Social media: 2 years ago, Google shut down the blog, email and all services of a prominent statistician

Social media: 2 years ago, Google shut down the blog, email and all services of a prominent statistician

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This is scary. In 2017, Google shut down all services provided to Salil Mehta, concerning his mathematics web site. Mehta was a U.S. Treasury executive under the Obama Administration, a consulting advisor on polling statistics to the Trump campaign, is author of a best selling statistics textbook and editor of a peer reviewed statistics journal,  and an adjunct professor of statistics at Georgetown and Columbia:

While responding to a New York Times editor about a Sunday print article I was referenced in, my Gmail suddenly stopped. Received an access denied screen, followed by a cold message that I violated terms of service. Appeals were unsuccessful, only verifying I was done. A decade of work gone. My blog read by millions, my university pages, all other properties that I had. Why? On a call with Google friends, they were nervous. Likely my website contents were problematic. It was the wrong “social climate”.

But unlike us mere peons:

“Mehta was lucky. The public outcry and press attention prompted Google to manually review his case… It could have turned out differently. Without his impressive credentials and far-reaching network, Mehta never would have found out why his Google account was shut down. He wouldn’t have been able to access his correspondence or restore his blog, which he says has been read by the likes of Elon Musk and Warren Buffett.”

Yet the problem remains pervasive as “artificial intelligence” software systems score all of our content – and make mistakes – or may be just intentionally censor those the big tech companies want to silence:

Accounts are flagged as all good or all bad, as opposed to individual content that might need to be removed. Hence only conservatives get quickly purged. Other times independent statisticians, historians, academics, policy makers, activists, and others are dumped on.

Source: Social media shutdown: 1-year later | Statistical Ideas

In effect, Google, Facebook and Twitter are the totalitarian governments of the 21st century arbitrarily and without recourse, shutting down any speech they choose to censor. Because Mehta is well known and read by many influential people, the outcry caused Google to restore his account.

In this environment, free speech will exist only the powerful and well connected. The rest of us will simply vanish.

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