Google got a lesson on free speech today. Have a watch.
— Rep. Dan Crenshaw (@RepDanCrenshaw) June 27, 2019
Love or hate Google, for one or another reason – wouldn’t you love this to be true?
This is what happened. In the tweet, Crenshaw linked to a full YouTube video (still up on YouTube) of his grilling in the US Congress that involved a Google representative there to provide responses to some burning free speech questions.
One one of the issues the representative raised was the leaked news out of Google that the company might start labeling mainstream conservative media as “Nazis.”
Crenshaw then asks if Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, and Dennis Prager – are indeed to be considered as “Nazis” in such a new reality.
Given that two of these three “Nazis” are in fact religious Jews – Crenshaw wanders what kind of education those at Google labeling them as “Nazis” might actually have.
Then there’s the crux of it all: What actually is “hate speech” – and what is its actual definition – at least in the US?
And to Crenshaw’s question, Google’s representative, a person identified as Mr. Slater in the YouTube video, responds:
“Hate speech – as updated in our Guidelines – now extends to superiority over protected groups to justify discrimination, violence, and so on, based upon a number of defining characteristics, whether that’s race, sexual orientations…”
At this point, Congressman Crenshaw interferes to ask if the speaker has any examples of Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, or Dennis Prager violating any of these “anti-hate speech” rules – in order to deserve their fate on Google.
Google’s representative responds by saying that the company “evaluates content based on the content rather than the speaker.”
Crenshaw further wanted to know if the companies’ representative thought speech itself could be violence – rather than incite to violence – which is harmful in and of itself.
Google’s representative said he was “not sure about the distinction” the congressman was drawing.
Crenshaw then said that given that that the United States invaded an entire continent (Europe) to fight the Nazis – referring to somebody as “Nazis” in this day and age in the US surely must be a grave insult.
More than that: do not social platforms employ “slippery slope” when they “vaguely” employ what’s acceptable and unacceptable “free” speech”?
… and the answers.
Transcript of Major Points:
From Texas for five minutes. Mr. Crenshaw. Thank you Mr Chairman and thank you for some of some of the thoughtful discussion on how you combat terrorism online and there’s where the debates to be had there. Um, and there’s, there’s good questions on whether some of this content provides education so that we know of the bad things out there or whether it’s radicalizing people. Those are hard. Those are hard discussions to have and I don’t know that we’re going to solve them today. But the problem is is that the testimony doesn’t stop there. The, the policies at your social media companies do not stop there. It doesn’t stop with the clear cut lines of terrorism and terrorist videos and terrorist propaganda. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what we’re talking about. It goes much further than that. It goes down the slippery slope of what speech is appropriate for your platform and the vague standards that you employ in order to decide what is appropriate.
And this is especially concerning given the recent news and the recent leaked emails from Google, they show that labeling mainstream conservative media as Nazis is a premise upon which you operate. It’s not even a question. According to those emails, the emails say, given that Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson and Dennis Prager are Nazis, given that that’s a premise, what do we do about it? Two of three of these people are Jewish, very religious Jews. And yet you think there are Nazis. It begs the question, what kind of education people at Google have to, they think that religious Jews are Nazis. Three of three of these people had family members killed the Holocaust, Ben Shapiro’s is the number one target of the alt right. And yet you people operate off the premise that he’s a Nazi. It’s a pretty disturbing and it gets to the question, do you believe in hate speech? How do you define that or do you, can you give me a quick definition right now? Is it written down somewhere? Google, can you give me a definition of hate speech?
Yes. So hate speech again, as updated in our guidelines now extends to, uh, uh, superiority over protected groups to justify discrimination, violence, and so on based on, uh, a number of defining characteristics, whether that’s a race, sexual orientation, veterans.
Do you have an example of Ben Shapiro or Jordan Peterson, Dennis Prager engaging in hate speech. Give one example off the top of your head.
So, congressman, we evaluate individual piece of content based on that content rather than based on the speaker.
Okay, let’s, let’s get to the next question. Do you believe speech can be violence? All right, though there’s, there’s not, not can you incite violence that is very clearly not protected, but can speech just be violence. Do you believe that speech that isn’t specifically calling for violence can be labeled violence and therefore harmful to people? Is that possible?
Congressman, I’m not sure I fully understand the distinction you’re drawing. Certainly, again, incitement to violence or things that aren’t urgent, dangerous behavior. Those are things that would be against our policies.
Here’s, here’s, here’s the thing. When you call somebody a Nazi or you can make the argument that you’re inciting violence and here’s how, as a country, we all agree that Nazis are bad. We actually invaded an entire continent to defeat the Nazis. It’s normal to say Hashtag punch a Nazi because there’s this common thread among this in this country that they’re bad and that there yeah, evil and that they should be destroyed. So when you’re operating off of that premise and it’s frankly, it’s a, it’s a good premise to operate on. Well, what you’re implying then is that it’s okay to use violence against them when you label them, when one of the most powerful social media companies in the world labels people as Nazis, you could make the argument that’s inciting violence. What you’re doing is wholly irresponsible. It doesn’t stop there. Well, a couple of years ago it was also made clear that you fact check system is blatantly targeted conservative newspapers. Do you have any comments on that? Are you aware of the story? I’m talking, about?
I’m not familiar with necessarily the specific story, congressman. I am aware that from all political viewpoints, we sometimes get questions of this sore. I can say that our fact check labels generally are done algorithmically based on a mark up and follow up on our policies
For the, for the record, they specifically target conservative news media and often times they don’t even, they have a fact check on there that doesn’t even reference the actual article. But Google makes sure that it’s right next to it. So as to make people understand that that one is questionable even though when you actually read through and it has nothing to do with it. Um, you know, a few days ago and this goes to Miss Bikert, uh, one of my constituents posted photos on Facebook of Republican women, daring to say that there are women for Trump. Facebook took down that post right away with no explanation. Is there any explanation for that?
Without seeing it,It’s hard for me to apply and that doesn’t violate our policies, but I’m happy to follow up on this specific example with you.
Thank you. Listen here, here’s what it comes down to. If we don’t share the values of free speech, I’m not sure where we go from here. You know, this practice of silencing millions and millions of people, it will create wounds and divisions in this country that we can not heal from. This is extremely worrisome. You’ve created amazing and platforms. We can do amazing things with what, what these companies have created, but if we continue down this path, it’ll tear us apart. You do not have a constitutional obligation to enforce the First Amendment, but I would say that you absolutely have an obligation to enforce American values, and the first amendment is an underpinning of American values that we should be protecting until the day we die. Thank you, and thank you for indulging me, Mister chairman. Thank you.