I’ve tried to avoid posting too much political stuff on this page, because there’s usually two sides to every argument and things often get polarised.
However, the 1/6 mob attack on western democracy was organised online via software platforms which is within my domain. Donald Trump had spent months stirring the pot and using the Internet as a soap box in order to make people who were already radicalised and angry even more extreme. Some people reading his Tweets lacked the the ability to emotionally deal with their content in a sensible way and they became a danger to society.
Technology companies in my industry need to consider that the software we develop can be used for the radicalisation and organisation of extremists. We cannot sit back and let people abuse our platforms, using them as springboards for terrorist-style attacks. We have an ethical responsibility to our users and society as a whole to use our resources and capabilities in ways which ensure sure our systems cannot be be abused in these manners.
This is why I think blocking extremists, like Donald Trump, from social media is not censorship. It’s something that needed to be done in order to keep people safe. The mob, who had mostly been radicalised online didn’t just attack their own country’s government, they attacked the very fabric of democracy and harmed themselves in the process. Many of them will now face criminal charges, were hurt and humiliated and even killed all for some guy who told them that injecting bleach could cure coronavirus. Many of them weren’t even smart enough to know the seriousness of what they were doing. Somebody needs to be the adult in the room and technology experts are in the best place to do that. We need to protect vulnerable people. We don’t want to silence people, but we have to do what we can to prevent radicalisation. We also need to stop the spread of crazy conspiracy theories that cause people to act irresponsibly. Vulnerable people actually believe that stuff and it harms the whole of society. Software and the Internet can and should be a force for good, and it’s up to us in the software industry to find ways to maximise that and develop the positives while also designing ways that make the Internet less self-destructive.
This web page is served from my server. It’s my computer that I paid for and I’m not obligated to display content from any group which may lead to civil unrest. Twitter, Facebook and others are in the same boat. Most of us agree that there needs to be changes with how social media can be used to influence people. We need to find a way to make the Internet less angry.