Apple, LinkedIn, Spotify and Twitter have joined a growing chorus of technology companies to hit out at the far right and Donald Trump’s attempt to put white supremacists and leftwing counter-demonstrators at Saturday’s Charlottesville protest on the same moral plane.
Following the lead of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google, Go Daddy and others, Apple CEO Tim Cook pledged $1m donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League and sent a strongly worded memo to staff, quoting Martin Luther King, about the violence in Charlottesville on Saturday.
“We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it,” Cook wrote. “This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality.
Amid the ongoing fallout from the violence that saw a civil rights activist killed, music subscription service Spotify began removing so-called white power music, flagged by the SPLC as racist “hate bands”.
A Spotify spokesperson said: “Illegal content or material that favours hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us. Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention.
“We are glad to have been alerted to this content – and have already removed many of the bands identified, while urgently reviewing the remainder.”
Addendum: Some of you have given me grief over my posting of yesterday defending PayPal’s decision to stop serving some political groups. I see it this way: giving PayPal its way passes a freedom of association test, and it also passes what I call a “first order Coasean test,” namely that Paypal and its affiliates wish to stop the relationship more than the cut off parties are willing to pay to maintain it. Of course this development might have troublesome secondary consequences, due to slippery slopes, and also due to the spread of the practice to more monopolized sectors of the American economy. Still, until major negative consequences emerge in verifiable and durable form…I am going to stick with the Coasean and freedom of association metrics for policy evaluation. Should I have to deal with “extremist” groups if I don’t wish to? No. Is there a prima facie case for extending this same freedom to PayPal? Yes. But absolutely, I am all for vigilance to keep an eye on whether things start to go wrong in a big way. And no, I don’t count all these “day after” reactions as nearly sufficient to establish that conclusion.