Why Silicon Valley's Unified Response To Charlottesville Is Crucial

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
The tech giants of Silicon Valley may not see eye to eye on every issue, but when it comes to speaking out against the violence in Charlottesville and taking action against racist groups on their platforms — their stance is a unified one. In the fallout of the past weekend's events, Google, Microsoft, and other companies have moved to re-emphasise zero tolerance policies for hate speech, violence, and racism.
This unified stance is a crucial one, because ridding the internet of organisations that promote racism cannot be done by one tech company alone: It requires a group effort, and shared standards, to deny these extremist groups a platform online. (Even the hacker activist group Anonymous has gotten involved, reportedly shutting down neo-Nazi and KKK websites.)
Ahead, a breakdown of how their actions have unfolded in the days following Saturday's violence in Charlottesville.
On Sunday evening, GoDaddy took action against neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer, tweeting that the site had violated its terms of service and had 24 hours to find another provider. The tweet was posted in reply to a tweet from Sleeping Giants, a social media activism group, which requested GoDaddy "reconsider doing business" with The Daily Stormer. Included in the tweet was a screenshot of an article on the site that attacked and mocked Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old who was killed while protesting Saturday's white supremacy rally.
Google & YouTube
When The Daily Stormer attempted to move their domain to Google, the search engine blocked it. “We are cancelling Daily Stormer’s registration with Google Domains for violating our terms of service," a Google spokesperson said.
Google confirmed that The Daily Stormer's YouTube account has also been terminated. Head to the page now and you'll see the following message along the top of the page: "This account has been terminated due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube's policy prohibiting hate speech."
The end of Daily Stormer's domain didn't mean the article attacking Heyer disappeared immediately — as of Sunday, it had been shared 65,000 times on Facebook.
Facebook has since taken steps to remove all shares of the article, except those with a caption condemning it. Additional accounts on Facebook and Instagram that have been removed for violating hate speech policies include Physical Removal, Awakened Masses, White Nationalists United, Vanguard America, Genuine Donald Trump, Awakening Red Pill, Right Wing Death Squad, and Right Winged Knight.
An event page for Saturday's Unite the Right rally was taken down over the weekend, but was allowed to exist before then because Facebook's Community Standards permit the organisation of peaceful protests.
In a transparent blog post addressing content policing and issues of free speech, Matthew Prince, the CEO of content delivery network Cloudflare, explained the company's decision to terminate The Daily Stormer's domain.
"The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology," Prince wrote. "Our team has been thorough and have had thoughtful discussions for years about what the right policy was on censoring. Like a lot of people, we’ve felt angry at these hateful people for a long time but we have followed the law and remained content neutral as a network. We could not remain neutral after these claims of secret support by Cloudflare."
According to CNET, Reddit has banned the subreddit, r/Physical_Removal, after other subreddits urged the site to do so. Physical Removal, a group known for promoting racist ideologies, was also banned on Facebook.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich was one of four prominent CEOs to leave Donald Trump's American Manufacturing Council yesterday. He joined CEOs from Under Armour and Merck as well as the head of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.
"I have already made clear my abhorrence at the recent hate-spawned violence in Charlottesville, and earlier today I called on all leaders to condemn the white supremacists and their ilk who marched and committed violence," Krzanich wrote in blog post about his decision. "I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them."
After the November 2016 presidential election, many CEOs sent their employees messages of hope that reaffirmed the importance of diversity and inclusion. Yesterday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella echoed these sentiments once again in an email sent in response to the weekend's violence.
In the email, acquired by Quartz, Nadella writes:
"What I’ve seen and read has had a profound impact on me and I am sure for many of you as well. In these times, to me only two things really matter as a leader. The first is that we stand for our timeless values, which include diversity and inclusion. There is no place in our society for the bias, bigotry and senseless violence we witnessed this weekend in Virginia provoked by white nationalists. Our hearts go out to the families and everyone impacted by the Charlottesville tragedy. The second is that we empathise with the hurt happening around us."
While Apple has not issued any official statement or company policies regarding Saturday's events, CEO Tim Cook took to Twitter with two powerful messages condemning what took place.
Recode also acquired an email Cook reportedly sent to employees, in which he disagreed with President Trump's recent press conference remarks:
"We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it. This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality. I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans."
Cook added, "Apple will be making contributions of $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Centre and the Anti-Defamation League. We will also match two-for-one our employees’ donations to these and several other human rights groups, between now and September 30."
Buzzfeed confirmed that Apple has disabled Apple Pay on sites selling clothes with the "White Pride" slogans and Nazi symbols.
Reuters reported that GoFundMe has shut down multiple attempts to raise money for James Fields' legal defence. Fields is the man accused of driving his car into the crowd counter-protestors at Saturday's rally.
Meanwhile, the site has been active in tweeting about campaigns supporting those who were injured in the attack.
PayPal issued a statement yesterday, noting that any efforts by individuals or groups to promote hate, racism, and violence are forbidden by the site's Acceptable Use Policy. However, it also noted the challenges of moderating while allowing free speech and open dialogue.
"The events in Charlottesville are yet another disturbing example of the many forms that racism and hatred manifest," Franz Paasche, SVP Corporate Affairs & Communications, at PayPal wrote. "Prejudice, however, does not always march in the street. Intolerance can take on a range of on-line and off-line forms, across a wide array of content and language. It is with this backdrop that PayPal strives to navigate the balance between freedom of expression and open dialogue -- and the limiting and closing of sites that accept payments or raise funds to promote hate, violence and intolerance."
Ensuring that hate speech and violence have no place anywhere, both online and off, will be an ongoing challenge and one that requires constant monitoring of what is posted and how it is shared. For major tech companies, maintaining and enforcing community policies of what is and is not acceptable on their platforms will remain an important task.
Vulture reported that the music service has removed white supremacist bands in response to article on Digital Music News. The article revealed not only a number of hate bands but also the ease with which they were found.
The dating site has banned the white supremacist Chris Cantwell, who was seen taking part in the Charlottesville riots. The company said it "banned him for life" within 10 minuted of being alerted that he was on the site. "There is no room for hate in a place where you're looking for love," it added on Twitter.

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