Elizabeth Warren aims to break up tech giants to increase competition

 

U.S. Democrat presidential hopeful, Elizabeth Warren has vowed to break up the dominance of major tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. To three hundred of her supporters, she said:

 

We have these giant tech companies that think that they rule the earth. I don’t want a govenment that is here to work for the giant tech companies. I want a government that’s here to work for the people.

This isn’t the first time that Amazon has faced fierce criticism from Democrats. Last year,  Bernie Sanders put pressure on Amazon to raise the wages of workers. Amazon CEO caved in, promising a US$15.00 wage for workers.

Severe lack of competition

There is a severe lack of market competition in the tech sector. While there are a numbe of different apps, they are mostly owned by single companies. For example, Facebook Inc owns Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Branding of products

Senator Warren is also critical of Amazon, Facebook and Google doing ‘in – house’ advertising; for example, Amazon preferring to advertise their own products above that of an outside company/ publisher. It makes sense that a company would prefer to market their own products, but a lack of competition gives Amazon an unfair advantage. Senator Warren wants to limit the number of places in – house products can be advertised and sold. For example, the proposed law would make Apple choose between selling apps on iOS or their App Store,  but not both.

Potential pitfalls of the proposal and solutions

While supporting the premise, Kevin Roose of New York Times has reservations about the move. Austin – based independent tech workers ferared that the legislation could backfire, given it’s lack of clarity.

Roose also offered ideas so the proposal doesn’t fall through: be specific in present problems and offer specific solutions that’d suit each platform, (Roose argues that a sweeping law targeting Amazon and Facebook wouldn’t work given the different nature of the businesses). He pointed out that for some reason Cloud technology was absent from the proposal. Companies like Apple and Google should also be forced to drop their 15 – 30% tax on new developers. Roose also warns Senator Warren to avoid the censorship debates.

 

I really applaud Senator Warren and other Democrats for trying to implement moves to make the online market more fair. I’m a huge critic of major companies killing the possibility for competition. In Australia, I’ve hated how Coles and Woolworths were able to knock off independent grocers and fuel market. Now, it’s too late. However, competition has come back with Gerrman Aldi and Us’s Costco entering the Australian retail market.

 

It boils down to consumers

Despite it’s flaws, Facebook still held the record for most monthly users, according to Dreamgrow. Instagram came in third after YouTube.

It seems that Facebook is still widely trusted. Unless people use it simply out of habit.

I’ve written before about some of the benefits of Amazon, especially when it comes to music and how other music stores often fail to offer the range of albums that Amazon does. So who can compete? Who can offer the same range of books, CDs, downloads that Amazon has done for years?

There are slightly more competition in the social media market with WeChat, Tumblr and TikTok, however, Facebook Inc is still the most powerful tech giant.

 

It’d be great to see more competition in the online retail and social media sectors. Along with legislation, companies need to somehow win over consumers tge way Facebook, and Amazon have for so long.

 

 

Free speech, the media and social media: Should all platforms be absolutist on content they allow or publish?

(From top left): Instagram icon, Twitter, Facebook, PInterest
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Controversial right – wing radio presenter and conspiracy theorist of Infowars, Alex Jones has reportedly been banned from Faceboook and YouTube. Apparently some of his podcasts have also been pulled by Apple and Spotify.

Jones is infamous for calling 2012’s Sandy Hook school massacre a hoax and claiming that the September 11 attacks were staged.

Facebook has defended it’s decision, accusing Jones of ‘glorifying violence’, and using ‘dehumanising language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants’.

Somewhat surprisingly, Twitter hasn’t followed YouTube’s and Facebook’s footsteps. Jones’ official Twitter account is still active.

Social media, traditional media and free speech

Did Facebook and Google/ YouTube violate freedom of speech as protected in the US Constitution? No. The First Amendment of the US Constitution:

…protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference.  (emphasis mine).

The First Amendment of the US Constitution specifically prohibits any government restricting any US citizen’s right to freedom of expression and also prohibits the US government from creating a theocracy and allow citizens freed9m to make up their own minds about belief. It also protects freedom of association. This doesn’t mean that companies like Google/ YouTube and Facebook can’t set standards on what can and can’t be uploaded or published on those platforms. I believe that media and social media platforms have the right to protect their brand by not allowing what they consider extremism, advocating for jihad, etc.

