If you have several email accounts,
you might suspect a bunch of corporations just sent their legalese
munchkins to a writer’s workshop. What’s
going on here?
is the 800 pound gorilla of computer technology.
There are some new
changes to the Microsoft user agreement. This affects users
of Hotmail or their many other services (121 are listed). Could this
have any implications for freedom of speech? The answer wasn’t hard to
Item 5 describes “offensive
language”, specifying it “means violent, profane, or hateful
language”. It states that this merely “clarifies that inappropriate
content includes offensive language, among other things.” That’s
remarkably open-ended. Presumably, tirades
count. However, technically even a swear word is a violation. They’re
not micromanaging that far yet, but they could.
user agreement states the following under 2.a.vii:
Don’t engage in activity that is
harmful to you, the Services, or others (e.g., transmitting viruses,
stalking, posting terrorist content, communicating hate speech, or
advocating violence against others).
This 15,000 word document clarifies
the vague phrase “hate speech” no further. Legalese by some other
companies actually does, though enforcement
standards are selective.
Suppose you’re caught emailing
politically incorrect jokes, or maybe the treatise on guerrilla
warfare by St.
Che (presumably that’s “terrorist content”).
If you get locked out of your account, causing you to lose a major
business deal, can you go to court? Item 11 under “Standard
Application License Terms” says:
…[Y]ou can recover from the
application publisher only direct damages up to the amount you paid
for the application or $1.00, whichever is greater. You will not,
and waive any right to, seek to recover any other damages, including
lost profits and consequential, special, direct, indirect, or
incidental damages, from the application publisher.
Was that email account free? Okay, so
you can sue them for a buck. Or, maybe not. The “Binding Arbitration
and Class Action Waiver” section states that you can’t go to court.
Instead, some arbitrator decides.
Things might get more restrictive and
intrusive yet. Behold the standard “we can do anything” clause:
We may change these Terms at any
time, and we’ll tell you when we do. Using the Services after the
changes become effective means you agree to the new terms.
Would you want to get a car loan if
the finance company dictated where you could drive? What if they also
permitted themselves to change the loan’s terms whenever they wanted,
and continuing to drive it constituted your acquiescence? You could
find another company, but that’s difficult if every major bankster
specifies the same conditions.
least they didn’t call it “The Cabal”.
Verizon teamed up with Yahoo and AOL
to form a new company called Oath. That curious name sounds rather
imposing. A USA Today article states:
Armstrong on Tuesday stressed that
the brands will stay the same. We are going to be “all in in terms
building awesome products and services among the biggest brands we
have,” Armstrong told CNBC.
According to this upbeat article:
Armstrong has described Oath as a
B2B brand, overseeing the names that you are all familiar with.
Beyond Yahoo and AOL, those names include Tumblr, Huffington Post,
TechCrunch and Engadget. In all, about 1.3 billion consumers use the
company’s collection of brands making these among the most powerful
digital brands on the Internet.
So about a sixth of the world’s
population is “under Oath”.
A MediaPost item describes
that they’ve allowed themselves to scan your email. If you don’t like
it, tough luck:
Google stopped scanning Gmail
messages last year. It has faced class-action lawsuits and criticism
over the practice.
CNET reports that Oath has extended
its arbitration clause and class-action waiver to Yahoo Mail, and
that this will make it harder for consumers to sue.
Oath’s revised policy covers
“analyzing content and information when you use our services
(including emails, instant messages, posts, photos, attachments, and
other communications), linking your activity on other sites and apps
with information we have about you, and providing anonymized and/or
aggregated reports to other parties regarding user trends,”
according to media reports.
But wait! There’s more!
Gizmodo reports that Oath “even
notes that it can collect Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) data
from images uploaded by the user—information that can be used to
identify everything from the date and time a photo was taken to the
geolocation associated with an image.”
It’s splendid how corporations keep
wriggling deeper into our personal lives. Again, it may get even worse
yet; items 12.b-c comprise their “we can do anything” clause.
Further, presumably if they can snoop
in your email for targeted advertising, they also can search
robotically for politically incorrect content you might be sending to
your friends. Are there rules against that? Of course! Item 2.d.ii of
of Service says you can’t:
…make available any content that is
harmful to children, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious,
defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another’s
privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically, or otherwise
“Otherwise objectionable” couldn’t
possibly be any more vague. Their guidelines
page does clarify further, though:
use hate speech. Hate speech directly attacks a
person or group on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin,
religion, disability, disease, age, sexual orientation, gender, or
gender identity. As noted above, we’re a diverse global community of
many types of people, with different beliefs, opinions,
sensitivities, and comfort levels. Please be respectful and keep
hateful and incendiary comments off of Oath. Read these tips
for confronting hate speech from
the Anti-Defamation League.
This goes beyond ordinary PC
standards. Freely debating religion, morality, or immigration policy
becomes effectively impossible. Even calling spergs socially
maladjusted is “hate speech” too. So is putting down baby
boomers. The list goes on.
censorship damages their reputation more than images like this.
Further, they endorse the ADL’s
standards, but that alphabet soup outfit certainly has an agenda.
They’ve been pushing online censorship since
the 1990s when cyberspace was new. However, the Internet
was never designed to be a big hug-box.
“hate speech” anyway?
leftists express strong opinions, that’s free speech. Big
Note well, “hate speech” isn’t a
legal term, or even a precise concept (it’s less definable than
“heresy”). Rather, it’s a new framing tactic to delegitimize
politically incorrect viewpoints. This deliberately restricts debate.
Controlled opposition opinions are tolerated, but standards change.
In practice, the mildest criticism of
multiculturalism becomes “hate speech”. So does thoroughly researched
discussion about biological group differences. Politically correct
censorship always applies
standards unevenly. People can argue incessantly for militant
Islam, open borders, radical feminism, gender bending, having sex with
anything that moves, or exterminating Western civilization. However, arguing against
these might get accounts shut down.
That’s the problem with vague phrases
like “hate speech”. (Censorship advocates consider this a feature, not
a problem.) Cubicle munchkins you’ll never meet determine what you’re
allowed to say. For example, your caustic remarks about Canadian
chicks might be deemed “hateful” by a
blue-haired feminist with a nose ring, working for some effete
Silicon Valley technocrat.
you trust big business to safeguard your privacy and freedom of
Huge corporations that can rewrite
the rules any time are effectively omnipotent. They’ve drastically
limited any recourse by their customers. They even get to decide what
you’re allowed to say in private email. Actually, these
changes—dressed up with perky public relations—are nothing companies
haven’t already been doing. Still, the simultaneous timing seems
Governments sometimes behave
this way too; that’s considered despotic. Is it okay when
corporations do that?