Terrorist Propaganda and the Open Internet

Is it really all about the message, or the role of the messenger?  I was always told to not believe everything I read in the newspaper or saw or heard on TV and radio (I am not sure why – and of course this was all before the dawn of the Internet).  So what has happened to dull our senses to be able to discern what is obviously false and what is true.  Maybe it’s so much easier now to choose what you want to believe and ignore that which might make you change your mind?  There are just so many information “sources”to choose from.   And I guess we have the luxury and liberty to select whatever we want to believe.  You may even like your news completely fabricated and prefer that to “real reporting.”  See my blog of 11/23: “All the News, All Fake, All the Time!”

Now we have some of our top technology companies volunteering to do some censoring for us.  They have formed a coalition to try and save us from terrorist propaganda and recruitment.  Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft announced earlier this week that they have teamed up to fight the spread of terrorist content over the web by sharing technology and information to reduce the flow of terrorist propaganda across their services.  And they are also welcoming any other tech company to join them in this endeavor.  But not everyone is so keen on sharing their secret encryption “sauce.”  Tim Cook, CEO of Apple among them.  Remember his refusal to a FBI request after the San Bernadino attacks in 2015.  The FBI then hired some hackers to access the iPhone used by one of the attackers.

I am afraid that this fight over open access to the Internet and freedom of speech is going to get more sinister.  We in the U.S. have been relatively immune to governmental interference at any level, but some of our newly elected political leaders may feel less constrained.

Ray Myers

No Man is an iPhone.

So back on January 11th this year I posted some comments on a tech industry convening in San Jose, California, aimed at trying to untie the “Gordian Knot” of how everyone’s personal privacy can be protected whenever they choose to use any of the social media tools available to them (“Dazed and Confused in Silicon Valley”).  Government officials flew in from Washington in order to help broker this landmark agreement.  Nearly three months have passed and quess what?  We have reached an impasse, well at least with one of the the technological giants who does not want to share the secrets of its programming encryption.  Mr. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, wants to protect his users’ data.

I guess that’s all very noble and reassuring to iPhone owners, but let’s remember that an act of terrorism was committed here and many innocent American lives were lost.  Does Apple really want to protect the privacy of its customers, or are they more interested in guarding its “special sauce.”  I think it’s the latter.  I remember hearing something about corporate responsibility in American business practices in the past.  This situation may not be perfectly analogous, but let’s remember that companies like Apple have become very successful and very wealthy because of the favorable economic environment that exists in this country.

We should not forget that the victims of the San Bernadino attack at a Holiday party last December were professional staff who were working with individuals with developmental disabilities.  Fourteen were killed, twenty-two were injured.  I think that their lives mattered, and we should respond responsibly.  As Tim Cook himself has said, “This is an issue that impacts all of us and we will not shrink from this responsibility.”

Ray Myers