Digital culture

Facebook, Australia and democracy

In the week ending 20 February, users of Facebook platforms in Australia found links to many external sites no longer available. Facebook claimed they aimed only to cut links to news outlets, but the bans were more wide-ranging including some trade-union and campaigning organisations (such as Living Income For Everyone, LIFE, where Workers’ Liberty people in Australia are active), as well as state bodies. Facebook have stated that some of the bans have been errors, but it is unclear which will be reinstated or when. It has gone for “shoot first, question later” maximum disruption. That is its...

Regulating social media

Two previous articles in Solidarity (579 and 580) have examined censorship on social media. I argued that social media is a breeding ground for right-wing and far-right ideas. The current moves by both states and the social media corporations mainly aim to check right-wing incitement and misinformation, and it is difficult to oppose such moves as Twitter banning Trump. But then what? Many on the left see unrestricted access for all to the social-media megaphones as a free speech issue, on the supposition that the left will be the main targets of censorship. But in fact the issue now is the far...

Gun clubs, churches, unions

As Matt Cooper describes (Solidarity 579 and 580), social media has been a prime vehicle for the far right. So much so that mainstream bourgeois institutions want curbs. How do we find an answer from the left? I don’t know. A further bit of diagnosis may help us along the way, though. Why do so many people believe such off-the-wall ideas? As Matt reports, false conspiracy theories and “secret scandal” stories spread faster on social media than truth because they are more emotive and more adhesive to “continuous partial attention”. But why are they then believed enough to motivate people to...

How social media has fed the right

The first part of this article (Solidarity 579) looked at the recent rash of internet censorship. Much of this has been directed at the right, as we saw with Trump’s removal from Twitter and Facebook, though there have been some attacks on the left. This second part will examine why social media platforms have become seedbeds for the right. Because social media relies on user-generated and third-party content, it has become not only a forum for discussion but the medium through which other media, including the news, is now seen. In the UK 75% of people get some of their news via television, 65...

After Twitter bans Trump

Anyone who is not amused by the tantrum of a spoilt child who at long last breaks that gratingly noisy toy some distant relative unthinkingly gave them has a heart of stone. But just as most of us have qualms about openly mocking upset children, many on the left kept to themselves the warm glow of satisfaction that followed from Trump having his preferred trumpet of Twitter snatched from his hands. Our reticence is likely the result of a fear of damaging the cause of free speech. The internet has been for many years a realm where free speech has been assumed. It has been the rise of Trump, and...

A trade union at Google

“We are the workers who built Alphabet. We write code, clean offices, serve food, drive buses, test self-driving cars and do everything needed to keep this behemoth running." The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) was launched on 4 January by 226 workers at Google and its parent company Alphabet, in partnership with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Within their first week they trebled their membership and denounced YouTube for “its insufficient response” to the storming of the Capitol on 6 January. In 2018 Google deprioritised the motto “don’t be evil”. The company’s main business is...

New threats from online abuse

Online abuse of women is widespread in the UK, with one in five women having suffered online abuse or harassment, according to research from Amnesty International. Almost half of women said the abuse or harassment they received was sexist or misogynistic, with a worrying 27% saying it threatened sexual or physical assault. And it affects the left more now. With physical distancing measures and continuing lockdown, much of political activity has moved online. Zoom meetings have become the new normal, with forgetting to unmute and poor connection now routine in our political discussions. Worse...

Activists need better tools than Facebook

When tens of thousands of people in Belarus decided to protest in the streets, they first of all needed a way to communicate with each other. With internet being widely available, they chose to use the Telegram messaging app. Telegram is not nearly as well known in Britain, where Skype (owned by Microsoft), Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger (both owned by Facebook) are more popular. But it should be – especially by those of us on the Left. Telegram was set up in Russia in 2013 by Pavel and Nikolai Durov, tech millionaires who originally created the social network Vkontakte, which...

The AWL, elections and controversies

Over the next two weeks the left wing Labour group Momentum is holding internal elections in which we are participating and we have already seen agitation focused on damaging candidates who are supporters of the AWL and other candidates with whom we have worked. What's going on? Over the last three to four years, since the Labour Party became a hotbed of factional in-fighting, individuals and small groups of Labour Party members have from intermittently organised social media campaigns of lies and distortions against the AWL. This agitation always coincides with Labour or left elections in...

The future and robots

Fuelled by rapid developments in technological innovation hyped in recent years, although mostly developed over the last two decades, many cerebral types suggest we may be at the start of some significant changes in capitalist production. They even gave it a grandiose name: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Socialists, Marxists, progressives have a history of taking technology and advocating its use for more than just the most efficient exploitation. Perhaps however, the pace of innovation is making this harder. The techy elite, a traditionally well-meaning liberal bunch, and the...

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