Tim Cook, the CEO for Apple, recently singled out white supremacists and violent conspiracy theorists saying that anyone who is looking to spread hate, have no place using any of Apple’s platforms. We live in a time when hate speech has become the “norm”. While this is hard for me to admit, it seems to be more prevalent right now. Over the last year or so we’ve seen tech giants like Facebook and Twitter attempt to put a stop to it, but it continues. In some cases, it’s not always the social networking site’s fault. I mean, they can only patrol and block so much. But that doesn’t mean they should stop trying.
During the Anti-Defamation League’s first ever “Courage Against Hate” award event that was held in New York City, Cook highlighted Apple’s commitment to preventing hate speech from spreading across the Apple ecosystem. This particular award recognizes individuals who champion unity, diversity and social progress. For the most part, these are characteristics we’ve seen from Apple, even though, they weren’t eligible for the award. Cook made the following, powerful statement:
“We only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division, and violence: You have no place on our platforms, you have no home here.”
How is Apple furthering this message though? In August, they removed five podcasts that were produced by extreme-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars from iTunes and Apple’s Podcast app. Jones has been criticized for promoting untrue, toxic hypotheses about extremely tragic events like the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. As you are aware those attacks killed nearly 3,000 people. In addition, he’s indicated similar theories about the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut that killed 26 students and staff.
Within one day of Apple removing that podcast, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and LinkedIn had all banned Jones himself, as well as his Infowars accounts. It took Twitter almost a week before removing him from their platform as well. Cook’s speech also included the following:
“From the earliest days of iTunes to Apple Music today, we have always prohibited music with a message of white supremacy. Why? Because it is the right thing to do. As we showed this year, we won’t give a platform to violent conspiracy theorists on the App Store. We believe the future should belong to those who use technology to build a better, more inclusive, and more hopeful world. I believe the most sacred thing that each of us is given is our judgment, our morality, our own innate desire to separate right from wrong. Choosing to set that responsibility aside in a moment of trial is a sin.”
Can we compare other tech giant’s actions to what Cook is doing? I think the short answer is yes. There will be another Alex Jones, and there will most certainly be another Infowars. Maybe with a different message, but my point is without the support from the likes of Apple, Facebook, or Twitter these kinds of messages will be spread. Maybe they don’t believe that they can stop it or even make a difference, but the truth is they have more power than they think. Or maybe they know how much power they have, but are refusing to do anything about it. This is why there needs to be some kind of regulation around technology companies. WIthout it, things like hate speech will perpetuate.