Silicon Valley is finding itself entrenched in battle with the far right over ground rules for the digital world, a conflict that mirrors the polarization of American politics in recent years.
The recent firing of a Google engineer for questioning the internet giant’s diversity efforts, which ignited a backlash from the “alt-right” and fueled charges of hypocrisy, is just one example.
Facebook has been accused of suppressing conservative voices and skewing information presented in its news feed.
Twitter has banned accounts from far right activists for violating its terms on “hate” speech.
Paypal refused to transmit donations to a group in Europe seeking to turn back refugees, claiming it does not support activities that promote “hate” or “violence.”
And even Airbnb canceled accounts ahead of a white nationalist rally for promoting discrimination in violation of the terms of the home-sharing platform.
Activists on the extreme right have responded with an outcry against the tech giants and have begun migrating to alternatives for social networking and money transfers.
The conflict has caught Silicon Valley off-guard, amid a political onslaught from critics as online platforms grow in importance.
In Silicon Valley, “you’ve got a bunch of people who are interested in technology who would prefer to be apolitical,” said Bob O’Donnell, consultant for Technalysis Research.
“They are being dragged into these decisions and being put into a difficult spot.”
O’Donnell acknowledged that the big tech firms may allow bias to filter into their business operations because “Silicon Valley and northern California are heavily…