Focus on This Tech Story

By Erick-Woods Erickson

Facebook has taken out full page ads attacking Apple’s new privacy policies. I’m with Apple on this. While I think Facebook is a far better tech company than most on the right and have cautioned against lumping Facebook into the same category as Google and Twitter when it comes to censoring conservatives, the privacy issue bothers me.

Honestly, thanks to Instagram, which is part of Facebook, I have found a ton of small businesses to support from clothing manufacturers to skilled artisans who’ve made carbon steel frying pans and knives and other things. Instagram, in all honesty, has allowed me to curate a small collection of artisans around the country on whom I rely for all sorts of things from meat rubs to clothes.

But regular Facebook gets kinda creepy. I have long since given up on persuading my friends and family that the Facebook app isn’t listening to us. I intuitively know it isn’t, but even I have encountered the familiar pattern of talking about something only to then see related ads pop up.

That, however, is not the issue I am talking about, but it is the issue about which much of the government and conservative movement are obsessing right now. It is a distraction from another issue unrelated to Facebook.

Ben Smith, writing in the New York Times, has a piece on Apple CEO Tim Cook killing a streaming service film project about Gawker Media. It is implied he killed it because Gawker outed him. Frankly, I am with Cook. The jackasses at Gawker once harassed my senior citizen mother until she started trying to share Jesus with the “reporter.”

The bigger issue is this bit buried in the story:

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president for internet software and services, who has been at the company since 1989, has told partners that “the two things we will never do are hard-core nudity and China,” one creative figure who has worked with Apple told me. (BuzzFeed News first reported last year that Mr. Cue had instructed creators to “avoid portraying China in a poor light.”)

Apple, like Disney, has a China problem. As the Apple observer and brilliant writer, John Gruber, notes,

This isn’t gossipy — or the least bit surprising — but unlike the Gawker show getting nixed, this “don’t offend China” rule ought to be genuinely scandalous. Ben Thompson beat me to the punch on yesterday’s edition of Dithering, observing that a rule like this about Russia during the Cold War would have blocked the entire James Bond franchise from existing, not to mention just about any lesser spy movies from the era. Or what of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove? Like the Soviet Union in the decades after WWII, China is not some obscure small player on the world stage, and they systematically do things that deserve to be portrayed “in a poor light”. To take China off the table is to take much of what’s going on geopolitically in the world today off the table.

China is running actual concentration camps and engaging in ethnic cleansing and slave labor. It covets our power on the world stage and is maneuvering to create a Chinese hegemony in the world.

Apple purports to be an American company with American values, but it is increasingly censorious on behalf of China.

For all of Facebook’s faults, Facebook does not operate in China. When China demanded Facebook provide it access to data in Hong Kong, Facebook declined.

I love Apple. I’m writing this on my 16” MacBook Pro. I’ll proofread it later on my iPad Pro. I’m wearing my Apple Watch. My iPhone is in my pocket. I’m wearing my AirPods Pro. I love Apple.

But Apple has entangled itself with a totalitarian regime that is exterminating its citizens. Apple uses human beings to curate news for Apple News and pushes news out to people. My family has noted how often they get news that puts Donald Trump in a bad light (not hard to do), but upon reflection, as I write this no one can remember a single time Apple News has pushed out anything critical of China into their news feeds. Apple covers for a totalitarian regime exterminating religious minorities while in this country regularly opposing religious liberty legislation.

The federal government should take a broader survey of technology. Again, I think conservatives have been treated way better by Facebook than Google or Twitter, though I understand and share some of the concerns about the company.

Apple portrays itself as virtuous and I favor its privacy policies that Facebook is now attacking. However, Apple does not have clean hands and we should not be distracted by its purported virtuousness when that virtuousness comes with a desire to cover for a monstrous regime that uses slave labor and engages in ethnic cleansing and targeted exterminations of people of faith.

Were this the 80’s, we would not tolerate Apple treating the Soviet Union the way it treats China. We should not tolerate the way it treats China.

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