Tech companies banishing extremists after Charlottesville

Tech companies banishing extremists after Charlottesville
This photo combo of images shows, clockwise, from upper left: a Google sign at a store in Hialeah, Fla., the Twitter app displayed on a smartphone, PayPal headquarters in San Jose, Calif., and the Facebook app displayed on an iPad. It took a violent rally to get tech companies, such as these and others, to do what civil rights groups have been calling for for years: take a firmer stand against accounts used to promote hate and violence. (AP Photo)

It took bloodshed in Charlottesville to get tech companies to do what civil rights groups have been calling for for years: take a firmer stand against accounts used to promote hate and violence.

In the wake of the deadly clash at a white-nationalist rally last weekend in Virginia, major companies such as Google, Facebook and PayPal are banishing a growing cadre of extremist groups and individuals for violating service terms.

What took so long? For one thing, have long seen themselves as bastions of free expression.

But the Charlottesville rally seemed to have a sobering effect. It showed how easily technology can be used to organize and finance such events, and how extreme views online can translate into violence offline.

"There is a difference between freedom of speech and what happened in Charlottesville," said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, an online racial justice group. The battle of ideas is "different than people who show up with guns to terrorize communities."

A SLOW REACTION

Tech companies are in a bind. On one hand, they want to be open to as many people as possible so they can show them ads or provide rides, apartments or financial services. On the other hand, some of these users turn out to be white supremacists, terrorists or child molesters.

Keegan Hankes, analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center's intelligence project, said his group has been trying for more than a year to get Facebook and PayPal to shut down these accounts. Even now, he said, the two companies are taking action only in the most extreme cases.

"They have policies against violence, racism, harassment," said Hankes, whose center monitors and extremism. "The problem is that there has been no enforcement."

Case in point: The neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer has been around since 2013. But it wasn't effectively kicked off the internet until it mocked the woman killed while protesting the white nationalists in Charlottesville.

SHIFTING LINE

PayPal said groups that advocate racist views have no place on its service, but added that there is a "fine line" when it comes to balancing freedom of expression with taking a stand against violent extremism.

Other companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google struggle with the same balancing act. The fine line is constantly moving and being tested.

Ahead of the rally, Airbnb barred housing rentals to people it believed were traveling to participate. Before and after Charlottesville, PayPal cut off payments to groups that promote hate and violence. GoDaddy and Google yanked the domain name for Daily Stormer following the rally. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are removing known hate groups from their services, and the music streaming service Spotify dropped what it considers hate bands.

"Companies are trying to figure out what the right thing is to do and how to do it," said Steve Jones, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who focuses on communication technology. What happens from here is "partly going to depend on the individual leadership at these companies and company culture—and probably resources, too."

CAT AND MOUSE

While traditional brands such as Tiki had no way of knowing that their torches were being bought for the rally, tech companies have tools to identify and ban people with extremist views.

That's thanks to the troves of data they store on people and to their ability to easily switch off access to users. Airbnb users can link to social media profiles, and the company said it used its existing background checks and "input from the community" to identify users who didn't align with its standards.

Yet these services also allow for anonymity, which makes their jobs more difficult. Banned people can sign up again with a different email address, something they can easily obtain anonymously.

Facebook spokeswoman Ruchika Budhraja said hate groups also know the site's policies and try to keep things just benign enough to ensure they are not in violation.

For instance, the event page for the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville looked fairly innocuous. Budhraja said there was nothing on the page that would suggest it was created by a hate organization. It has since been removed.

Facebook's technology is designed to automatically flag posts that are on the absolute extreme and clearly violate the company's policies. They are sometimes removed before users can even see them. What Facebook can't leave to automation are posts, events and groups in that ever-growing gray area.

THE BROADEST REACH

The First Amendment offers hate groups a lot of speech protection, but it applies only to government and public settings. A private company is typically free to set its own standards.

Christopher Cantwell, a self-described white nationalist who has been labeled an extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, said he was banned from Facebook, Instagram and PayPal because the companies are trying to silence him for his views.

"Everybody is going through extraordinary lengths to make sure we are not heard," Cantwell told The Associated Press .

Even Cloudflare, a security that prides itself on providing services regardless of their content, terminated Daily Stormer on Wednesday. This appears to be the site's final blow.

Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin said in an email to the AP that these private companies are "de facto monopolies and oligopolies" and should be regulated as "critical infrastructure."

The Daily Stormer and other banned groups could move to darker corners of the web, where extreme views are welcome. But this won't help with recruitment and won't allow them to disseminate their views as broadly as they could on Facebook or Twitter.

"These are the platforms everyone is using," Hankes said. "They don't want to be pushed to the margins because they want influence."

Because of that, the industry's efforts might just be a game of whack-a-mole, with extremist views returning, perhaps in different guises, once public outrage dies down.


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Aug 17, 2017
Let me guess: these sites won't feel the need to delete any extreme leftist sites. How even handed of them!

Aug 17, 2017
You know I find it curious that just when we see nazis marching in US cities, trailers are being released for the next Wolfenstein
https://www.youtu...t8480cEo

-which features nazis marching in US cities.

-out in october-

Ganz fremd

Aug 17, 2017
The battle of ideas is "different than people who show up with guns to terrorize communities
Who, these guys?
https://www.youtu...0diCOp-Y
https://www.youtu...Ruf2t4wY

-I guess thats something different-

Aug 17, 2017
Not surprised. Can't have people in the office going around spouting racism, making Nazi salutes, and putting swastikas up on their cube walls, then dissing the company when they get fired. Might as well bite the bullet and get rid of them before they create extra trouble.

