The online exile of President Trump and his supporters has spread from Facebook and Twitter to little-known companies that operate Internet infrastructure, threatening his ability to raise funds, rally supporters, and still remain when he is about to leave the office. It is political and cultural power.
A large number of cybersecurity, hosting, and payment companies are discontinuing services for Trump and organizations that tolerate further violence by right-wing extremists.
This move highlights the power of a few companies on the Internet, including obscure Bay Area technology companies, which provide modern network services. Application designers and web engineers in the region are well-known that their services enable websites to load quickly, users verify their identities and process payments securely. Without them, it is difficult to maintain an online image that attracts a large number of people or is self-financing.
The social network Parler in Henderson, Nevada, went offline on Monday after Amazon Web Services stopped hosting because the impact of the US Capitol riots continued on Wednesday.
Parler users demanded Trump’s political opponents and further violent acts, if President-elect Biden was sworn in before the murder, according to screenshots.
San Francisco-based Twilio provides communication tools, including those used by Parler to protect user accounts, and also abandoned the application as a customer.
Twilio said that Parler violated a policy that “prohibits the spread of false information, encourages violence, damages property and other illegal activities, threatens public safety and damages Twilio’s reputation.”
“We identified posts advocating civil war, spreading malicious and fraudulent information about elections, calling users to assassinate government officials, and advocating racially motivated violence on Parler. The account will be suspended indefinitely,” the company added.
San Francisco security company Okta helps the company manage user identities, and the company also said it would cut off Parler.
The company said on Twitter: “Although we support the organization within the political sphere, our (service) will not be used for threats of violence and illegal activities.”
While some cheered the actions of tech companies (the anti-protesters supporting the ban outnumbered the pro-Trump protesters who promised to show up at Twitter’s pandemic headquarters on Monday), others were able to eliminate them Trump’s concerns are worried. the Internet.
Lina Khan, a professor at Columbia University and a well-known technology critic, said that the unilateral ability of large companies to suppress communications stems from the government’s failure to regulate them as an essential infrastructure provider.
She said: “Traditionally, the United States has dealt with infrastructure providers by applying a strict set of rules and requirements that limit its power, because we recognize that these services are very important to public life and cannot be entirely determined by private entities. ,”
“Since we have not updated the law, Google, Facebook, and Amazon have uncontrolled power over key communication channels. Beyond that, do we agree to any particular hosting decision. The real question is who makes the rules: Democracy is responsible? Public officials, or a small group of private executives?” she said.
Jim Steyer, the founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization in San Francisco that advocates media literacy, supports Trump’s ban, but also expressed concern about concentration.
“In this case, there are every reason and out of public interest considerations to restrict the use of undemocratic violent forces. These violent forces not only use social media to spread lies about the results of the presidential election, but they also organize violence against the presidential election. Attack. The US Capitol and our democracy itself,” he said. “For some of the largest companies like Facebook, this raises the question of whether these companies are too big and should they be split.”
Robyn Caplan, a researcher at the non-profit organization Data & Society, said the measures taken by the two companies are significant, but online efforts to limit hate speech and white supremacy are limited.
Kaplan said: “After Charlottesville, we did see the same thing, but it didn’t necessarily weaken white supremacy.” Kaplan refers to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Virginia in 2017 The parade.
After Heather Heyer was murdered in an anti-protest, Google and the web hosting company GoDaddy blocked the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer. After that, it returned with another domain name.
Kaplan said: “This will continue to be a “mouse” game.
Parler sued Amazon on Monday, asking it to start its web hosting service, saying that the Seattle e-commerce company “is obviously for political purposes, the company leases the capacity of its data center to other companies.” Obviously, it also aims to reduce competition in the microblog service market, thereby benefiting Twitter. “
“The antitrust claims against Amazon appear to be baseless,” said John Newman, a law professor at the University of Miami in Florida who specializes in antitrust law. “There is no evidence that the companies actually agreed to start Parler, and there is no conspiracy.”
Amazon had previously cited Parler’s inability to review the content as its final service reason and said the lawsuit was groundless. After the riots last week, Google and Apple also removed the mobile version of Parler from their app stores for similar reasons.
Actions against Trump and his allies have expanded to e-commerce, messaging and even online travel.
Critics found that Teespring, a T-shirt sales service in San Francisco, offered “Camp Auschwitz” shirts (similar to those worn by some Capitol mobs), and cut off business with vendors selling offensive clothing.
A company spokesperson said in an email: “We firmly prohibit or tolerate any content that promotes racism, anti-Semitic or hate speech, including neo-Nazi designs currently circulating online.” The spokesperson said: “Any upload of such The content will be quickly and permanently banned.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Stripe, one of San Francisco’s largest online payment processors, will stop processing donations to Trump, which complicates the president’s financial outlook. PayPal and Shopify also severed ties with Trump, and GoFundMe cancelled fundraising activities for Trump supporters.
Salesforce, a marketing and sales software provider in San Francisco, said it has restricted the Republican National Committee’s use of its products. As first reported by the online news site Vice, it includes a fundraising email list managed by the committee through the Trump campaign, which has never emailed its millions of supporters since Wednesday.
“We are all deeply troubled by the terrible events of January 6. Although we all hope that these events will never happen again, it is regrettable that there is still a risk of politically incited national violence. The Republican National Committee is here. The previous government has been a long-term customer, and we have taken action to prevent it from using our services in any way that might lead to violence.” Salesforce said.
Since the violent Charlottesville rally, Airbnb has prohibited members of hate groups from booking rent for its services, and the company said it will apply this policy to people seeking accommodation near or in the capital on the eve of the inauguration. It encourages the host to call the hotline if he suspects that the guest is a member of the group.
Kaplan said that the ban indicates the right to use power technology companies and said that continuous review may be needed, especially when marginalized groups are affected.
Kaplan said: “What most advocates in this field want to see is that these companies are more consistent and more transparent.”
Shwanika Narayan and Roland Li are contributors to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @shwanika, @rolandlisf