Five Big Tech Companies to Be Investigated for Censorship of Conservative Content: Indiana AG

The apps of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple on Aug. 28, 2019. (Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images)

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said on Wednesday that he will be scrutinizing five big tech companies that might have potentially caused harm to Indiana consumers through “abusive, deceptive and/or unfair” practices.

The five companies to be scrutinized by Rokita are Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

Epoch Times Photo
Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) announces the 2018 budget blueprint during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 18, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

The attorney general is particularly looking into procedures that allegedly restrict consumers’ access to specific content, referring to the deletion or obscuring of conservative posts.

“In a free society, few assets are more important to consumers than access to information and the opportunity to express political viewpoints in meaningful forums,” Rokita said. “It is potentially harmful and unfair for these companies to manipulate content in ways they do not publicly discuss or that consumers do not fully understand.”

The attorney general is also probing into allegations that attorney Vanita Gupta took actions that encouraged censorship of conservative voices by the relevant companies.

Gupta is President Joe Biden’s nominee for associate U.S. attorney general. She was questioned in March by Republicans over her partisan record.

“Her Twitter feed has painted Republicans with a broad brush, describing our national convention last year as three nights of ‘racism, xenophobia, and outrageous lies,’” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said.

Rokita has previously been critical of censorship on social media. In February, he posted a Valentine’s day card with President Trump’s image with the words “You stole my heart like a 2020 election.” Twitter initially reacted by blocking the ability of the post to be retweeted or get replies, as well as adding a tag on the post saying that false information could cause violence.

Texas Senate Passes Social Media Bill

The Texas Senate passed a bill that forbids social media companies that have at least 100 million users per month to block, ban, demonetize, or discriminate against any of their users due to their political views.

Senate Bill 12, which is sponsored by Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes, passed on April 1 and would apply to Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms.

“I think we all have to acknowledge, these social media companies are the new town square,” Hughes said.

“And a small group of people in San Francisco can’t dictate free speech for the rest of us. It needs to be an open exchange of ideas, and Senate Bill 12 is going to get Texans back online.”

He said that the bill is on its way to the state House and that it is expected to get a good consideration, adding that he hopes that the governor will sign it into law soon.

The measure would require companies to make their moderation policies known, publish reports about the content blocked out by the platform, and create an appeals process for the removed content.

Source: Five Big Tech Companies to Be Investigated for Censorship of Conservative Content: Indiana AG

More Big Tech Hypocrisy: Apple Blackballs Parler… Again!

The Apple logo is seen on the window at an Apple Store in Beijing, China, on Jan. 7, 2019. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Commentary – Roger L. Simon

“One more thing!”

How many times have the millions—or is it billions—of Apple geeks across the globe thrilled to those words as the geniuses from Cupertino unveiled yet another dazzling product?

Sometimes these new gizmos arrived a little late but almost always with a better result for the user than their competition. They were usually more elegantly designed as well.

Steve Jobs changed our lives with the Apple II, the iPhone and the rest, continuing into the present day when so many of us are hooked on what they do. (Are your ready for the Apple Car? When do we get our new AR goggles?)

Too bad the company is such a reactionary, morally narcissistic organization, admonishing and lecturing the world to be what they decidedly are not, while censoring those with whom they disagree.

The latest display of this nauseating hypocrisy came from them denying entry to the app store for the conservative-leaning social media site Parler, not once, but now twice.

From the fan site AppleInsider:

“The Cupertino tech giant pulled the app in the wake of the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. At the time, Apple said Parler could return to the App Store if it changed its moderation guidelines to comply with its terms of service.”

As it came back online, Parler changed its community guidelines to new policies written by Chief Policy Officer Amy Peikoff. But an App Store review found that the updated policies and moderation practices were insufficient to comply with Apple’s rules, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

“‘After having reviewed the new information, we do not believe these changes are sufficient to comply with App Store Review guidelines. There is no place for hateful, racist, discriminatory content on the App Store,’ Apple wrote to Parler on Feb. 25.”

Commenters on AppleInsider pointed out the painfully obvious hypocrisy here, of which many readers of The Epoch Times are, I’m sure, well aware.

