealand that left several dead, tech companies are looking at censoring more content as a response.
Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote a blog post on March 24 that called for a stronger approach to how tech companies deal with content they disagreed with on their platforms. He wrote, “Gone are the days when tech companies can think of their platforms akin to a postal service without regard to the responsibilities embraced by other content publishers.” For Smith, gone are the days when users had the freedom to post whatever they wanted. Social media is now just an extended form of newspaper.
Furthermore, Smith wanted to explore the option of heavily blacklisting content that he and other tech executives found objectionable. He wrote, “We should explore browser-based solutions --building on ideas like safe search--to block the accessing of such content at the point when people attempt to view and download it.” Google is probably already ahead of Microsoft’s curve when it comes to blocking access to things on Google and YouTube, but it seems that’s not enough for Microsoft. Microsoft’s own search engine, Bing, would be immediately subject to Smith’s plan.
Somehow, while he discussed banning content online, Smith managed to bring up that it was all in the interest of human rights. “When it comes to saving human lives and protecting human rights,” he wrote. Ironically, he left out the First Amendment, which preserves the right to free speech.
News organizations were marked to be exempt from any sanctions on posting. Smith suggested that companies “work from a joint virtual command center” in the middle of crises, which would enable “restricting communications that are in the public interest, such as reporting from news organizations.”
Smith also reached for an emphasis on “healthier online environments,” saying that “it doesn’t help when online interaction normalizes in cyberspace standards of behavior that almost all of us would consider unacceptable in the real world.” He referred to “digital discourse” as “toxic.”
Responses to the terrible tragedy have included calls from the media to remove subreddits from Reddit and to remove 8chan and 4chan, two online platform communities that host some right-wing content without much censorship.