I’m going to talk about this by referring back to the Sky News Australia controversy last Sunday, when far – Right extremist, Blair Cottrell was given free reign on The Adam Giles’ Show. Sky News Australia’s decision to allow Cottrell to express extremist views largely unchallenged caused some brands such as Specsavers and Huggies to pull their sponsorship in revolt, despite condemnation from presenters such as Andrew Bolt, Laura Jayes and David Speers and the regret expressed by the – then Sky News Australia News Director, Greg Byrnes.

This is why, while I do get the arguments for a lack of restrictions in free speech in the legal sense, I also support the right for companies, especially in the media and social media, to maintain certain standards and limits on what can be said on their programs and platforms. What they allow, I believe, can affect their branding, either positively or negatively.

However, I do think companies like Facebook and YouTube should be consistent. Facebook in particular has come under fire in the past for allegedly silencing conservative posts, while not deleting antisemitic or other hate comments, posts or pages. They have also come under fire for allowing violent or sexual content that should be prohibited in their Community Standards, while deleting images of women breastfeeding their babies. Consistency needs to be key.

Should a platform simply ban speech because of clashing political views? Well, I argue again, that legally, there’s nothing stopping them, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. Last year during the same – sex marriage debate in Australia, Facebook was attacked for pulling down posts and disabling the account of one of the founders of FamilyVoice Australia. This, in my view, was a stupid move by Facebook. They reversed the decision after presenters from Sky News Australia confronted them about it. To my knowledge, after that, all the original content was put back and all associated accounts were active.

Bloggers and moderators of news sites such as news.com.au, Herald Sun, and Mamamia should maintain the freedom to accept or reject any comments that they see fit. Arguably, this may be seen as limiting debate, but, honestly, it should be the moderators’ or creators’ prerogative. They do have a product and reputation to maintain.

To me, it boils down to this: while people shouldn’t be prosecuted for what they say (apart from libel or death threats), they should still be held accountable, at least in the public square. Not every opinion needs to be tolerated or given a platform, especially if an extremist view goes unchallenged.

What do you think of Google/ YouTube and Facebook’s decision to suspend Alex Jones from their platforms? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

Disclaimer:

In my blog post about Sky News Australia, I said that Newscorp owned Win and Ten. I was wrong. Ten was bought by US’s CBS late last year. If I remember correctly, when Ten started getting into financial trouble, there was talk about Murdoch/ Newscorp buying and trying to rescue it, but CBS bet them to it. Win is owned by Bruce Gordon. Their parent company is Oberon Broadcasters Pty Ltd.

Update: 

Here is a contrary view of what I said about the Alex Jones controversy. Sticking to his principles, Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski slammed Facebook’s, Google and the other platforms for de – platforming Jones.

I think Kulinski has a point, however, I can’t help but think that social media and media should be able to preserve their commercial reputation and limit the people who breach their standards, given that they are consistent. I’m not sure. I’d really like to know what you all think about this.

Social media: is it a platform for honesty?

 

Facebook logo
Image: Canva

 

 

 

On Tuesday, Channel Ten’s The Project Mitch Wallis, who said that he had a breakdown when taking a trip in Kentucky.

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The breakdown spurred Wallis on to start a campaign “Heart on My Sleeve” on both Twitter and Facebook, encouraging people to be honest about their experiences and feelings on social media.

 

I think it’s a good, and frankly, brave idea (I’ll explain why in a sec).

When on social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, most people only upload photos and write posts that reflect the best aspects of their lives. The happy holiday snaps, the cute kids when they aren’t fighting and (usually) not crying, the happy couple pics, you get the idea.

So, I scrolled through the Heart on My Sleeve Facebook Page recently, and it’s quite brutally honest. If you read the pinned post I embedded above, you’d know what I mean. That’s good.

Here’s the thing, will this campaign take off and change the way people view and use social media? That’s what I’m a bit skeptical about.

I said that this campaign was “brave” because people who are too honest on social media, they often get a backlash, either online or in their personal lives. This is especially true when it comes to conflicts with others. And I get that, to be honest. Unless it’s something to do with the law or something terrible has happened, it’s probably best to work out conflicts among you and the person you have issues with.