Facebook and Twitter were loaded with at least as many—I would bet hugely more due to their size—incendiary posts before the Jan. 6 Capitol event than Parler.

Someone using the amusingly apropos handle “1984called” put it this way:

“You have got to be kidding. Apple, seriously, putting out this statement and yet they allow Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and just take a look at the top hip hop songs on Apple Music. Disgusting. Apple is spitting in your face and telling you it’s raining.”

Not bad. That about says it all about their naked partisanship… but… dare I say it…

“One more thing!”

Apple, like its Big Tech brethren, has a horrendous record when it comes to the People’s Republic of China. For many years, until others pointed it out, Apple cooperated completely with the communist regime in order to manufacture its products in China.

The astonishingly onerous working conditions for their Chinese employees would never have been tolerated in most Western countries, but why would Apple have cared? It’s all about the bottom line.

And after all, they didn’t seem to mind that the same regime was well known — I’m certain to a high level and undoubtedly educated Apple executives— to have concentration camps in Xinjiang Province reeducating and doing far worse to their Uyghur and Tibetan population as well as Christians, political dissidents, Falun Gong practitioners and so forth.

For a long time, Apple barely even criticized this. I don’t even know if they have now.

And yet they take offense at social media sites like Parler, playing the censorship game as if they had some kind of moral high ground.

How shameful. How repugnant. How opposed to the Bill of Rights.

But, alas, “one more very depressing thing.”

The Apple hypocrites have us trapped. Those of us, like me, who have been on their ecosystem for years (I went on around 2003 when we were developing Pajamas Media and my co-founder, who handled the tech end, put us on Macs. I’m writing this on a MacBook Air.)

We could go off, but where we would we go? Are the other systems any better? Microsoft? Android? Oh, please.

Not only that, transferring to another system with all our devices and storage is a difficult task for most people, fraught with the possibility of losing valuable documents and information of all sorts, not to mention consuming tremendous amounts of time and incurring considerable expense.

Apple knows that. So they go on their merry way.

What are we to do?

The problem with Big Tech, in general, is that it evolved through people with great technical expertise and monumental ambition, but little knowledge of history and less knowledge of the human soul.

Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, co-founder of PJMedia, and now, editor-at-large for The Epoch Times. His most recent books are “The GOAT” (fiction) and “I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic If It Hasn’t Already” (nonfiction). He can be found on Parler as @rogerlsimon.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Birdpuk.com.

Source: More Big Tech Hypocrisy: Apple Blackballs Parler… Again!

Parler CEO John Matze Announces His Termination

Parler co-founder and CEO John Matze in Washington on June 11, 2019. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Parler CEO John Matze announced late Wednesday that he has been terminated as the company’s CEO.

Matze said that the Parler board on Jan. 29 decided to terminate his position, adding that he did not participate in the decision.

The Parler board is controlled by Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer.

Matze said in a statement, “I understand that those who now control the company have made some communications to employees and other third parties that have unfortunately created confusion and prompted me to make this public statement.

“Over the past few months, I’ve met constant resistance to my product vision, my strong belief in free speech, and my view of how the Parler site should be managed. For example, I advocated for more product stability and what I believe is a more effective approach to content moderation,” Matze added.

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This illustration picture shows the social media application logo from Parler displayed on a smartphone with its website in the background in Arlington, Va., on July 2, 2020. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

“Over the past few weeks, I have worked endless hours and fought constant battles to get the Parler site running but at this point, the future of Parler is no longer in my hands.”

Matze said that he plans on taking a few weeks off.

“After that, I’ll be looking for new opportunities where my technical acumen, vision, and the causes I am passionate about will be required and respected,” he said.

“I want to thank the Parler employees, the people on Parler, and Parler supporters for their tireless work and devotion to the company. They are an amazing group of diverse, hardworking, and talented individuals, and I have the utmost respect for them. Many of them have become my second family,” Matze added.

“I want to thank all the people of Parler that supported me and the platform. This has been the true American Dream: an idea from a living room to a company of considerable value. I’m not saying goodbye, just so long for now.”

