The violent protests that were witnessed in Charlottesville in Virginia have led to renewed calls for technology companies such as Twitter, Google and Facebook to do more to curb extremist content online. But while taking stricter actions against purveyors of hate would be welcome in some quarters, there are those who believe it is not the responsibility of tech firms to police the content that is posted and shared on their platforms.
Terms of service
Earlier in the week Google announced the cancellation of The Daily Stormer’s domain registration on the grounds that the neo-Nazi commentary and news website had violated the terms of service of the online search giant. The cancellation was done four hours after an application had been made. According to a spokesperson for Google, the tech firm was especially concerned over the fact that the neo-Nazi website had incited violence. The spokesperson did not, however, point out the specific content on The Daily Stormer that had been in violation of Google’s terms of service.
Prior to applying for domain registration with Google, The Daily Stormer had been banned by GoDaddy. The ban by the webhosting company came after an article was published on the neo-Nazi website and which disparaged Heather Hyer, the anti-fascist protestor who was killed by a neo-Nazi sympathizer who drove a car at high speed into a crowd. 19 other people were injured in the incident, some of them seriously.
According to the chief executive officer of GoDaddy, Blake Irving, the decision to ban The Daily Stormer came after the neo-Nazi website crossed the line.
“We always have to ride the fence on making sure we are protecting a free and open internet. But when the line gets crossed and that speech starts to incite violence, then we have a responsibility to take that down,” Irving said in an interview with the CNBC.
Hate group pages
Though Google and GoDaddy acted swiftly in light of the actions of The Daily Stormer, Twitter and Facebook were largely silent. But when the Daily Stormer article which disparaged Hyer started trending on Facebook garnering 364,000 shares the social media giant was forced to act by expunging the article. It also promised to remove pages associated with hate groups.