Should Amazon Censor? Should Apple? Facebook? Microsoft?: Page 2

Posted December 2, 2010

Mike Elgan

Mike Elgan

(Page 2 of 2)

These facts raise a question about whether Facebook's censorship policy is a direct reflection of Facebook’s skewed employee demographic, which heavily favors the young and male. For example, if Facebook's CEO was a 45-year-old mother instead of a 26-year-old frat-boy, the company might choose to ban degrading photos of women and allow pictures of infant breastfeeding.

Should companies establish censorship policies that reflect their own internal values, rather than the values of society at large? On whose values should these policies be determined?

Should Microsoft Ban Swastikas In Games?

In the blockbuster Xbox game, Call of Duty: Black Ops, players can add patches and images to various objects in the game. Microsoft specifically bans the use of the swastika, the official symbol of the Nazi Party in Germany. The symbol has become associated with the holocaust, and by extension, anti-Jewish, white supremacist hate speech.

How should Microsoft censor symbols? By committee? Policy? As Microsoft Director of Xbox LIVE Policy and Enforcement Stephen Toulouse wrote on his blog, the anti-swastika policy is "not political correctness, it's fundamental respect."

That's easy to say, but how is "respect" determined in less clear-cut cases? Should companies like Microsoft ban everything anyone complains about?

It’s clear that banning swastikas is good policy. What’s less clear is: Where is the line, and how is that line determined? Should Confederate flags be allowed? Soviet hammer-and-sickle flags? Pirate flags?

It’s also clear that censorship is something most people believe private companies should do. But right now there is no process or standards by which they can do it. As a result, each company is left on its own to make important censorship decisions with wildly varying degrees of arbitrariness.

Maybe we need censorship policies to be issued by something equivalent to standards bodies for technology. Maybe there should be industry-wide working groups that get together and haggle over what kind of content should be allowed, and what should not be.

That way, at least, we’d have some objective metric against which to judge the performance of companies on what they ban and what they allow.

Or maybe they should just allow everything.

Let's hear your thoughts in the comments area!

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Tags: Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Wikileaks

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