Aug 18, 2018

The new tech political crisis: censorship

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump attacked the social-media giants today for "totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices," fueling an issue that has been gaining traction among conservatives in the ramp-up to midterms. Trump tweeted after "Fox & Friends" hit the issue.

Be smart: Tech companies are now jammed between calls for bans on conspiracy/hate speech/fake news and a coordinated conservative uprising about being muzzled by liberal CEOs. 

In the conservative lexicon, "shadow banning" is the new "witch hunt."

  • What's next: Well-wired Republicans tell Axios that activists have begun pressuring Republican state attorneys general to act against social platforms on the basis of consumer fraud.

Andy Surabian, a populist strategist and adviser to Don Jr., tells Axios that the issue of conservative censorship by social media "has been bubbling up on the right for years and in the last few months has exploded."

  • "[C]onservatives don't trust these big social media outlets."
  • "They claimed they were just coming for Alex Jones, but then we all looked around and saw a big fat target on all of our backs."

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey acknowledged the issue during a massive interview blitz this week, telling the WashPost that Twitter is experimenting with ways to promote alternative viewpoints in the timeline to reduce "echo chambers."

  • Dorsey called into Sean Hannity's radio show on Wednesday and said: "We do not shadow ban according to political ideology or viewpoint or content. Period."
  • Earlier this summer, the Post reported, Facebook and Twitter sought "to assuage conservative leaders who have sounded alarms — and sought to rile voters — with accusations that the country’s tech giants are censoring right-leaning posts, tweets and news."

Fox hosts have been swarming the issue:

  • "Tucker Carlson Tonight": "The left used to understand that free speech is for everybody. But they don't anymore, as shown by Big Tech's censorship of controversial media figure Alex Jones."

Go deeper ... Axios Pro Rata podcast: Dan Primack talks to David McCabe, "Inside the Twitter shadow ban controversy."

Go deeper

Coronavirus updates: Market ends worst week since financial crisis

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The stock market ended its worst week since the financial crisis, prompting the Fed to release a statement. Meanwhile, the WHO warned that countries are losing their chance to contain the novel coronavirus and raised its global risk assessment to "very high" Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,860 people and infected more than 84,000 others in over 60 countries and territories outside the epicenter in mainland China. The number of new cases reported outside China now exceed those inside the country.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 7 hours ago - Health

California coronavirus: Latest case has no recent history of international travel

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A new case of the novel coronavirus in California was announced on Friday after Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that 33 people had tested positive for the virus, noting the risk to the public remains low.

What's new: An adult woman with chronic health conditions in Santa Clara County who "did not recently travel overseas" or come into contact with anyone known to be ill was confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus on Friday by CDC and California Department of Public Health officials.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 7 hours ago - Health

Big video game conference delayed amid coronavirus concerns

Photo: GDC

Next month's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco became the latest tech event to be cancelled or postponed amid growing concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The big picture: A growing number of events are being scrapped, including Mobile World Congress and Facebook's F8 developer conference. Some, like the giant SXSW event in Austin, insist they are moving forward.