It’s not surprising that tech companies based in the United States are favorite targets of cyber hackers and unknowingly become breeding grounds for nefarious activities that include global terrorism. These activities focus on American tech companies because they provide the infrastructure necessary for extremist groups around the world to thrive and prosper, while they tread closely on the edge of free speech that is valued and protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
American society highly values the right to free speech and tech companies worldwide are now struggling to determine where free speech crosses the line into something altogether different that can be used for dangerous and nefarious purposes.
One of the latest victims is WordPress.com, which is a free hosting site for any website built with WordPress. Executives of the tech giant are now grappling with that issue after the non-partisan advocacy and research group known as the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) identified WordPress.com as host to a number of questionable websites.
WordPress.com has been identified as a hosting source of websites that feature violent videos (firing squads, beheadings) and dangerous terrorist propaganda that many find offensive and outside the scope of free speech.
Automattic is the parent company of WordPress.com and its spokesperson issued a statement saying “While our service is designed to enable users to freely express their ideas and opinions, however controversial, safety is important to us. As such, we don’t allow websites of known terrorist groups or genuine calls for violence against individuals or groups on WordPress.com.” The CEP’s research contradicts that statement and executives at WordPress.com are currently investigating the matter.
The CEP shared correspondence from a WordPress.com employee who identified himself as “Sal P.,” who indicated “WordPress.com is deeply committed to free speech and will not take content down just because we find it offensive or disagree with the point of view,” adding that a review will be conducted of those individuals or groups that CEP alleges maintain iffy websites on WordPress.com and appear on the federal government’s “Specifically Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List.”
David Ibsen is the Executive Director of CEP and he told The Washington Post “In our experience dealing with tech companies, when they don’t want to do something, they talk about free speech, and when they want to do something, they talk about terms of service.”
Whatever you want to call it, executives at WordPress.com have a huge problem on their hands, as well as plethora of other vulnerable American tech companies.