I just got back from three days in Portland, Maine for Monktoberfest 2017. This year my founding partner Stephen put together a conference designed to inspire people to action. We can’t leave it up to others to define how we think and feel and act towards one other because they may not have our best interests at heart. It’s time to take a stand.
I have just had two days of inspiring talks, where speakers were vulnerable and honest, but strong. Resilience emerges from fragility. That strength is what I am going to take back to London, ready for the fight ahead. It doesn’t feel coincidental that the buzzfeed story about the alt-right and its quisling contributors broke today. All the sad little shitbags feeding an engine based on spite and bile. All the emails in the dark, from people fuelled on hate. Are we going to sit back and let gamergate own the culture? No. We are not. We must do better, and we can, and we will.
We can’t let people in tech fight behind the First Amendment any more. Congress can’t stop people expressing hateful opinions, but private companies can curtail them. Free speech doesn’t mean Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter have to turn a blind eye. Hate speech != free speech. If corporate lawyers are saying companies need to host hate, then these lawyers should be fired. The real reason any of these companies are hosting hate is because it pays the bills. And that, my friends, is the essence, the very definition, the alpha and omega of fascism. We need to stop giving tech platforms a free pass. The law matters, but even more so is doing what is right.
Don’t you fucking dare accuse us of piling on, when you have built a platform that enables roiling masses of death threats for women that voice an opinion. Stop whining and get your shit together.
While I was in Portland I began to wonder what a general strike would look like. If Biz and Jack don’t want to listen, then fine, let’s give them a day where we all just avoid Twitter. Crickets might help them understand.
Are we really supposed to believe that Facebook is repentant because of a couple of full page ads in broadsheet papers? Feeding the beast is good for business, but what’s good for business is not good for America. Or the UK, or Germany. Hate Speech does not equal Free Speech.
If Stephen has taught me anything the last 12 months it’s that we’re all in this together. Silence is not an option. We are better than this. This is our fight, not anyone else’s. We too can be a great generation but that means strength in unity. Let’s take our codes of conduct and make them count in the culture at large.
update: I was talking to my friend and neighbour Michael, and he reminded me of this important and useful primer by xkcd on Free Speech
Mark Cathcart says:
October 7, 2017 at 2:58 pm
Well said James, very well said.
When you look back at the numerous anti-trust cases the American Government an European Union have bought against big tech companies they all heralded and at least, have set the scene for shifts in how we buy, use an consume technology.
IBM, AOL(aim), Microsoft and more have been forced to change or at least open up significant parts of their business.
I think it’s time to do the same with the the big platforms now. The need to be required to be more transparent, and also potentially regulated over cross border advertising. So what if they think it’s proprietary and competitive information, so what if there business is demand ndant on it?
They’ve had a virtually free run for 10+ years, it’s time to grow up and b the change agent they can be, rather than the dark corner they are becoming.
October 7, 2017 at 3:27 pm
thanks mark. couldn’t agree more. we need to be more active in helping them do better
October 7, 2017 at 10:25 pm
Great post and some excellent ideas here. Why not put it into action? Pick a day and lets make it happen.
James Governor says:
October 8, 2017 at 11:29 am
hey zack, thanks! with the support of people of your calibre, we’re much more likely to achieve something meaningful. choosing a date feels like an interesting challenge- what don’t we want to clash with, how much notice do we need etc?
The Observation Deck » Talks I have given says:
February 4, 2018 at 5:43 am
[…] only watch one talk of mine, please watch Principles of Technology Leadership (slides) presented at Monktoberfest 2017. This is the only talk that I have asked family and friends to watch, as it represents my truest […]