It feels natural in the aftermath of a deadly white supremacist hate march that business leaders would rethink certain practices. Kenneth Frazier, the black CEO of the pharmaceutical company Merck, resigned from the White House manufacturing council after President Donald Trump provided succor to the racist marchers. In part because Trump lashed out at Frazier on Twitter, his decision has become a dominant news story, and prompted calls for other executives on the council to abandon Trump.
But the announcement that GoDaddy will cancel domain hosting service to the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer is probably the more important story.
In the background of the Trump era, a debate has raged about whether or to what extent various hosting services should be obliged to deny platforms to hate groups and their members. Overwhelmingly, this has been posed as a question to social networking companies like Twitter and Facebook, where terms-of-service standards are loose and arbitrarily enforced. These companies have tiptoed around the debate, ostensibly to avoid being put in the position of applying standards of morality and decency to speech.
In just the same way manufacturing CEOs are now asked to follow Frazier’s lead, Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley titans ought to be asked whether they’ll follow GoDaddy, and why GoDaddy beat them to the punch. These companies have often shown, sometimes in highly questionable circumstances, that they’re capable of taking a hard line against “hate speech.” Now that a life has been lost to a hate mob that organized on social media, their position has been substantially weakened.