If someone with an accent were to walk up on to you on the street and ask you, as an American, what the most important part of your nation’s society is, there is one answer that resonates above all.
The Freedom of Speech.
The First Amendment is a uniquely American answer. While other nations have adopted the concept in the last 240+ years, it was America who first proclaimed that no society could ever rise above the status quo without it. Our Founding Fathers, having survived a totalitarian British colonialism run amok, were sure to put the right to Free Speech front and center in the formation of the new American colony…that’s just how intrinsic to freedom the concept truly is.
In the following twenty four decades, Free Speech in America would most certainly be challenged. Racism and bigotry were often allowed to fester into “hate speech”, a designation that was unfortunately vague at times, allowing for the political exploitation of the term.
Now, as social media creates new and immediate ways for Americans to express themselves, technology is being used to stifle certain beliefs online. Twitter, Facebook, and Google have all stood accused of censoring conservative thought on the web, with some going as far as to install algorithms to simply omit centrist or right wing news in favor the liberal versions.
Not to be outdone by these harbingers of social media Hell, Microsoft is now getting in on the censorship action by monitoring the language being used on Skype and Xbox.
Microsoft is cracking down on what people say while using their services online. According to a new services agreement written by the company, the tech giant is planning to ban accounts that use “offensive language” and will go through your private data to “investigate” users.
In a March 1 release, Microsoft is warning customers using Office, Xbox, Skype, and other products that the company is prohibiting offensive language and inappropriate content starting on May 1. “Don’t publicly display or use the Services to share inappropriate content or material (involving, for example, nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity),” Microsoft warns in a portion of their new codes of conduct.
Microsoft also added that the company plans on “investigating” users who are accused of violating the new policy and will block content from being sent to other people. “When investigating alleged violations of these Terms, Microsoft reserves the right to review Your Content in order to resolve the issue,” the new policy states.
Of course, there are other ways to communicate online, but the precedent being set here is the most egregious issue.
Should we allow Microsoft to limit the way we can communicate with one another, particularly in the case of Skype, what’s to stop Facebook from doing the same via their Messenger app? Or who will stop Twitter from shadow banning users who disagree with their owners’ political beliefs?
Nothing. That’s what.