Tech Threatens Society, Must Be Reined In Immediately
Unsupervised Tech Media has been hijacked by Russia, white supremacists & fraudsters — it’s time to rein them in
Diane Francis: Google took content from newspapers (and networks) without paying for it, then took their advertisers. Social media like Facebook and Twitter and others did the same — but none of them have assumed legal or moral responsibilities
Google took content from newspapers (and networks) without paying for it, then took their advertisers. Social media like Facebook and Twitter and others have done the same.
Unfortunately, none of them have assumed the legal or moral responsibilities that newspapers and other traditional media have had to live up to when it comes to other editorial or advertising content they publish.
And they should have. But didn’t.
The result is they are now on “trial” in the U.S. Congress because the unsupervised online media world is easily hijacked by Russia, cults, white supremacists, fraudsters, unethical political players, and others. This wild west has proliferated because tech companies have not been held to the same standards as were imposed on traditional media companies, including broadcasters.
These laws have been developed over many generations. In mature democracies, laws supervising the media were established to protect society from those who would spout libel, slander, hate, racism, misogyny, disinformation, and lies. These constraints do not abrogate freedoms, of speech and expression, but prevent statements that damage others or society or communities without justification.
The majority of information is obtained around the world from search or social media transmissions, not newspapers or networks. Even though they have usurped traditional media they are allowed to publish garbage in and garbage out for profit.
This has happened because tech companies have pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes. They refuse to define themselves as publishers, only distributions. But that’s not true. They are publishers and republishers, under law, and are responsible legally and morally for content and advertisements.
For instance, the media can be sued for publishing or republishing libel, slander, fraudulent statements, inaccuracies, or for publishing hate. In advertising, media is accountable under Truth in Advertising rules — and the “Tech Media” should be too.
The Europeans have caught on to this, and holding these companies accountable regarding content and also in terms of their use of private information sold to advertisers.
Also at issue is the fact that the Tech Media asks users sign away rights to use their “data” in order to get their “free services”. These sign-offs are buried in Terms of Service documents and allow their personal information, communications, and shopping journeys to be logged then monetized then sold to the highest bidders.
Now Congress has discovered that the Tech Media has accepted money from questionable advertisers. Then there are the abuses of personal “data” they commercialize. For instance, a Facebook advertising pitch was leaked to The Australian newspaper recently that promised advertisers to deliver “targets” (users) in their early teens who were depressed or suffered from low self-image and a sense of failure. This “audience” was culled from personal posts, personal photos of individuals and their friends plus the type of sites and Google searches they undertook.
This information is highly valuable to pharma companies selling acne medicine but also to terrorist organizations, pedophiles, and cults who prey on vulnerable young people.
So here is the Tech Media’s business model: Get users to sign over their personal data for no remuneration, then bombard them with information for free that’s not been curated or monitored from anyone, anywhere about anything.
This is the model that the world’s biggest corporations have been built upon.
Only now are governments and the public realizing what’s been going on and the damage it has caused and will in future.
Clearly, Tech Media must be brought to heel and forced to accede to all of the rules, laws and social norms that govern traditional media.
They should be pursued for their behaviour: For instance, Facebook and others have sold political ads to Russians or unknown foreigners which is illegal in the U.S. They have also abetted violent incidents by allowing ads and content posted by white supremacists and other unacceptable entities.
Worse, law enforcement officials are upset at the tech world in general for fighting subpoenas to help investigators get information from the cell phones of suspects or convicted criminals on the basis that they are stored in servers in foreign jurisdictions.
In other words, these tech companies want the right to sell a drug dealer’s or terrorist’s private information to the highest bidder to sell soapsuds, but they refuse to cooperate with police to bring guilty users and their accomplices to justice.
There are also concerns about how Tech Media companies cooperate with authoritarian regimes they want to do business in.
Fortunately, the Europeans are creating a template to rein in the Tech Media. In some jurisdictions, they are forced by law to remove hate statements, hate sites, racial slurs or face huge fines. In others, they are prevented from the sale of users’ private data.
The Tech Media is now on trial in the court of public opinion around the world for their role in the 2016 U.S. election.
And it’s about time too.
First published National Post Nov. 3, 2017