All posts tagged: Tech

Against Big Tech Viewpoint Discrimination

This week, YouTube decided American conservative “shock jock” commentator Steven Crowder broke the rules of their Partner Program. Since YouTube is privately owned, shouldn’t principled free market advocates support the company’s right to purge videos Silicon Valley finds triggering, even if a disproportionate number are created by conservative commentators such as Crowder? Well, imagine electric companies stood up for progressive values by cutting off power to homes with pro-Trump yard signs. Even staunch supporters of free markets would likely object to these restrictions on expression by privately owned enterprises. When we examine why power companies shouldn’t be able to make service contingent on not violating political sensibilities, we see that analogous arguments should stop social media giants from exiling political dissidents. If Burger King won’t sell you a hamburger, so what—buy one from McDonald’s. Competition among businesses normally protects you from harm if one refuses you service. Some markets, however, are characterized by “bigger is better” where size bestows advantage. It’s much cheaper on average to hook up electric power lines to homes if the …

Down the Rabbit Hole of Political Intolerance in Silicon Valley

Editor’s note: Blake J. Harris is the bestselling author of Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation, which is currently being adapted for television by Legendary Entertainment, producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and Scott Rudin. His second book, The History of The Future—which was published on February 19—chronicles the dramatic, larger-than-life true story behind the founding of Oculus, and its quest for virtual reality, and the company’s $3 billion acquisition by Facebook. What follows is an interview with Harris conducted by Quillette’s Clay Routledge.  Clay Routledge: I just finished your latest book, The History of the Future. And I have to tell you, I tore through it. Such a fascinating story in so many ways. What made you interested in telling the story of Oculus VR and its founder, Palmer Luckey? Blake J. Harris: So back in 2014, my first book was published. This was a big, life-changing experience for me. Prior to that—for the previous eight years—I had been a commodities broker, buying and selling things like sugar, coffee …

How Ritualized Apologies Are Undermining Freedom of Expression

“I want to apologize. I recognize that this moment is a deeply painful one—internally and externally,” wrote Facebook’s VP of public policy, Joel Kaplan, in a Sep. 28 note to Facebook staff. This followed the publication of photographs showing Kaplan’s attendance at Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kaplan’s presence in the hearing room led to a wave of objections voiced on internal message boards by Facebook employees. As one employee opined: Kaplan “knew that this would cause outrage internally, but he knew that he couldn’t get fired for it. This was a protest against our culture, and a slap in the face to his fellow employees.” Initially, company executives appeared to defend Kaplan, who has for years counted Kavanaugh as one of his closest friends. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that Kaplan had broken no rules with his attendance at the hearings, and on Oct. 3, Andrew Bosworth, a Facebook VP, weighed in, writing that “it is your responsibility to choose a path, not that of the company you work for.” Yet the …

Alex Jones Was Victimized by One Oligopoly. But He Perpetuated Another

This month, Twitter joined Apple, Facebook, Spotify and YouTube in banning the popular right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from its platform. Like the other bans, Twitter’s decision was announced as a fait accompli, with opaque justifications ranging from “hate speech” to “abusive behavior.” The seemingly arbitrary nature of these bans has raised fears from all political quarters. Alexis Madrigal, writing in The Atlantic, cited the development as proof that “these platforms have tremendous power, they have hardly begun to use it, and it’s not clear how anyone would stop them from doing so.” His sentiments were echoed by Ben Shapiro in the National Review, who expressed alarm at “social-media arbiters suddenly deciding that vague ‘hate speech’ standards ought to govern our common spaces.” Even some on the left displayed concern. Steve Coll wrote in the New Yorker that “practices that marginalize the unconventional right will also marginalize the unconventional left,” and argued that we must defend even “awful speakers” in the interests of protecting free speech. Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union described …