Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tech giants, government struggle with online speech policies

Officials with Google and State Department are struggling to craft a balanced policy that combats terrorist messages without unduly curbing Internet freedom.

As social media outlets increasingly become the favorite channels for terrorist groups to spread messages of violence and recruit new members, the Internet companies that maintain those services are in a tough spot.

Companies born on the Web like Google and Facebook promote an ethos of free speech, but at the same time recognize the dangers of terrorists, criminals and other bad actors co-opting their platforms in service of a violent ideology or illegal activities.

The government tries to balance censorship and free expression

Those same frictions arise as the government charts a policy toward what the State Department has termed the "use of Internet for terrorist purposes," according to Jason Pielemeier, who serves as the business and human rights section lead at the department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Leaving aside the important but problematic questions about censorship and free expression, Pielemeier noted that simply squelching objectionable content can be a bad policy choice.

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