Coronavirus Pandemic Has Accelerated The Reform In Digital Speech
The COVID-19 has brought together all the tech platforms to collaborate and ensure that misleading information is not displayed.
But the “extraordinary” measures we are seeing are not all that extraordinary. Powerful forces were pushing toward greater censorship and surveillance of digital networks long before the coronavirus jumped out of the wet markets in Wuhan, China, and they will continue to do so once the crisis passes.
About 3 decades ago, while the internet was gaining popularity in the US, China was worried about unregulated speech online, which could pose a threat to the Communist Party. However, in the last few years, we see that public internet has not necessarily proven good for open societies and bad for closed ones, contrary to expectations. Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election are all the indications we need for this.
Social platforms have a lot of censorship in place regarding hate speech and bullying speech, mostly in collaboration with the federal government. Keeping this in mind, it looks like companies cracking down on COVID-19 related censorship are not the best they can do. Once this pandemic comes to an end, there should be no going back to our old ways of living with unregulated harmful speech. Our data is out there, and the companies need to be more careful how they handle it and be more transparent about the entire process. Otherwise, as the toxicity of digital speech increase, so will the involvement of government.
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