So, that’s obvious. But what about talking about things like depression, mental breakdowns, grief? What about photos that don’t look the best? Now, I’ve got to say that my Facebook friends are quite honest in how they’re doing. But for some people, especially younger people, this can be intimidating, especially when a backlash is likely.

Thing is, some – if not most people – only want to hear and read certain things and are, unfortunately, critical of people when they aren’t. So, how do we change this mindset? How do we get rid of the fear of backlash because we may have posted something someone may not like? Also, in terms of mental health, when should someone just seek professional help, rather than airing it online? Is there a potential risk that airing certain things will only exacerbate the problems?

Maybe this campaign can extend to honesty in everyday life, not just on social media. Are you OK? if not, talk to someone, a friend, partner, family member or a professional. We all need someone who we can be honest with. Will it work with three hundred “friends” (I think the average number of friends someone has on Facebook)? Not sure.

I think something could be said about this, for both online and the real world (probably the latter more so). And that’s we need to let people be who they are and express how they feel and let ourselves do the same thing. For some people, social media or a blog may be an ideal platform – at least to an extent. But, for others, it may be better to do things more privately; one on one or in a small group. At least then, you may get more sympathy and/ or understanding. Whatever works, I guess. Anything that prevents someone bottling up too much must be a good thing.

What do you think of the Heart on My Sleeve campaign and honesty on social media? Do you think it’ll ever become a regular thing? Leave your thoughts below. 

YouTube in hot water after alleged censoring and demonetising channels

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Freelance journalist and Herald Sun contributor, Alice Clarke accused YouTube of restricting videos from LGBTQ+ YoutTubers, while not censoring straight users even though their content can be explicit. Ironically, conservative YouTubers, such as Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson has condemned YouTube for demonetising conservative bloggers and drowning independent users out as they can’t compete with organisations such as CNN and The Young Turks.

 

I have a Google account and comment on videos, but I’m not a YouTuber myself. I’m quite happy doing my blog at the moment, so I’m not 100% sure what’s been going on or exactly their policies, etc. I will say this though; if YouTube are restricting videos by LGBTQ+ YouTubers in a way that they don’t censor or restrict straight YouTubers talking about a similar thing, then that’s not OK. Likewise, if they are trying to make it harder, if not impossible for independent YouTubers to make a living from their content, regardless of their socio – political persuasions, then that’s not OK…. unless all users know from the get – go that the platform is a conservative/ liberal – free zone. I mean, they can do that. They are a privately owned company.

 

What annoys me is how social media platforms, and, by the looks of it, YouTube as well. Due to children accessing platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, it makes sense that some content would be off limits altogether or, as in YouTube’s case, placed in restricted mode.Things like graphic violence, (Slayer’s clip to their song “Pride in Prejudice – trust me that’s gory), sexually explicit content and other content that’s not suitable for those under the age of eighteen should be restricted. Videos that promote or legitimise illegal activity should be banned, period. Unless a social media or video sharing platform is advertised and known  to only accept content from people of a certain religious or political persuasion, the platform should allow (legal/ non – graphic) content from all users, not just some.

And, be consistent! In the past, Facebook have been accused of unfair censorship when they took down pictures of women breastfeeding, while allowing graphic violent and explicit images and videos to be published on the platform. In response to some violent content (I think it may have been  ISIS related), they tried to argue that it was allowed because it stirred up debate. However,  after a public backlash, Facebook eventually took the offending content down. That’s not the only time that their “algorithms” have been scrutinised. I personally have reported memes that I thought promoted anti – LGBTQ+ violence, only to be told that the memes/ comments didn’t breach their standards. (Before anyone accuses me of censorship or being a “snowflake”, these memes I’m talking about actually advocated that men should use physical violence if trans – women use the female bathroom… only they had gross caricatures of them, rather than real ones, but you get my drift).

 

As debate over 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 has raged, I’ve become more and more in favour of as little restriction as possible. We should be able to debate ideas and laws shouldn’t be implemented to destroy people’s livelihoods unjustly. I’m starting to think that censorship maybe the thing that stops people from supporting groups such as the LGBTQ+ community, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or other ethnic – minority communities. Unless specified, social media, blogging and video – sharing platforms should be places where there is as little restriction as possible and also everyone should be treated the same and be placed under the same restrictions.

 

It is now easier than ever for people to have their say… or at least theoretically it is. If social media platforms start having consistent policies, it can continue in the future.

