The Short Version: Online Services & Speech
The point of it all is to break down the headlines, determine why an issue is important, and reveal the best arguments on each side of the story. Recently Cleo focused on the now infamous “Google Memo” that got its author fired. The subtext of the story is hiring practices and gender diversity.
This week, Cleo asks: Should online companies be able to deny service to individuals because they disagree with their views?
Note: If you have missed any of Cleo’s blogs, just go to our Home Page, type “The Short Version” into Search (magnifying glass icon) and poof, like magic, all her blogs will appear.
“I love getting feedback every week—thank you! If you want come hang out, debate a thing or two, and meet other Shorties, check out Short Events,” says Cleo.
One white supremacist, marching in Charlottesville, bragged that his group was “stepping off the internet in a big way.” That man, Robert Ray, is a writer for neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer.
While they were able to meet up offline, neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups are having trouble back on the internet. Service providers that the Daily Stormer depends on for people to access their site have refused to offer those services, making it difficult for the site—and others like it—to exist online.
Companies that provide online services like domain registration, hosting, and protection against cyber-attacks have refused service to neo-Nazi sites. Those companies include: GoDaddy, Google, Facebook, CloudFlare, Scaleway, as well as Chinese and Russian providers.
Why is it important?
The central question is: Should online companies be able to deny service to individuals because they disagree with their views?
There’s a difference between companies that allow you to exist on the internet, and companies that improve how you operate on the internet. The former, internet service providers (ISPs), are bound by net neutrality rules that classify high speed internet as a public utility.
The second, online service companies like Google, Facebook and CloudFlare, distribute, host and protect sites from cyber-attacks. These companies are not required to provide service to sites that they decide are violating their beliefs or terms of service.
Who online service companies decide to do business with has massive implications for individual sites. Some of these services are crucial for site stability and dominate their markets. CloudFlare alone handles around 10% of total Internet requests. As the CEO of CloudFlare himself put it, “without a clear framework as a guide for content regulation, a small number of companies will largely determine what can and cannot be online.”
Should major online services be required to be content neutral?
Why “The Short Version” on TIO:
Over nine years ago, Telluride Inside…and Out began as a lifestyle webzine. Today, in the full knowledge that Telluride is a window on the world, we continue to bring the “zazz” (short for “pizzazz) of the region to a local, national, and global audience by covering everything from Telluride’s robust cultural economy – major events and festivals – to health and fitness and outdoor adventure. When Telluride travels, we write about places to go, people to meet too. (That’s part of the “Out” part of our handle, the other, obviously, Outdoors.)
And now, this weekly column, “The Short Version,” which offers simple summaries of issues of national and global importance.
“The Short Version” is written by Cleo Constantine Abram, the daughter of Telluride locals Eleni Constantine and Jonathan Abram (and therefore an honorary local and regular visitor) and a digital strategist.
Why “The Short Version”? Because, though we live in Shangri-La, our bubble is not impermeable and the rest of the world is only a click away. Because there is no inconsequential action; only consequential inaction. And because information is power in a moment so many of us are feeling powerless.
More about Cleo Constantine Abram:
Cleo grew up in Washington D.C., lives in New York City, and loves to visit her parents in Telluride. She authors “The Short Version,” a newsletter that explains each week’s most important issue and both sides of the debate around it.
Cleo is a digital strategist now working at Vox, a general interest news site for the 21st century. Its mission is simple: Explain the news. Politics, public policy, world affairs, pop culture, science, business, and more.
Cleo’s work focuses on ways to share, educate, and inform using online platforms. While in college at Columbia University, she guided the school’s entrance into online education through her role as the youngest elected representative to the Columbia Senate, which makes university-wide policy.
She continued her work on online education at TED-Ed, the educational branch of the nonprofit, building new programs and online tools to support high school teachers worldwide.
Continuing her work with TED, Cleo founded and led an early TEDx conference, the organization’s community-specific series.
Recently, Cleo returned to school, studying video storytelling at Columbia Journalism School.
Most importantly, Cleo loves to ski.