During the 1990s, a collaboration between Silicon Valley and the U.S. intelligence community was begun under the name of the Massive Digital Data Systems (MDDS). The project funded dozens of top computer science programs at elite universities with the goal of identifying patterns in large amounts of information to track crime and terrorism. However, its intended capabilities went beyond crime hunting. One of these grants went to a Stanford research team that would eventually turn into a for-profit search engine, Google, Inc., which now uses its algorithms to detect all kinds of patterns of human behavior. Whether these algorithms are being used today for good or evil is the subject of this show.
This lesser-known origin story of the Internet’s largest search and advertising platform points to disturbing level of cronyism that persists to this day. The latest debate over “Big Tech” relates to its increasing censorship of peaceful expression that challenges the prevailing liberal orthodoxy in the San Francisco Bay Area. As the host of Northern California’s only and longest running libertarian radio show, I am left wondering how much longer I’ll be able to use Facebook, Twitter, and the like.
Now there is news that Google is developing a version of its search engine called “Dragonfly” that would be compatible with China’s censorship policies. Are companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter private entities – themselves entitled to the protections of the First Amendment – or do they threaten the free expression of the rest of us because of their privileged position as government supported monopolies? Either way, I believe the time has come to move toward alternative platforms that do not censor any points of view.
Bill Ottman, a co-founder of open-source social network Minds.com, joins me to discuss the potential of platforms like Minds to resuscitate Internet free speech from the death grip of Big Tech. Minds.com censors nobody, but rather employs free market methods of regulating distasteful content. Ottman has noted that attempts to suppress “hate speech” tend to backfire — forcing fringe opinion to cluster in underground niches, where it festers and grows. Expose bad ideas to the light of day, however, and they wither and die.
Minds.com is free, open-source, and allows users to earn tokens that can be used to boost their content or be exchanged for other cryptocurrencies. The site uses blockchain technology to ensure that it remains decentralized, and to reward those who are most active in posting and engaging with content. You can follow our own page here, and while you’re at it, check out the Minds.com Bill of Rights:
1. Intermediaries should be shielded from liability for third-party content.
2. Content must NOT be required to be removed without an order by a judicial authority.
3. Requests for restrictions of content must be clear, be unambiguous, and follow due process.
4. Laws and content restriction orders and practices must comply with the tests of necessity and proportionality.
5. Laws and content restriction policies and practices must respect due process.
6. Transparency and accountability must be built into laws and content restriction policies and practices.
That’s a lot of freedom! Having this much liberty online means that each Minds.com user has to take a more active role in regulating their own feeds — making liberal use of the mute, block and unfollow features. If you like this post, and want to see more content like this, go to our page and give us an upvote.
Also, check out our related shows on the topic of the blockchain and freedom of speech below.
The Basics of Bitcoin & Blockchain with Stan Larimer, Stan Larimer, January 14, 2018
Making Peace with the Speech Police — Dispatch from Mizzou, Ian Paris, December 11, 2015
Whose Free Speech? Our Free Speech! — The Bob Zadek Show, Marieke Tuthill-Beck Coon, April 16, 2017
Terrorism in Today’s World, August 22, 2010
Free Speech — There is No America Without It, Greg Lukianoff, December 9, 2012