October 3, 2017

STEVEN HAYWARD: A Reckoning for Silicon Valley Coming?

I’m not closely following the vote for independence going on this weekend over in Catalonia, but the news caught my eye that Google has acceded to the ruling of a Spanish judge that it must shut down the mobile phone app that referendum supporters had ginned up. Maybe this is the proper course, though it should also raise questions about whether it is a case study in what happens when you don’t have robust protections for free speech.

Beyond this instance, we know that Google, Apple, and other Silicon Valley tech giants are utterly supine in the face of demands for their cooperation with heavy government censorship especially in China. It is curious that Google and Apple, so confident in their pronouncements about How Things Should Be in America (example: Apple CEO Tim Cook saying he can’t understand why there is any debate at all about DACA—I guess the rule of law only counts when it’s being used to protect Apple’s intellectual property rights), are so timid when it comes to Chinese demands. Does China really want to eschew what Google has to offer? I can recall when American companies told South Africa that they would not cooperate with Apartheid laws there, and the South African government capitulated rather quickly.

That was different, because shut up.

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