On December 19, CLBR will have its annual year-end Heroes and Zeros episode in which, with guests Brenda Christensen, Denise Howell and Dan Tynan, we highlight those doing wonderful things on the internet and those deserving a cyber lump of coal.
Below is my list of 10 zeros for 2018.
MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN
Saudi Crown Prince
Zero of the Year
At CLBR, we have taken great interest in online efforts to reform this repressive regime, highlighting both women’s efforts to end male guardianship rules and the jailing and flogging of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. MBS, as he is not so affectionately known, earned a place on this list when he jailed and tortured women activists prior to finally permitting women to drive earlier this year and for his continued refusal to release Raif Badawi. Then came the cold-blooded murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in what may be the most brazen state execution of a journalist since Nigeria executed Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995.
Our other zeros are guilty of many things, but murder is not one of them and for that MBS earns our Zero of the Year.
Time Magazine named Bird to its 50 Genius Companies list this year. By many accounts it is. Founded in Santa Monica in 2017, it now has a $2 billion valuation and it has served a transportation need that was not being addressed. My problem with Bird is that it fully embodies the “move fast, break things” ethos of Silicon Valley. Bird’s strategy from the start has been to ask forgiveness and not permission. It launched in Santa Monica without a business license and had gained quick acceptance which helped offset the $300,000 criminal fine from the city.
Move fast and breaking things is dangerous when it comes to transportation. Bird did little at first to educate its users on proper usage, helmet requirements, parking and age requirements. Only after complaints from injuries, residents frustrated by illegal driving or tripping over Birds left laying on sidewalks, did Bird respond. As a result, when Santa Monica launched a pilot program to permit scooters, it almost excluded Bird because of its poor compliance record.
Social Media Giant
Six of Business Insider’s 18 Biggest Tech Scandals of 2018 involved Facebook – including the Cambridge Analytica scandal, its role in promoting genocide in Myanmar, a data breach affecting 29 million users and its promoting anti-semitic smears against George Soros. Add to the list, the discovery that Facebook collected and used users’ call histories and you have a spectacularly awful year that makes Facebook the poster child for a soulless Silicon Valley that has lost its way.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman
Representative Goodlatte, a longtime co-chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus, is stepping down at the end of this Congress. So you think he might have known better in pushing through the controversial Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (“SESTA”) (see recent presentation) or in hosting a hearing featuring Diamond and Silk on alleged social media bias that California Democrat Ted Lieu said was “stupid and ridiculous.”
Goodlatte also was criticized for presiding over hearings attacking the FBI role in investigating President Trump, leading his son to endorse the Democrat in the race to fill his seat.
In 2018 we discovered that Google had removed the motto “don’t be evil” from its Code of Conduct. This must have come in handy in its unsuccessful race to match Facebook in major scandals – it merely had 5 of the Business Insider’s top tech scandals of 2018. This includes a $5 billion fine from the EU for antitrust violations; planning to launch a censored search engine in China (Dragonfly); concealing a major data breach involving Google+; refusing to send their CEO to testify before Congress over 2016 election interference and giving a $90 million golden parachute to an executive forced out due to sexual harassment allegations.
From his denial of the Sandy Hook massacre to the Pizzagate Hoax, Alex Jones has risen to the top of the conspiracy theory, hate speech and fake news dung heap. In 2018, however, this caught up to him as some social media platforms suspended or altogether banned Jones and Infowars.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, last year’s Zero of the Year for repealing Net Neutrality, had another year worthy of condemnation. In 2018, we discovered that his claim that the FCC’s comment system was shut down as part of DDoS attack was false, that he was withholding data on ISP broadband speeds and that he was under investigation for ties to Sinclair Media.
See separate post.
DONALD J. TRUMP
The Washington Post’s fact checker reported that Trump had made 6,420 false statements through October 30th – an average of 30 per day. Such disinformation corrodes democracy as it prevents legitimate debate. Trump also has used his Twitter account and office to attack fundamental democratic principles – a free press, an independent judiciary and law enforcement not driven by politics.
After a campaign full of race-baiting, we see the fruit of such bigotry, with the death of a 7-year old detained at the border as her family sought asylum as they are legally permitted to do under U.S. and international law.
The Obama-era net neutrality rules prohibiting ISPs from throttling users, but that was thrown out the window by FCC Chair Ajit Pai. So it should come as no surprise that Verizon Wireless throttled its unlimited data subscriber Santa Clara Fire Department while it was fighting this year’s historic wildfires.
Listen on Wednesday, December 19th at 1PM ET / 10AM PT on WebmasterRadio.fm as I discuss the Heroes and Zeros for 2018 with our special guests – Brenda Christensen, Denise Howell and Dan Tynan.