If you are ever in any doubt how bad an idea it is to simply accept the moderation and policing of content by large technology companies, compare and contrast their willingness to “deplatform” those who have the wrong opinions against this; Google and Apple have an app to help prevent Saudi women running away from home.
In his recent interview with Joe Rogan, Jack Dorsey struggled to articulate Twitter’s policies on censorship.
On one hand, that’s an embarrassing admission for the CEO that he’s not across what is arguably the most controversial current issue facing his organisation. On the other, perhaps it’s an indication that the policy is more along the lines of, “whatever we decide it is at the time”.
Ultimately, the big technology companies, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are private companies, nobody is forced to use their product and their terms of service are whatever they want them to be.
If Google wants to assist the Chinese government in monitoring its citizens, that’s Google’s business decision. Likewise, if Google and Apple are happy to host apps used by Saudi men to monitor their wives and daughters, fair enough. Obviously, we can judge them accordingly.
Morality is a moving target over time and geography. What was considered acceptable in 1909 or even 1969 is quite different in 2019. Just ask the US politicians who are being berated for costumes and comments being unearthed in their school year books by Offence Archaeologists.
Similarly, social attitudes in Saudi Arabia differ considerably with those elsewhere in the world.
The technology companies have to navigate these border differences. As individuals we also have the added risk over time; who knows today whether an anodyne social media post this year might be regretted if re-published in twenty years’ time? It’s tricky.
The technology companies seem to simultaneously want to pretend that they are simply dumb platforms, like the postal service or telephone carriers, yet kick off those deemed to be holding incorrect opinions. With such questionable views on what constitutes ethical behaviour, these platforms might not be the best places to store one’s data or express opinions that are outside of the norm.