Microsoft issued an ultimatum to a social network that it provides cloud services for after a user there posted comments threatening Jewish people with “ritual death by torture.”
Either Gab had to remove the offensive post, or Microsoft would terminate the site’s access to its cloud service known as Azure. The content “incites violence, is not protected by the First Amendment” and violated its own policies, Microsoft said, reports the Washington Post.
The demand from Microsoft is the latest incident as tech companies grapple with how to police hateful, abusive content and disinformation, while striking the right balance of facilitating a free expression of ideas.
In the weeks after the 2016 presidential election, Facebook was slammed for not taking Russia's use of its platform more seriously; since then, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his colleagues have beefed up the site's election security monitoring and made the removal of hate speech and fake accounts a bigger priority.
“We believe we have an important responsibility to ensure that our services are not abused by people and groups seeking to incite violence against others,” Microsoft said in a statement to the Post.
Although Gab did not respond to an email from the publication seeking comment, Andrew Torba, the founder of Gab, wrote in a post that the social network is seeking a new hosting provider and considering how to build “our own infrastructure.”
Unlike Facebook, Apple and YouTube, most cloud-hosting services tend to be less visible to the broader public and have taken more neutral stances in the debate thus far and don’t have teams of fact-checkers and content moderators to scan for issues.
Like its peers, Microsoft Azure provides the technical architecture to host websites without regard to their topic or purpose — so long as their makers are not engaged in illegal activity or intending to “violate the rights of others,” according to the company’s “acceptable use policy.” Other cloud providers, such as Google and Amazon, maintain similar rules on what is considered appropriate to save on their own servers.