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Freedom is great... mostly

29 August 2018

The United States of America holds itself up as a shining example of capitalism and the power, strength and wonders of free enterprise free speech.

Many US Presidents have focused on these aspects of the USA's culture and society as the things that "make American's proud to be American".

(brief pause whilst The Star Spangled Banner plays)

So these things are wonderful... until they aren't.

What am I talking about?

Well it seems that the companies which perhaps most demonstrate the powers of capitalism and free enterprise have upset the current President, Donald Trump.

In this story the BBC reports that Trump has issued a warning to Google, Twitter and Facebook in a way that seems to call into question their rights and powers as corporate citizens of the USA.

Apparently Trump is all in favour of companies being able to do their own thing, unfettered by government... right up until he feels that he's personally being disadvantaged.

Now, it would appear, the head of "the land of the free and the home of the brave" is throwing around the "R" word: "regulation".

All this revolves around the claims, by Trump and supporters, that the search results from these online companies are "prioritising negative news stories" about the political right.

In response, Google has claimed that it is doing no such thing and that they do not deliberately bias their search results for or against any political ideology.

Indeed, Google's algorithms tend to be more reflective of what the majority of people are actually reading. Unfortunately however, this can produce a positive-feedback loop which then further projects that material into the public spotlight by ranking it higher in the search results.

What is most worrying about this whole situation is not that those who control access to the news might be biased -- but that the President of the USA (any President of the USA) would see fit to consider regulating industries that he perceived were against him, for no reason other than he doesn't like that.

Of course most of us (sitting outside the USA) probably realise that this is almost certainly just more hot air from Mr Trump -- the same Mr Trump that criticises countries like China for censoring their internet and restricting access to material that *he* considers good but the Chinese authorities consider bad.

Perhaps Mr Trump needs to wake up and realise that although he is entitled to have an opinion on everything, he is not entitled to abuse his power to sate his own disdain for what is said about him.

Interestingly enough there was a slight parallel yesterday here in NZ when the National Party claimed that US whistle-blower Chelsea Manning ought not be allowed to enter NZ for her scheduled speaking engagements. What was it that John Key once was heard to utter? "Only those with something to hide...."

Politicians... they're a useless bunch aren't they?

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