Much has changed since America’s Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. The words meant exactly what they said. But today, they take on new meaning.
Out of that Declaration eventually grew a new nation with the U.S. Constitution and, very quickly, the first ten amendments that became known as the Bill of Rights. But the basic freedoms of speech, assembly and religion are under assault. At times, the Internet and social media are the excuses for these assaults.
But the Internet is a symptom of this greater struggle between those who would impose their views on us, versus those who believe that technology is not an excuse to abandon the Bill of Rights. Always remember — first principles do not change, only how we apply those principles.
Yes, Facebook and Google and the tech giants are private companies. They are not government. And as long as government does not protect them from competition, there will be competition, we don’t always know who or how or when. Even the current Attorney General in charge of anti-trust, Makan Delrahim, does not view antitrust enforcement as a panacea, but more likely as preferable to regulation.
So, these private companies have the right to establish standards of usage; the question is whether those standards are rationally determined, with objectivity and fairness in mind, and defined and administered with clarity and even-handedly. I’ve written before on this and will blog separately.
But America is a republic, meaning that its democracy is qualified and limited. For example, a majority of citizens cannot vote to abrogate the Bill of Rights. A democracy requires an informed citizenry and an electoral process that is tainted.
The interference by Russia in the 2016 election was both a bad deed and a warning shot. Its exploitation of social media for intruding into the U.S. elections is not original in methodology; and other nations may follow.
That’s why I’m pleased that technology I helped develop can provide a way to monitor public social media continuously and search for culprits. By “culprits” I don’t mean people who voice their views, advocate for their causes, try to persuade others. I’m talking about phony, fraudulent, unreal robots (“bots”), and I’m especially concerned about foreign intrusion and the ability to leverage initial ruptures of the free and robust exchange of views and ideas into an escalating, virus-like propaganda bug.
We have the ability to find the culprits — particularly the foreign culprits. We can identify them, source them, engage and even interdict them. We must do so not simply to preserve the integrity of our electoral process, at least in terms of confronting this corruption of social media to make a mockery of our elections.
We must do so for this simple reason – if social media is contaminated with foreign actors — real and bots, then our electoral process is tainted. In a sense, I’m saying if social media is not independent but a means with which to intrude on the free flow of ideas not by openly influencing, but surreptitiously and maliciously subverting, then our elections are not independent.