I must confess that I haven’t been very active in social VR and virtual worlds this week, glued as I have been to the news media, Twitter, and Reddit, since Wednesday’s U.S. Capitol riot.
In the past 48 hours, many Big Tech companies have acted to ban or impose restrictions on Donald Trump’s accounts (a step which should have been taken long ago, in my opinion). In a deliciously ironic twist, even TikTok (a platform which Trump threatened to ban) has banned the soon-to-be-ex-president!
Notably, Twitter permanently suspended Donald Trump’s account, cutting him off from his millions of Twitter followers at the push of a button. When Trump tried to evade that by tweeting from other accounts, those were also quickly suspended.
My measured response to Trump’s comeuppance late Friday evening is best summarized by this five-second TikTok video someone tweeted:
Buh-bye, Donald Trump! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…
UPDATE 9:26 p.m.: The New York Times is reporting that three Big Tech companies have acted to take down a platform where many speculated Donald Trump would land up after being evicted from Twitter, the right-wing social media app Parler (original version of the NYT article; archived version). Yesterday, Google removed the Parler app from its Google Play store, and today Apple followed suit, removing Parler from the Apple app store. Apple’s and Google’s actions mean that users would have no way to install or update the Parler app on their mobile devices (although Android device users could theoretically still sideload the app). And later today, Amazon, bowing to pressure from its employees, decided to remove Parler from its web-hosting service, effectively crippling a service which had relied on Amazon Web Services to operate. It looks as though Parler is doomed; even more reason to rejoice!
However, Kent Bye sounds a cautionary note in this must-read thread of tweets, saying:
Centralized Big Tech platforms have been the defacto police of dangerous speech and harassment. They’ve historically done a terrible job reining it in (ask any woman, LGBTQ, BIPOC, etc). But it’s also a cultural issue not solvable via purely technological, deterministic means.
As soon as anti-democratic populists move to completely decentralized networks and encrypted, peer-to-peer communication networks, there isn’t going to be any technological deterministic “ban hammer” method of mitigating dangerous speech, aside from banning underlying peer-to-peer tech.
Again, I’d strongly urge you to read through his entire Twitter thread of reasoning. Kent argues that we are only seeing “the beginning of a new cycle of violence, and not the end”.