Over the past week, there’s been much discussion over social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube and the roles that each of them had to play in the events of last week. With this discussion, there’s been increasing demands for these platforms to be held accountable for both the attack on Capitol Hill and countless previous incidents in which they served as influential mediums in the spread of disinformation. But one thing I haven’t seen brought up nearly as much as I think it should be is the liability of the platforms allow use of these social platforms in these events. Are the platforms that enable the platforms that enable the spread of disinformation tangentially responsible in spreading that disinformation?
The App Store made the news once again this week after it banned far right social platform Parler in response to the platform refusing to take down posts threatening further attacks after the platform was previously used to plan the attacks on the Capitol. On its own, this seems like the unequivocally right move. The theoretical problem with Apple’s actions here are not in what they did, but what they didn’t do. They didn’t ban or even make similar demands Twitter. Or Facebook. Or Youtube. Each of which had an equal or greater role in providing a platform for planning last week’s episode. But should have Apple have strong-armed these companies the same way they did so to Parler?
No, not in my mind, at least. Where Parler differs from these other platforms is in its practical endorsement of this violence inciting content. It largely exists to provide a platform for it in a world where Twitter and Youtube, and, to even though a lesser extent, Facebook, try to fight it. Apple made the right move here, it has a responsibility to stop a platform that exists to incite violence and spread disinformation. What it isn’t responsible for is the spread of disinformation and incitement of violence through algorithms on Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. That’s on each of those respective companies.
However, I still think that Apple would do good to leverage it’s position as the provider of the platforms that enables each of these platforms to fight the problems raised by these platforms, but by no means does it have any responsibility to, that lies on the platforms, as I said earlier. Though, I do believe that, and I don’t like to let dead men speak through me, Steve Jobs, seeing the potential for positive societal impact his role held in this position, would have taken such action here.