In recent days, shocking developments have occurred for the future of networks. No decision by itself is brutally ground breaking. But its incessant dripping indicates the path that the networks have taken: hate speech is not allowed and the red line will become increasingly clear. The war over where the limit is will mark the future of the web.
In order of importance, the decisions have been these four: first, Twitch has temporarily removed the president of the United States, Donald Trump, from his platform. Twitch is a network of live broadcasts dedicated mainly to video games. But its growth is unstoppable and the streamings are increasingly varied. The content that has apparently sparked Trump’s temporary suspension is a streaming of his 2015 rally where he said Mexico was sending rapists to the United States, as well as other racist comments at a recent rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Twitch’s motive seems to have been to take more seriously the repeated accusations by women that it allows harassment on its platform. The paramount importance of Twitch’s decision is that it has canceled the voice of the President of the United States. Other networks have always chosen to keep him on the excuse of political discourse and its informative importance, at the most attracting attention with labels next to his tweets. Twitch, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, with whom Donald Trump has a complicated relationship , has gone one step further.
This decision by Twitch joins that of Snapchat in early June, when he decided to leave the Trump account intact, but no longer promote it on his home page to prevent his comments from promoting violence.
Second, Reddit has removed more than 2,000 communities from its platform for its hate speech promotion. The reason has been the updating of its policies: “Rule 1 explicitly states that communities and users who promote an identity-based or vulnerability-based hatred will be suppressed.” Reddit is a social network that is structured around thousands of communities of interest that users join – from political issues to quirks like DIY, cooking or types of architecture – and that have their own volunteer moderators.
Since its inception in 2005, Reddit had been characterized as one of the most transgressive forums on the Internet. That is over. Reddit has now banned channels that violate its new norm of hatred of all ideologies, but one stands out: r / The_Donald. It is named for its support of the President. Reddit has unsuccessfully tried for years to get r / The_Donald moderators to contain posts as allowed. The company’s punishments and sanctions against the community caused the most active users to migrate to their own forum: The Donald Win.
Third, Facebook has designated the Boogaloo movement as a “dangerous organization”, prompting actions against its promoters. The company has deleted 220 Facebook accounts, 95 Instagram accounts, 28 Facebook pages and 106 groups, in addition to another 400 groups and 100 linked pages.
Boogaloo is one of those impossible things that would not exist without the Internet. The name comes from an 80s movie and was used on remote forums like 4chan and 8chan. Its members are apparently affiliated with the tradition of armed militias in the United States and their alleged intention is to provoke a second civil war in the United States. In late May, an extremist who claimed to belong to the group killed a police officer in Oakland, California. His preferred place of coordination was allegedly Facebook.
It seems natural for Facebook to go after groups that use its platform to kill police, but Boogaloo is a challenge in itself. Their way of organizing is to use other names as a reference, disguise their opinions and deceive the network. The effort that Facebook must dedicate to persecuting organized groups to combat artificial intelligence tools that persecute them will be enormous and a novelty.
Fourth, YouTube has closed a handful of channels that it considered racist. Again it is not the first time. But its tentacles extend. One of the channels is from Stefan Molyneux, who thus lamented on Twitter the “censorship” imposed by the platform. For people like him, the disappearance of YouTube can cause problems on their livelihood. The possibility of growth that YouTube gave him is difficult to find elsewhere. Molyneux has tried Twitch with little success. The character and users of each network are unique.