In early January, Parler was removed from the Apple and Google‘s app stores over what the two big tech giants alleged was a lack of moderation by the platform of violent content posted by its users—a claim that Parler denies. Shortly after, Parler was taken offline by Amazon’s services due to what Amazon said was Parler’s “repeated violations” of Amazon’s terms of service.

This story is developing, please check back for updates.

Source: Parler CEO John Matze Announces His Termination

Apple CEO Escalates Battle With Facebook Over Online Privacy

The Apple logo is seen on the window at an Apple Store in Beijing, China, on Jan. 7, 2019. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

SAN RAMON, California—Apple CEO Tim Cook fired off a series of thinly veiled shots at Facebook and other social media companies Thursday, escalating an online privacy battle pitting the iPhone maker against digital services that depend on tracking people to help sell ads.

“Too many are still asking the question ‘how much can we get away with?’ when we should be asking ‘what are the consequences?’” Cook said.

Speaking at a virtually held International Conference on Computers, Privacy & Data Protection, Cook said it’s “time to stop pretending that this approach doesn’t come with a cost—of polarization, lost trust and yes, of violence.”

Cook never specifically named Facebook or any other company. But his remarks left little doubt that his missives were aimed at the social media sites.

“A social dilemma cannot be allowed to become a social catastrophe,” Cook added, referring to a Netflix documentary about technology’s—and especially social media’s—corrosive effects on society. That film took square aim at Facebook and how its algorithms manipulate its nearly 3 billion users to get them to look at the ads that generate most of its revenue.

China-US-Apple
Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the Economic Summit held for the China Development Forum in Beijing, China, on March 23, 2019. (Ng Han Guan/AFP/Getty Images)

Cook’s broadside came as Apple prepares to roll out a new privacy control in the early spring to prevent iPhone apps from secretly shadowing people. That puts the feature on course to come out after a more than six-month delay aimed at placating Facebook and other digital services that depend on such data surveillance to help sell ads.

Although Apple didn’t provide a specific date, the general timetable disclosed Thursday means the long-awaited safeguard known as App Tracking Transparency will be part of an iPhone software update likely to arrive in late March or some point in April.

After delaying the planned September introduction of the safeguard amid a Facebook-led outcry, Apple had previously said it would come out early this year. Apple released the latest schedule update as part of Data Privacy Day.

Apple has been holding off to give Facebook and other app makers more time to adjust to a feature that will require iPhone users to give their explicit consent to being tracked. Analysts expect a significant number of users to deny that permission once it requires their assent. Currently, iPhone users are frequently tracked by apps they install unless they take the extra step of going into iPhone settings to prevent it.

“Technology does not need vast troves of personal data, stitched together across dozens of websites and apps, in order to succeed,” Cook said. “Advertising existed and thrived for decades without it.”

Epoch Times Photo
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Oct. 23, 2019. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

As a supplement to Cook’s remarks, Apple also released an 11-page report to illustrate how much apps can learn about their users in daily life.

Facebook stepped up its attacks on Apple’s new privacy control last month in a series of full-page ads in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other national newspapers. That campaign suggested some free digital services will be hobbled if they can’t compile personal information to customize ads. On Wednesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg questioned Apple’s motives for the changes, saying the iPhone maker “has every incentive” to use its own mobile platform to interfere with rivals to its own messaging app.

“Apple may say that they are doing this to help people, but the moves clearly track their competitive interests,” Zuckerberg said.

Google, which also relies on personal data to power the internet’s biggest ad network, hasn’t joined Facebook in its criticism of Apple’s forthcoming controls on tracking. Google profits from being the default search engine on the iPhone, a prized position for which it pays Apple an estimated $9 billion to $12 billion annually.

But Google warned in a Wednesday blog post that Apple’s new controls will have a significant impact on the iPhone ad revenue of other apps in its digital network. Google said a “handful” of its own iPhone apps will be affected by the new requirement, but plans to make changes to them so they won’t be affected by Apple’s new controls. It did not identify which apps.

