Racist Apps In Google's Play Store Test Just How Free You Want Speech To Be
from the and-lots-of-people-get-failing-grades dept
But another reason I default to the allowance of nearly any speech (aside from that which causes real physical danger to people, of course) is that I don't believe in my ability to be an arbiter for what speech should be allowed or should not be allowed. Moreover, I don't believe in anyone's capacity to be that arbiter. And it's with the above in mind that I read what Andrew F alerts us to: "Asian American groups want Google to take down slightly offensive app by a third party."
The maker of a Google app thinks it's fun to make yourself look Asian by changing the shape of your eyes and wearing a Fu Manchu mustache and rice paddy hat. Another app - "Make Me Indian" - makes you a Native American with brown skin, war paint and a feather headband. KimberyDeiss makes other photo-altering apps including "Make Me Old" and "Make Me Fat." There's also "Make Me Russian" and "Make Me Irish," which play off stereotypes.Let's get the obvious out of the way: racism in itself isn't funny. At all. These apps sound execptionally childish and stupid, the kind of app that shows up for a few months and then quickly goes away. That is, unless a bunch of interest groups stir up an undue amount of uproar and get major news media to splash the name of the apps all over the place.
The apps use dated and racist stereotypes of Asians and Native Americans, said the online campaign 18 Million Rising, named after the number of Asian-Americans in the United States.
“These racist and offensive portrayals of Asians and Native Americans perpetuate damaging racial stereotypes and should not be distributed on the Google play store," said the campaign, which has an online petition to remove the apps.This is the choice we discussed earlier, how much do you want to protect free speech. It's very easy for people to protect free speech when it isn't offensive to them, but this is an example of how we may react differently once speech directly affects or refers to us. I'm sorry, but I wouldn't ask Google to remove the "Make me Irish" app, partly because I don't want Google policing apps in general based on the kind of speech involved and also because I don't need the name of that app showing up on CNN, drawing attention to it and Streisanding it into greater sales.
For its part, Google has confirmed that the apps do not violate their terms of service regarding offensive speech and has refused to pull the apps from the Play Store. Which means that all these interest groups have accomplished is to draw more attention to the apps they don't like. Plus, they reacted, which is what racists would like them to do.
The lesson here isn't that racism is okay, that we should embrace it, like it, or remain silent about it. Of course we should do none of those things. But asking others to censor speech we don't like isn't the answer and it can often backfire on us. Social shaming is a better approach, if done in a reasonable way, but I prefer to try and figure out what the person offering offensive speech wants to accomplish with that speech and then do the opposite. Plus, and you can take this from me based on personal experience, racists hate being ignored.