While big tech companies are accused of sharing our personal data with advertisers and having let “fake news” influence Brexit results and general elections and referendums in United States and Europe, an increasing number of western leaders are determined to regulate the web (especially of non-western influences), at the risk of undermining our free speech, our digital rights and our open internet.
Since this year, several laws have been adopted or will be adopted in order to restrict our free speech. In France, the Macron government want to ban “fake news” in order to fight “manipulation of information by foreign media”. In Denmark, a future law could propose several years in prison for openly supporting Russia. Even UK could fine social media for “fake news”. And it’s just some of several examples of breaches of our digital rights.
All of this resulted in increasing censorship on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. While some alt-right activists have spread conspiracy theories on alleged “conservative censorship” on main social media, some right-wing figures want to adopt a legislation that would require that big social media apply First Amendment on their services, that could prevent them to repress far-right activists. A such law could be interesting theorically, but pratically, it couldn’t resolve problems of targeted harassment and increasing censorship since proponents of a such law are convinced that there would be a biais against conservatives, that is false because progressive and anti-war activists are also censored. In reality, this law could especially prevent big tech companies to regulate hate speech and targeted harassment from alt-right activists against feminists and so-called “Social Justice Warriors”, but not to censor criticism of Israel since several US states have some laws restricting boycott of Israeli products.
We tend to think that because big tech companies don’t apply First Amendment, they would arbitrarily censor free speech of political dissidents, but it’s false, because these tech companies are under pression of governements that get increasingly authoritarian and reactionary, these governements that don’t accept the decline of traditional press for the benefit of social media. In reality, big tech companies censor “fake news” because they fear to being regulated by our governements if they don’t do it. Thus, mainmise of big tech companies by nationalist governements won’t resolve all problems of breaching of open internet and our digital rights. We need to know that if American companies share our personal data with NSA, it’s because they are constrained to do it, the controversy about DuckDuckGo campaign for privacy demonstrates it. And now, EU leaders want to adopt the disastrous article 13 about copyright that will seriously damage the internet as we know it, and this time, it’s too much for big tech compagnies such as Google and YouTube that have threatened to close their services in Europe. In addition, US governement want to force GAFA to develop military technologies, that GAFA refuse to do it since they are sufficient ethics to recognize the evils of a such project.
The reality is that it’s not big corporations, but big governements that threat our free speech and open internet. If we want to protect our digital rights, we need to regulate big governements in order to prevent them to restrict our basic rights and provoke war around the world. It’s that we abusively call the “digital far west”, but the reality is that if GAFA have sufficient ethics, they could self-regulate themselves instead of being regulated by our corrupted governements.
Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of WorldWideWeb, has recently launched the “Contract for the web” campaign in order to protect our web, so that we could let the private corporations regulate the web because they could provide an alternative to governemental policies that favor repression of civil rights and wars between nations and peoples.