Sunday, September 23, 2018

Craigslist Founder Funds Effort To Suppress Non-Progressive Speech

The actual title of the New York Times article is "News Site to Investigate Big Tech, Helped by Craigslist Founder" and tells of Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark's $20 million gift to former ProPublica journalist Julia Angwin to establish Markup, a news site "dedicated to investigating technology and its effect on society".

Sounds like a useful and timely initiative, doesn't it?  But what Angwin, who calls the 2016 election "a tipping point", intends to expose how technology does not sufficiently advance social justice.  As the article notes, her recent work sheds "light on how companies like Facebook were creating tools that could be used to promote racial bias, fraudulent schemes and extremist content".Newmark is your standard issue progressive, a fervent supporter of Barack Obama and who makes large political contributions to progressive Democrats, and Angwin and her team are politically aligned with him.

There are criticisms of high-tech from both the left and right but there is an asymmetry in goals.  On the right, it is that the leading companies are dominated by progressives, hostile to conservatives in their workforce, and are actively suppressing non-progressive voices on their platforms.  The right seeks the same type of treatment and access as progressives.

On the left, the complaint is that the tech companies are allowing too much access by domestic racists, bigots, sexists, haters and "extremist content" on the right, along with foreign influences seeking to support right-wingers.  And since the left considers any opposition to progressive causes as, by definition, racist, sexist, bigoted, hateful, and extremist, its logical conclusion is that all opposition should be suppressed. 

See the difference?  One wants a neutral and inclusive space, the other seeks platforms restricted to the propagation of its ideas.

In this case, the reference to the 2016 election is "the tell".  I'm old enough to remember way back in 2012 when I was told that the cool tech-savvy kids in the Obama campaign working with Google and Facebook to ensure the President's reelection showed how out of touch those old Republicans were. It was only in 2016 when some of these same techniques were used against Democrats that they suddenly became a threat to democracy (for a different take on how tech bias impacted the 2016 election read this analysis by two academics - and Hillary supporters!).  In this case, those who run the tech companies and media folks like Angwin share the same goal - suppressing dissenting speech under the guise of it being hateful - they only differ on the best method and who should be in charge of implementation.

Markup will masquerade as a non-partisan organization and once its "studies" are published they will be picked up and widely reported by other self-described non-partisan media like the New York Times - that's how the interlocking system works.

We are in dangerous times when most of our dominant institutions - media, entertainment, tech, academia, foundations are politically aligned and, as worrisome, agree that the personal is political and the consequences of an individual's political beliefs should extend to their workplace and daily life.  Religious institutions are weakened, divided on perspectives, and often isolated, while the business world outside tech has either come aboard as the path of least resistance or is intimidated into silence.  Should progressives also regain control of our political institutions we will see an full assault on rights to speech and dissent all done in the name of tolerance and inclusiveness.

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