Simple method for avoiding getting fired: don't be thinking being a racist Nazi is OK. It's not. And if your racist Nazi buddies make a huge problem, then you can expect to get fired if you were with them.

Aug 17, 2017
I wonder if those tech companies will be banning these extremists?

Washington DC:

https://www.youtu...Cq5fpMGo

https://www.youtu...k5nlx3pg

Paris: https://www.youtu...Z9PvRJPU

Seattle: https://www.youtu...5fyK-cwE

Berkeley: https://www.youtu...vX0tknJM

The antifas commit violence, destroy property, spew vile hate and repress freedom of speech by violently shutting down right-wing events. Oh, and the occasional white supremacist rally. All in the name of anti-fascism. Ironic, that. Reminds me of the time all those conservatives clashed with police when they took to the streets against the election of President Obama. Oh wait, that never happened.

You can spot the antifas by their Al Qaeda black masks. There's a reason antifas keep getting arrested. The video shows why.

Aug 17, 2017
Let me guess: these sites won't feel the need to delete any extreme leftist sites. How even handed of them!

If the lefts starts to incite to violence then they'll be banned just as well.

Aug 17, 2017
@anti, straight up. You just can't do this stuff any more and expect to remain employed. If you show up in a video with guns and torches, and beating people up, and someone you work with recognizes you, they're not gonna wanna work with you any more. This creates an impossible situation for your company. Just how it is, man. Get over it.

Moral of the story: don't go to some rally and start violence and expect it not to have consequences.

Aug 18, 2017
Antifa torches neighborhoods and tries to assassinate senators.

""He was hunting us at that point," said Representative Mike Bishop, Republican of Michigan, who was standing at home plate when the shooting began."
http://www.thebla...rothers/

-Have euros heard about this or not?
Moral of the story: don't go to some rally and start violence and expect it not to have consequences
This is my favorite

"A professor [Eric Clanton] who has taught philosophy and ethics classes at San Francisco-area colleges was arrested on suspicion of using a metal bike lock to assault supporters of Republican President Donald Trump at a Patriot Day rally in Berkeley last month."

-Have euros heard about this or not?

Aug 18, 2017
Re Charlottesville violence have euros seen this?

"Washington Post reporter Joe Heim: "Counter-protesters fought back, also swinging sticks, punching and spraying chemicals. Others threw balloons filled with paint or ink at the white nationalists. Everywhere, it seemed violence was exploding. The police did not move to break up the fights.""

"University of Virginia student Isabella Ciambotti: "I was on Market Street around 11:30 a.m. when a counter-protester ripped a newspaper stand off the sidewalk and threw it at alt-right protesters. I saw another man from the white supremacist crowd being chased and beaten. People were hitting him with their signs. A much older man, also with the alt-right group, got pushed to the ground in the commotion. Someone raised a stick over his head and beat the man with it, and that's when I screamed and ran over with several other strangers to help him to his feet."

-Just curious.

BTW was anybody shot there? No?

Aug 18, 2017
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
ANTIFA are GOOD FOLK DOING SOMETHING. I stand against the evil if these Nazis. I stand against the evil of White Supremacy. I stand against the evil of Racism. I stand against the evil of Donald Trump. I stand against the evil of Mike Pence. I stand against the the evil of the Republican Party Base. I stand against the evil of no action in the face of evil.

I stand with the companies who fire the traitors working in their organizations. I stand with the good folk who DO NOT JUST STAND BY AND WATCH.

Aug 18, 2017
Moral of the story: don't go to some rally and start violence and expect it not to have consequences.

Its a bit of a 'Duh' issue like: "Don't post pictures of yourself drunk on facebook because your prospective future employer might look at them"...only much, much moreso.

Whoever thought behavng like that in public was a good idea...well...erm...not too bright people, are they?

Aug 18, 2017
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
ANTIFA are GOOD FOLK DOING SOMETHING. I stand against the evil if these Nazis. I stand against the evil of White Supremacy. I stand against the evil of Racism. I stand against the evil of Donald Trump. I stand against the evil of Mike Pence. I stand against the the evil of the Republican Party Base. I stand against the evil of no action in the face of evil.

I stand with the companies who fire the traitors working in their organizations. I stand with the good folk who DO NOT JUST STAND BY AND WATCH
Nice speech z. We're you imagining throngs of ardent supporters cheering you on?

You may not know that fascism was a reaction to the spread of communism. In Germany the Rot Front had already been marching in the streets, rioting, burning shops, striking and closing factories.

Striking communists is what caused ludendorff to capitulate at the end of ww1.
Cont>

Aug 18, 2017
Good German people were watching an entire middle class being rounded up in Russia and sent off to gulag. Germans were suffering under crushing inflation, food shortages, and unplayable reparations.

In short they were baited and the result was an extremist backlash throughout Europe. Nazis were successful in crushing the Rot Front, ending the Knectshaft, and getting Germany working again.

But we know the results don't we?

Similarly, conservatives have been baited for years now. We had our own little Knectschaft in 2007. Conservatives have seen jobs being consumed by illegal outsiders, neighborhoods being burned, cops being shot in the street, and so-called victims being rewarded millions. And the news media all trying to spin it as if it were the conservatives' fault.

So why is it so surprising to you that you see crazy fringe elements from both sides in the streets?

This is all orchestrated for as yet unknown purposes. But the last time it ended in ww2 so stay tuned.

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