Who’s to blame?
When something seriously bad happens, it’s easy to blame ‘big tech.’ It’s the trendy thing to do.
And thus, in the wake of Friday’s massacre in New Zealand, big tech companies have been blamed for allowing the suspect to be radicalised, for not doing enough to stop his video footage from spreading, and for failing to police user behaviour more generally.
Platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit certainly have to take their share of the blame for not taking the darker corners of their userbase seriously enough for too long. And their need to please shareholders and attract advertisers has led them to deploy resources in ways that have exacerbated the situation. They’ve emphasised growth over community far too often.
But it’s all too easy to blame big tech while giving a pass to all the others who should take a share of the blame too.
- Traditional newspapers, some of which shared the Christchurch video on their websites, and many of which (in the UK and elsewhere) have been happy to share racist views via the ragebait opinions of 'shocking’ columnists, and via bigoted angles on news stories about everything from immigration to foreign policy.
- The media more widely, which has for too long failed to get a grip on the underbelly of online culture, and how certain message boards and communities have become breeding grounds for the most vile opinions and behaviour.
- People around the world for wanting to copy and share a truly horrific video.
- Society as a whole for tolerating a media landscape that promotes racism, and acting all too often as if we live in a world that is post-racism. It’s not the 90s anymore, we shouldn’t be even pretending there’s not a serious problem.
- The perpetrator. Seriously. Some find it easy to forget to blame the person who actually went out and killed people.
There are plenty of things we should criticise big tech companies for, but let’s remember that those companies are made up of people – people like the rest of us. And we all have to ask ourselves how responsible we each are for the state of our society.