Have you had any issues in regard to how a social media platform or YouTube censor or ignore certain content? Let me know your experiences.

Categories
Gender/ sexuality

‘Clovergender’letter in the LGBTQ+ acronym

Heard of “clovergender”? There is a number of groups on Facebook and a hashtag on Twitter. What is it? According to David Reynolds of “The Advocate”, the term “clovergender” was coined by pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli. He has a history of clashing with the LGBTQ+ community for outrageously hiking up the prices of HIV/AIDS medication in the U.S. Before his suspension from Twitter earlier this year, Shkrelli came up with the term clovergender. The term was defined as:

… adult individuals claiming to be “a child trapped in a man’s body who is attracted to other children’.

Fact checking site, Snopes, exposed this hoax earlier this year.

(Photo of  Snopes webpage).

Shkrelli has been since banned from Twitter after accusations that he harassed a “Teen Vogue” writer. Clovergender has also been discussed on 4Chan and 8Chan.:People involved in the “Clovergender” hoax have been known to harass and bully people on Twitter. Personally, I was warned about it. I have stayed away from any of the groups or Twitter feeds. I think it’s disgusting. The fact that it was done to deliberately demonise the LGBTQ+ and, obviously link them to pedophilia makes it more outrageous.

 

What makes it more outrageous is that this group isn’t the first to try and link the LGBTQ+ community to child sexual abuse. That’s what the North Carolina HB2 toilet bill descended to last year. Earlier this year, two “One Nation” candidates Shan Ju Li and Tracey Bell – Hensellin have both been called out and disciplined for making anti – gay remarks. Ju Lin referred to LGBT people as “patients’ while Bell – Hensellin accused LGBT people as “destroying families”. Plus, there’s all the anti – gay marriage scaremongering last year.

 

You know what, it’s people like Ju Lin and Bell – Hensellin who destroy families. People who continuously and falsely dehumanise the LGBTQ community, falsely equate them to predators, falsely claiming that if gay marriage will be legalised that pedophilia or bestiality – it’s these people that are destroying families. It’s these attitudes and rhetoric that leads to LGBTQ youth homelessness and them turning to prostitution and drugs as a survival mechanism. Regarding LGBTQ homeless youth no exact figures on LGBTQ homelessness are available in Australia. According to the Washington Post, the rate is believed to be 43% – that means that LGBTQ youth are more than four times more likely to be homeless than non – LGBTQ youth. I wouldn’t be surprised if the statistics are similar here. Many transgender youth find it particularly difficult – especially when trying to find emergency accommodation – with many of the services dedicated to one sex. People who identify as transwomen are rejected by women’s shelters and due to their identity, don’t feel safe in a men’s shelter. That is the real cost of all this anti – LGBTQ hysteria. It’s ridiculous. Everyone just grow up! This endless fear mongering and rhetoric are leaving too many LGBTQ+ youth vulnerable to homelessness and worse. YOU grow up!

 

When ISIS is discussed in the media, especially by conservative commentators and politicians, ideology and its potential danger is always bought up. Well, anti – gay/ anti – trans/ anti – queer ideology is evidently dangerous. It’s about time to realise how dangerous it is. It needs to be called out and condemned. In fact, I’m thinking it could be covered under anti – defamation laws, but I’m not sure about that. Either way, there needs to be a crackdown on it.

 

I don’t begrudge anyone for being against same – sex marriage in and of itself. To be honest I’m not sure which side of the fence I sit on. I can understand why people want it, but I do worry about the perception that same – sex marriage will infringe on other people’s rights to freedom or speech and religion and the backlash against the LGBTQ community. But I am no longer going to stay silent while LGBTQ people are unjustly vilified and slandered in the media and by politicians. I am no longer going to stand by and let the dehumanisation of the LGBTQ community continue and further contribute to the escalating homelessness and suicide rates of LGBTQ youth. I’m not sitting around waiting for someone to carry out a threat like the one that Melbourne’s JOY 94.9FM faced. While nothing happened and no one was hurt, 30 of their staff were evacuated from the premises.

 

So, can I ask you all a favour – politicians, the public and journalists, commentators and the general public – do not tolerate any speech that aims to dehumanise LGBTQ+ people, that aims to falsely paint them as predators. One it’s not true, and two, it destroys lives. Enough is enough.