“We remain committed to preserving a vibrant and open app ecosystem where people can access a broad range of ad-supported content with confidence that their privacy and choices are respected,” wrote Christophe Combette, group product manager for Google Ads.

Source: Apple CEO Escalates Battle With Facebook Over Online Privacy

Parler CEO ‘Prepared to Take Full Legal Action’ After Big Tech Companies Target Platform

Parler founder and CEO John Matze speaks to The Epoch Times' American Thought Leaders in 2019. (Screenshot/The Epoch Times)

Parler founder and CEO John Matze said his company is “prepared to take full legal action” after several big tech companies suspended the social media network from their services, according to an email.

John Matze, Parler’s founder, told The Epoch Times in an email that he believes Apple, Google, and Amazon had acted in bad faith and that the social media platform is considering legal action.

Responding to accusations that Parler was enabling “threats of violence and illegal activity,” Matze said these companies are using recent events to “go after Parler,” even though “there is no evidence Parler was used to coordinate the events.”

“Parler has no groups-style feature and Facebook was the number one tool for coordinating meetups for that event,” Matze said.

The targeted moderation by these companies against Parler came after civil unrest and acts of violence marred a largely peaceful protest at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. A group of rioters and a minority of protesters waving American and Trump flags illegally stormed the Capitol building as lawmakers were counting electoral votes in a joint session of Congress. The mayhem on the day left five people dead, including one police office, and dozens of officers injured.

In response to the Capitol breach, a number of Silicon Valley technology companies ramped up their policing of statements and comments from President Donald Trump, conservatives, and other voices they believe may cause harm. Twitter on Friday permanently removed Trump’s account on its platform and justified its censorship by saying that the president had violated its “Glorification of Violence Policy” after he posted a message urging protesters to remain peaceful and leave the Capitol. The Trump campaign Twitter account has also been removed.

Parler, which has attracted a large following of classical liberal and conservative-leaning users, appeared to have been targeted for lacking a system to “implement robust moderation for egregious content.”

Apple said in a statement to media outlets on Saturday that they believe Paler had “not taken adequate measures to address” the proliferation of “threats of violence and illegal activity.”

“We have suspended Parler from the App Store until they resolve these issues,” the statement said.

Apple did not respond to The Epoch Times’ questions about the ban.

Similarly, Amazon told Parler that they would be shutting Parler’s servers at midnight Sunday, Jan. 10, over what it says is the platform’s alleged lax approach to violent content posted by its users. Parler disputes this claim.

Amazon also did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ questions about their suspension.

Matze said he believes these companies are also operating with a double standard.

“Twitter let ‘Hang Mike Pence’ trend the same day Parler was banned from Google … the double standard is obvious,” he said.

The big tech suspension came after Parler rose to become the number one application in Apple’s app store on Saturday, following Twitter’s suspension of Trump’s personal account. Matze said his social media network had around 20 million accounts at the time the companies suspended them.

Mobile app analytics company Sensor Tower told The Wrap in a statement that Parler saw approximately 182,000 first-time downloads in the United States on Jan. 8, which is up 355 percent on Jan. 7. The app saw about 268,000 installs across U.S. app stores since Jan. 6, the statement said.

Matze said on his Parler account late Saturday that he believes Amazon, Google, and Apple coordinated to “try and ensure they don’t have competition.”

“They will NOT win! We are the worlds last hope for free speech and free information,” he said.

“This is a battle against all of us. Liberals, conservatives, atheists, Christians, black, white, etc. They want to keep their monopoly over speech. They want us fighting. They don’t want us working together. They don’t want us working with each other, they want us hating one another.”

Unbalanced policing of user content and certain political views has raised concerns over First Amendment rights and the lack of checks and balances on decisions made by big tech companies. Discussions over limiting or eliminating liability protections under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act for tech companies that have engaged in censoring or political conduct have been heavily discussed in the past year.

Twitter’s move to remove Trump’s account has received widespread scrutiny. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, State Secretary Mike Pompeo, and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley likened Twitter’s move to conduct by the communist party ruling China.

Source: Parler CEO ‘Prepared to Take Full Legal Action’ After Big Tech Companies Target Platform