Recently, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017. The bill, which has seen immense opposition from Silicon Valley giants, would clarify section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a provision that shields tech companies from liability over content posted by users.
Although the recent hearing was uneventful, a September 19 Senate Commerce hearing on the Senate’s companion bill, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), was a different story. Yvonne Ambrose, the mother of Desiree Robinson, a victim of sex trafficking who was sold on Backpage.com prior to being brutally murdered, gave a tearful account of her daughter’s experience. “But somehow, a dollar has become more important than a human life,” she said, “If you’re going to fix this problem, fix it.”
In contrast to Ambrose’s heart wrenching testimony, Silicon Valley giants like Google and Facebook did not appear to be upset about the consequences of complacency on Section 230. In fact, they did not appear at all. Instead, they sent the general counsel of their trade group, the Internet Association, to offer a flimsy defense of their position.
The immense reach of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and their contemporaries has changed the way that we interact with each other. From shopping, to traveling, to learning about even the most obscure topics, the information we seek is now just a quick Google search away. And while internet innovation has done great things for society, in some cases it has enabled the worst among us to promulgate heinous crimes with little to no accountability for their actions. Unfortunately, as this dichotomy has become more and more apparent, Silicon Valley’s elite have become increasingly attached to their hold on power.
Perhaps the worst aspect of Google and company’s opposition to SESTA and its House companion is that it largely hinges on free speech. They insist that companies, even those who knowingly facilitate vile and utterly inhumane activity like sex trafficking, cannot be held liable for the activity of users on their platforms. And all the while, Google and its contemporaries are more than happy to censor voices that don’t agree with their politics online.
For example, in August Google removed Gab, a social network and increasingly a free speech haven for conservative voices who find themselves censored on Twitter and Facebook, from its app store for allegedly violating its hate speech policy. And countless examples of censorship of conservatives on those platforms seem to arise every day.
A quick Google news search of Section 230 unsurprisingly yields multiple links to a “Stop SESTA” page on the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Google’s paid mouthpiece. It’s just another drop in the bucket, a testament to the company’s influence and terrifying ability to alter its search algorithms for its own political ends. It’s an explicit example of the tech giant’s penchant for hypocrisy.
It’s time to recognize Silicon Valley giants for the atrocious double standards they have come to embody.
Christie-Lee McNally is the founder of Free Our Internet. She was the Maine Statewide Director for Donald J. Trump for President in 2016, is a concealed weapons permit holder, and a USAW Certified Olympic Lifting Coach. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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