The baby and the bathwater: free speech and online extremism – Tauhid Zaman

MIT Sloan Assistant Professor Tauhid Zaman

From The Hill

As a Muslim American, I was shocked by the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand that took the lives of 50 completely innocent people and injured scores of others in March. The tragedy was made more sickening by the fact that the alleged gunman, reportedly a white supremacist, live-streamed the first attack on Facebook Live.

The fact that the attack happened during the Muslim Friday prayer, a religious service I attend regularly myself, left me deeply shaken and heartbroken. Besides privately grieving for those who perished in Christchurch, I also attended public rallies to show solidarity with the victims in the aftermath of the carnage in New Zealand.

But there’s something you won’t see me doing: Calling for a crackdown on what some deem offensive speech on social media — and a crackdown on what some consider extremist right-wing speech on social media in particular, as many have called for in the wake of the tragic Christchurch mosque shootings.

I know this may surprise some people. As I said, as a Muslim, I was particularly outraged by the slaughter in New Zealand. But I’m not outraged to the extent that I believe that:

  • Censorship of speech, whether by governments or near-monopolistic social media corporations, is an appropriate response to extremism; and
  • censorship of speech is an effective way to combat extremism.

To be clear: I applaud the swift action of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social-media sites to take down videos of the Christchurch shootings. Indeed, Facebook reported it removed or blocked 1.5 million videos in the first 24 hours after the attacks.

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Beyond Polarization – Jason Jay

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Jason Jay

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Jason Jay

From Technology Review

This past June, I attended a conference in New York City with colleagues from around the world. After our three days together, my European, Indian, and Latin American friends were a bit vexed. The conversation kept getting pulled into the lightning storm of American politics. We struggled to pay attention as our phones flooded with alerts about congressional primaries, Supreme Court decisions, executive orders, and the flurry of terrified, furious, indignant, or despairing comments ping-ponging between political extremes.

Over beers, a few of us “coastal liberal elite” academics and journalists huddled and commiserated about our extended family members in South Dakota, North Carolina, Florida, and Indiana. How could they deny the reality of Sandy Hook, climate change, and science in general? I suspect those same relatives are similarly confused—why are we so eager to support illegal immigrants, anti-police protests, and lawlessness in general?

This polarization is only increasing as we head to the midterm elections. With our country split into factions like anti-fascists, progressives, moderates, libertarians, evangelicals, and Trumpists, it’s increasingly difficult to know how to engage with others who don’t share our views.

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Trumponomics is failing on growth – Simon Johnson

MIT Sloan Professor Simon Johnson

From Project Syndicate

WASHINGTON, DC – US President Donald Trump and his Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, have promised an economic miracle. They argue that when the United States adopts their policies, it will consistently achieve annual economic growth above 3%, or even above 4%. After a year of being in charge, pushing hard on deregulation, and getting what it wanted in terms of tax cuts, how is the Trump team doing?

We are still in the early days, but the results so far have been disappointing. And the US’s medium-term prospects for sustained growth could be endangered if Trump pursues the policies he claims to want.

Trump has repeatedly argued that America’s overall economic performance in 2017 should be seen as the direct result of his policies, and he has made a big deal out of the third-quarter growth rate, which was initially reported as 3.3%, then revised down to 3.2%. Yet, in the fourth quarter, growth was down to 2.6%, and initial estimates suggest that overall growth for the year will not surpass 2.3%. That is lower than what was achieved under former President Barack Obama in 2014 (2.6%) and 2015 (2.9%).

In fact, under Obama, the quarterly growth rate surpassed 3% seven times, and even reached 4.6% on two occasions. From the third quarter of 2009, growth was positive in every quarter, save two. But not only was headline growth sturdy under Obama; his administration also presided over considerable job growth – the economy added more than two million jobs annually in seven out of his eight years in office – as well as falling unemployment and higher labor-force participation. Read More »

America should respond to China with a ‘second Sputnik moment – Yasheng Huang

MIT Sloan Professor Yasheng Huang

MIT Sloan Professor Yasheng Huang

From MarketWatch

The burgeoning trade war between the United States and China has as much to do with technology as with the balance of trade. Reports have surfaced that the Treasury Department is drafting rules to block Chinese firms from investing in American companies doing business in so-called industrially significant technology, while the Commerce Department is planning new export controls to keep such technologies out of Chinese hands.

These moves follow President Donald Trump’s proposal to impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese products, many of which are on the priority list for “Made in China 2025,” President Xi Jinping’s blueprint to transform China into a global leader in high-tech industries like aerospace, robotics, pharmaceuticals, and machinery. Although the Chinese government has refused to modify its initiative, the U.S. is demanding that China end all government subsidies and grants under the program. Trade talks have stumbled on this point.

America’s concern with Made in China 2025 is understandable; China’s approach to technology development has been controversial, to say the least.But there are better ways to respond to China’s policies. Two ways, to be precise. Read More »

Here’s how workers would spend the corporate tax cut – if they had a voice – Thomas Kochan

MIT Sloan Prof. Thomas Kochan

From The Conversation

Over 200 CEOs have said they will raise wages or give bonuses as a result of the large corporate income tax cut passed late last year by Congress.

Some view their plans as simply a public relations move, others as a response to tighter labor markets or worker pressures. Pretty much everyone hopes that it might signal a new era in which corporate leaders share earnings with workers in ways they have not done in the past.

I’m among those who hold such a hope. Only if such profit sharing becomes the norm will the long-term trends in widening income inequality and wage stagnation be reversed.

But why should this decision be left to CEOs? Don’t workers have a legitimate claim and stake in what is done with the profits they help produce? New research I’ve been leading at MIT finally gives workers a voice on these issues and many others. Read More »