Google Made The News This Weekend…
*** Google Chrome Extension Story UPDATE *** Gizmodo posted a follow-up to this story indicating those behind this plugin have wider plans than just the Chrome extension. They have a GitHub page (currently down and hopefully due to GitHub banning them). which when up has the code for a Firefox plugin and or sideloading the extension. Worse still is that this GitHub page had a list of all the echo tagged Jews. ***
Google may have pulled a Chrome Extension designed to identify and target Jews by allowing online racists to tag the names of journalists, bloggers (etc) they believe to be Jewish. This was done using (((alleged Jewish Name))) around the name, this became known as the echo. Once Google became aware of this, the extension called Coincidence Detector was pulled. There are bigger questions that need addressing: –
1) Are Google working with Law Enforcement to ensure the company and developers responsible for this face justice?
2) Are Google working to improve their review process for their Extension and App submission process to ensure hate-apps do not even get approved?
Approximately 8800 people were identified by this extension allowing anti-Semites to harass and threaten them and have no doubt, this would have escalated. It’s time for Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and others to aggressively police themselves, their app stores and social networks they manage.
Make no mistake this “hate-app” may have been caught but others will be out there and the unpoliced hate-speech should be cause for concern for us all.
Fear Lead to Hate, Hate Leads to Anger & Hate-apps Lead to Violence…
This would not be the first time technology was exploited by anti-Semites to target Jews. The Nazis exploited the German subsidiary of IBM to access their technology. This enabled them to tabulate and collate lists of Jews and other minorities for extermination during the Holocaust.
Just last week we read that Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Microsoft agreed to apply EU rules to a code of conduct regarding online hate-speech. One of the contributory causes to this decision between the EU and these tech giants has been the increase in hate-speech online, recent terrorist events across Europe and the unquestionable increase in online recruitment by terror groups. However, the Verge’s post on this leaves one with a feeling that this is not an improvement. I strongly recommend you read that post carefully. Why are these companies not adopting a worldwide stance that goes beyond the letter of local laws?
The Warptest POV
For us to entrust these companies with our personal and commercial data we need to be sure that these companies can be trusted to do what is right and just. There is no question that anyone who would develop technology to target any specific group for harassment or threat will escalate to physical violence.
Many of these companies have not done enough in the past to handle their acting as a funnel for this kind of hate and the spread to apps and extensions is both logical and foreseeable.
If so, why is the approval process not designed to catch this? To be fair, a smart developer will do everything to obfuscate the intentions of such a hate-app. This doesn’t mean that these companies shouldn’t be doing more. Nor does it mean that governments or law enforcement should be ceding the fight to private corporations.
These corporations are currently fighting to allow access to their customer and user data. Law enforcement needs to demonstrate a responsible attitude not the greedy “give us all your data” and we’ll find the criminals stance. The NSA with PRISM and the FBI with their petition to decrypt the San Bernadino terrorist’s iPhone demonstrate the balancing act needed here.
Ultimately, the public needs protection from these new threats to their safety. Do we sacrifice freedom of speech or privacy for this? Tough questions and ethical dilemmas abound but ultimately this is about peoples safety. This means at the very least, the debate should be a burning issue right now.
There are others out there who will undoubtedly be working to actively locate and identify those behind this new threat. I expect we will know the names of the developers behind this particular Chrome Extension within short time.
One ray of hope and a tinge of humor was an article on Tablet Magazine explaining how astute journalist Yair Rosenberg used twitter to crowd-source an appropriation of the echo tag (((alleged Jewish Name))). Well played Yair for showing that Twitter is still relevant and is a valuable tool in combatting this kind of hate.
In a nutshell, there needs to be a zero tolerance standard adopted by these companies. A standard that acts to prevent these threats from going live online. A standard that publicly outs these provocateurs of hate and racism. A standard that willingly supplies the identities of these people to Law Enforcement. Not cleaning up after the fact.
Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and others: this is your call to action.