The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Wednesday held a hearing on “Violence, Extremism and Digital Responsibility,” with the heads of three of America’s largest social media titans – Google, Facebook, and Twitter – as well as a representative from the far-left Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
What came out of the hearing was downright disturbing: there is a general consensus among our tech overlords that law enforcement needs to be more involved in policing the activities of social media users. In other words, instead of the figurative speech police, which operates with impunity and bans conservatives on social media for expressing ordinary conservative opinions, members of the government, Big Tech, and the ADL now want the literal police to play a more active role online.
“Well one of the reasons I’m definitely going to be calling on [the] Department of Justice to ask what more we can do in this coordination is several years ago, Interpol, Microsoft, others tried to address on an international basis child pornography to better skill law enforcement at policing crime scenes online,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said. “I would assume that the representatives today would be supportive, maybe helpful, maybe even financially helpful in trying to address these crimes as they exist today as hate crimes on the dark side of the web.”
The hearing was held amid the backdrop of mass shootings wherein the perpetrators allegedly posted manifestos on 8chan.
The problem with Cantwell’s plan of policing speech online is that it is not a crime to post on any website, even 8chan, like it is to upload child pornography to the internet. How does the DOJ plan to police non-crimes?
Still, the representatives from the tech companies bobbed their heads in agreement that more law enforcement engagement online was a viable option.
Facebook’s Monika Bickert, Head of Global Policy Management, said the company is actively working on creating internet “no-go zones” for what she described as “terrorist and violent content.” She said that Facebook bans links to 8chan, which of course is its right as a private company, but which websites will it ban tomorrow?
Facebook already banned InfoWars, a conservative-leaning site, and even dings users for references to InfoWars. Under this new plan of policing the web with law enforcement, are the cops going to show up at my door for sharing an Alex Jones meme?
Still, Cantwell wasn’t placated. She asked what more the government could be doing to police the web. Twitter’s Director of Public Policy Strategy Nick Pickles answered that question.
“I think that if we can – as an industry – strengthen our cooperation with law enforcement, we can make sure that the information sharing is as strong as it needs to be to support [law enforcement] interventions,” he said.
When Cantwell asked him if he thought Big Tech needed more “law enforcement resources addressing this issue,” he answered affirmatively, and discussed the “statutory framework” of surrounding law enforcement’s involvement in policing the internet.
The problem, of course, is not law enforcement being involved in policing actual crimes that may occur on the internet. It’s the potential for Big Tech to use and overbearing federal government to stifle conservative speech, which is often conflated with violence by the far left.
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