Word of the week: “Online security”

Pop quiz: What do the following terms all have in common? Ritalin, bald, anti-Semitism, violence, single parent, Eugene Levy.

Good guess, but no. These are forbidden words on Tumblr, the social sharing site famous for being the birthplace of identity politics and for hosting a large amount of pornography before it was banned in 2018. Around this time, Tumblr took some drastic action. , in the eyes of its user base because it exposes itself to legal liability if it doesn’t. Now, in an effort to comply with Apple’s App Store “safety” policy, Tumblr has created an ever-growing list of terms it gently censors. It’s easy to imagine how terms like “suicide prevention,” “penis,” and “girl” relate to searches for the type of content that can result in legal action for Tumblr or its users, although it s. ‘is inherently harmless terms referring to things in the real world, unlike some of the other censored terms for web design (“userstream”) and sexual perversions (“vore”). Minus Eugene Levy and the pronoun “me”. Still, if you search for these terms on Tumblr, you won’t find any content with those words in their tags.

Apple’s review guidelines for app developers include remarkably vague guidelines, stating under the heading “security” that “apps should not include content that is offensive, callous, disturbing, intended to disgust, or in bad taste. or just scary. However, an application that plays horror movies is not prohibited. What frightening or offensive means is in the eye of anyone who is afraid and / or offended. Yet Apple has just hit the $ 3 trillion market valuation mark, making it the first company to do so. It does a lot of good to try and discuss Apple’s internal consistency or clarity, because Apple doesn’t create its policies with those goals in mind. Apple creates its policies, just like Twitter and any other big business, with legal responsibility and growth in mind. This is what makes it so dangerous for us, citizens, users, individuals, to allow the rubric of “online safety” and “damage” to be treated as intellectually legitimate.

I could have selected one of the many recent examples of corporate censorship on tech platforms, including the conservative children’s book series Heroes of Liberty, whose Facebook account has been suspended. Or I could have mentioned Twitter suspended Marjorie Taylor Greene who is not my favorite congressman but has a moral right to speak in public and on massively public private platforms. What’s interesting about Tumblr, however, is how it shows us just how unwieldy censorship regimes are getting, and not just how unfair censorship regimes are. Censorship is not simply double standards in the political arena or the need to serve media narratives. Once we make the fatal mistake of admitting that seeing words made out of pixels can ‘hurt’ things rush, and you can’t use the word ‘me’ or 440 others on any of the. most famous social networks on the left. sites on the internet. Tom Wolfe once joked that in the liberal mind-set “the dark night of fascism still descends in the United States, and yet it only lands in Europe.” Quite the opposite is true of liberal assumptions about Internet censorship of disadvantaged ideas and phrases. It still surgically targets harassment, mischief and misinformation online, and yet it lands everywhere.


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