For immediate release | Thursday, June 6, 2019

CEP’s Dr. Hany Farid: “Do We Want to Reward the Bad Behavior of [Tech] Companies?”

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With “Products & Consumers,” CEP Releases Seventh of Nine-Part Series on Online Extremism

(New York, N.Y.) - The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) today released the seventh of a nine-part video series featuring CEP Senior Adviser Dr. Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. In this week’s video, titled “Products & Consumers,” Dr. Farid urges end users to question the inherent value of tech companies and the services they offer, as the status quo of giving away free products has led to everything from data privacy breaches to the proliferation of online extremism. Just like every other industry in the world, tech companies must be held accountable for the negative impacts of their actions.

On Monday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared, “The era of self-regulation is over.” The speaker’s statement regarding tech companies builds on an April 2018 interview, during which she indicated that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) could be subject to change, as it has frequently been used as a shield, allowing tech companies to deny culpability for the dangerous content posted on their platforms. CEP supported the speaker’s April comments, saying that “Section 230 of the CDA must be amended to remove companies’ blanket protections from liability for content posted by third-parties on their platforms when that content is incontrovertibly known to be extremist in nature or otherwise harmful.”

As Dr. Farid states in the video, “The tech companies do one thing very well. They give away a free product, and they get users to use it all day long. And they are very good at that … So here’s the question that I think consumers should ask themselves: what is the inherent value of Facebook, what is the inherent value of Twitter, what is the inherent value of YouTube? Do we want to reward the bad behavior of these companies?  We should just take a long, hard look at how we want to be engaging online.  We have to change cultures, we have to change laws, we have to change business models, we have to change behavior.”

Please find a transcript for “Products & Consumers” below:

“The tech companies do one thing very well. They give away a free product, and they get users to use it all day long. And they are very good at that. When you look at the reach of the YouTubes and the Facebooks and the Amazons and the Microsofts and the Apple, they have a phenomenal reach. They have a huge customer base that they can leverage. For the last two decades we’ve all been blindly going along with it. Being like, ‘This is great! Free email, free YouTube, free Facebook, free Twitter, free cloud storage, free everything.’

“And suddenly we woke up two decades later and like, ‘holy crap, all of my data is online. Terrorists are using this to plot against my fellow citizens. People are sexually abusing and distributing content of children, people are selling illegal drugs that are affecting people in my community, people are selling illegal weapons that are affecting people in my community, and it doesn’t look as good as it did a few days ago when everything was free.’ So I think the tech companies have a huge responsibility.They can’t anymore just say, ‘We are a platform, we simply make it available to the world.’ We can no longer stand back and say, ‘You have zero responsibility for what you’re doing.' We have to treat them like every other industry that we treat. Just because they’re a digital online platform doesn’t give them a bye.

“So here’s the question that I think consumers should ask themselves: what is the inherent value of Facebook, what is the inherent value of Twitter, what is the inherent value of YouTube? Do we want to reward the bad behavior of these companies? We should just take a long, hard look at how we want to be engaging online. We have to change cultures, we have to change laws, we have to change business models, we have to change behavior.”

Please find additional videos from the series below:

April 24: Intro

May 1: Internet

May 9: eGLYPH

May 16: Misuse

May 23: Fake News

May 30: Advertising

June 6: Products & Consumers