Don't Be Evil

"Don't be evil" was once the corporate motto of Google, from 2000 to 2015.  Many silicon valley companies were created with lofty goals and ideals, including Google's mission to index the world's information, protect the privacy of it's users, and respect content creators.  Sadly, Google, including it's subsidiaries such as Youtube (and even Blogger where I write this) have strayed from their worthy foundations and into the realm of evil.  Evil behavior clearly includes censoring the content of its users, even if that content is perfectly legal and ethical, but simply goes against the political beliefs of those in power at Google.  This level of interference in the free exchange of information, causes not only a direct effect in terms of censorship, but also an indirect and much father reaching chilling effect on content creators.  You would think "don't be evil" would not be a controversial corporate motto, but alas Google dropped the motto in 2015, in favor of much less lofty goals to "follow the law, act honorably, and treat each other with respect" which obviously leaves the door wide open for evil, in fact the new guidelines could actually encourage evil behavior.

While no one disputes the right of private companies to determine what content is and is not allowed on their platforms, such Orwellian censorship flies in the face of the values of the Internet and the values upon which these companies were built and to which their users flocked.  Google's search engine product and Youtube as a video platform certainly dominate those markets.  And while Google's foray into social networking, Google Plus, did not gain appreciable traction, Facebook and Twitter currently dominate the social space, and have also embraced censorship of disparate political opinions.  These virtual monopolies have allowed those platforms to get away with restrictions and censorship actions that go beyond what most companies could get away with, but that may be reaching a tipping point.  Such behavior is pushing millions of users away from those platforms, and if this is not corrected, the free market will correct it as millions of users move to other platforms that are designed as a public forum without undue censorship of competing ideas, and actually create those platforms.  A few competitors in the search space include Duckduckgo, Bing, Dogpile, and others.  In the social space, competitors include Diaspora, Gab, Vero, Mastodon, and others.  In the video space, competitors include UGETube, Full30, Vimeo and others.  It's important to remember that not only do we have choices, but also that voting with our feet (and clicks) is what drives innovation and causes the free market to be responsive to consumer's needs.  It can be difficult to avoid Silicon Valley products since Android phones allow only software which is approved by Google Play, and Apple phones allow only software approved by the App Store, thus they use their powers of censorship in that way as well, but there are ways around those restrictions.

Google has gone so far as to terminate engineer James Damore for creating a memo discussing the biological and behavioral differences between men and women regarding ways in which they approach their work, since Google's position is that they apparently do not exist.  Google said that his words “violate our code of conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes.”

Facebook has been known to censor or hide conservative news and posts.  According to Merk Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, they censor "anything that makes people feel unsafe" which is obviously an extraordinarily broad policy, to censor articles based solely on the feelings of others who may read it.

Firefox fired their CEO Brendan Eich after they discovered that he gave money to an organization which opposed same-sex marriage in California.

Admittedly, the political correctness culture and complete lack of tolerance from those on the left has gone off the rails, and that's driving much of the Silicon Valley's headlong rush into the oncoming canyon of reality, but someone needs to stand up and yell "stop!  put on the brakes!" at some point.

I was involved in the forefront of the Internet revolution, and I helped thousands of users take their first steps onto the Internet in the 1990s.  The Internet brought about the democratization of information, allowing people to share information like never before.  The Internet has had a revolutionary positive impact on humanity, but the power of the Internet has always been in the ability of the masses to communicate with one another freely and openly.  It broke the cycle of walled-gardens such as AOL, and the traditional broadcast television networks with otherwise controlled and filtered content available to the masses.  We are returning to a handful of gate-keepers such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and others, and this must reverse if we are to continue to realize the full potential of the power of the Internet.

Central control by a few over the masses is always a bad thing and never ends well -  be that in communication systems, economic systems, military systems, or political systems.  Perhaps a glimmer of hope toward the return to the inherent de-centralized nature of the Internet rests in blockchain technology, which is essentially a distributed system of ledgers, meaning that there is no one central planner, no single point of failure or control, but rather hundreds or thousands of servers across the Internet all communicating with one another and sharing the same information.  Take one down, or try to change or control the information and it's just a drop in the pond, and such changes will be 'outvoted' automatically by the other servers who have ledgers that disagree with the outlier.  We are in the early stages of widespread systems based on blockchain technology including myriad applications, currencies, social media platforms, and much more.  Please be aware of this changing landscape and work to embrace those systems which challenge such centralized power.

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