Google, other tech companies warned over ‘dangerous’ banning of neo-Nazis, hate groups

An updated version of this post can be found on the Mercury News website.

Neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer has been pushed offline or perhaps to the dark web by companies such as GoDaddy, Google and Cloudflare, which one by one made it impossible for the news and commentary provider to keep operating as before after it published an article that slammed the dead victim of the violence in Charlottesville.

But the Electronic Frontier Foundation is warning of the dangers of censoring speech, no matter how horrendous or offensive.

“All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country,” the San Francisco-based online advocacy group said in a blog post Thursday. “But we must also recognize that on the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with.”

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For example, the EFF mentioned that some people want to label Black Lives Matter as a hate group, and that the NAACP has been a target since the Civil Rights era.

The tech CEOs who have taken action in the wake of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, know all this.

Even as San Francisco-based Cloudflare’s CEO stripped the Daily Stormer of its security services this week, Matthew Prince acknowledged he had made an arbitrary decision and said “no one should have that power.”

In a tweeted statement Thursday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said “the challenge and best response is to speak out, to give hatred no place to fester.” But he added that “it’s often hard for people to find common ground and to work out the best ways to counter the swelling tide of hatred and terrorism.” (Google booted the Daily Stormer from its domain registry earlier this week. The site moved to Google after being kicked out by GoDaddy.)

Likewise, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an email to employees this week that his decision to donate $1 million each to anti-hate groups Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League, and Apple’s offer to match employee donations till the end of September, wasn’t political.

“Regardless of your political views, we must all stand together on this one point — that we are all equal,” Cook wrote.

Apple confirmed Thursday that it is pulling Apple Pay support from certain sites that sell white supremacist merchandise.

Similarly, PayPal and crowdfunding sites said they have cut off payment support for white supremacists and hate groups.

“Maintaining the necessary balance between protecting the principles of tolerance, diversity and respect for people of all backgrounds with upholding legitimate free expression and open dialogue can be difficult, but we do our very best to achieve it,” Franz Paasche, PayPal’s senior vice president of Corporate Affairs & Communications, said in a blog post Tuesday.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post this week that the social network is taking down posts that promote or celebrate hate crimes, adding that “we won’t always be perfect.”

As free-speech advocates point out the slippery slope that is censorship, the hard questions remain as other tech companies continue to censor and ban.

What’s acceptable censorship, if any? If cutting off certain groups’ money source makes freedom lovers queasy, what about dating site OKCupid’s banning of a white supremacist? Or Spotify’s removal of “hate” songs?

And what about social media?

Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have been instrumental in the rise of the divisive political climate, from their role in helping people spread fake news during the presidential election to the use of Twitter as a megaphone by President Trump, whose views white supremacists and neo-Nazis are cheering, echoing or amplifying. Facebook and Twitter will continue to face difficult censorship issues long after Charlottesville.

The hard questions vex the offline world, too. The ACLU, which has historically supported the First Amendment rights of hate groups, said this week — after the violence at Charlottesville — that it is changing its stance when such groups seek to march or protest while armed. The Virginia branch of the ACLU helped secure permits for the Unite the Right march last weekend.

But back to online. The EFF warns that censorship at the top level — domains, content delivery systems — are “most sensitive to pervasive censorship.”

“They are free speech’s weakest links,” the EFF writes. “It’s the reason why millions of net neutrality advocates are concerned about ISPs censoring their feeds. Or why, when the handful of global payment processors unite to block certain websites (like Wikileaks) worldwide, we should be concerned.”

The EFF says Google and GoDaddy seemed to “act on the headlines” when they decided to withhold their services from the Daily Stormer. Companies “should not suspend or impair domain names based on the expressive content of websites or services,” the EFF said.

When reached for comment Friday, Google told SiliconBeat that it would have no comment beyond this: “We are cancelling Daily Stormer’s registration with Google Domains for violating our terms of service.”


Photo illustration from Thinkstock


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  • Roxy Balboa

    These are same moronic CEOs who talk about net neutrality. I want these guys pay a high premium to get their content through. Tim just wasted a couple of million dollars. Could have been used for better purposes.

    • Mark

      They talk of net neutrality because they want to maintain their artificially high P/E multiples in the stock market while suppressing the economic returns of the actual owners and workers in the infrastructure sector.

      Only problem is, eventually investment in infrastructure will stop. Its a dangerous path that the moronic CEOs pushing net neutrality have taken us down.

  • david page

    the very foundation of natzism is censoring what you do not like…inserting your will and ideals

    • hoapres

      Actually that isn’t what Nazism is really all about.

    • Kyle

      That would be Communism. What the left is doing is exactly listed in the Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx. Plus Antifaschistische Aktion aka Antifa is backed by Communist.

    • Jones

      Wrong, try reading a history book brainiac.

  • Walking Fool

    Soon, all you lefties will not be able to trash talk Trump because that is hate speech and will be banned as well.

    Be careful what you wish for my communist friends.

    • hoapres

      Anyone want to take a guess when I get banned here as well ??

      Frankly, I am surprised I am allowed to post here in the first place since I am banned (apparently) on the main SJMN website.

      Doesn’t make sense to me.

  • Guy LeDouche

    Hahahaha…wow. Never thought I would see this in the United States. And LIBERALS pushing for it?

  • Myron Marvin

    Are the Progressives actually banning free speech? This is just so… so… Nazi-like. Can’t have it both ways.

    • hoapres

      That’s the problem.

      They think they can have it both ways.

  • Art Naranjo

    Antifa and BLM are hate groups who use terror and violence to silence those who disagree with them. They need to be banned form all socil media.

  • hoapres

    We still have the right to own firearms in this country as Hillary didn’t get elected.

  • Mark

    Google, a prolific H-1B abuser, needs to watch itself. Trump has the power to stop issuance of the OPT and H-1B visas to protect American workers. People are getting very tired of having their best and brightest sons and daughters apply for employment with firms like Google, only to have their applications ignored and the red carpet rolled out for foreign nationals.

  • PlatinumEBT

    These morons in silicon valley just following the current narrative to protect business…not because they are the altruist people and companies they snooker you to believe they are. The groups they think they will censor will just get hosted in Russia or someplace else. Ex. Isis stills speaks freely from the internet.