The Web’s Responsibility In The Trump Era

Every day we, the people who help make the web, benefit from the free flow of information and from the open, collaborative spirit of the community. We know what amazing things can be accomplished when people (from all nations, religions, races, sexual orientations, and backgrounds) come together to discuss ideas freely and make things together. It certainly ain’t always pretty or easy,  but we — perhaps more than any other industry on the planet — have seen firsthand what happens when people share what they know and collaborate with each other. We must never take that for granted.

In his first week in office, Trump and his administration have already made it clear that their actions will go directly against the sprit of the web community. Rather than promoting openness, transparency, and participation, we’re seeing efforts to limit transparency and the flow of information. Here are a few things:

  • “Employees at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have seen directives from the newly minted leadership seeking to limit how they communicate to the public” (source)
  • The labeling of the media and journalists as the enemy. Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategy advisor, calling the media “the opposition party” and saying the media “should keep their mouth shut”. Trump himself called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth”. There’s no doubt there’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there, but to blanket label the media — the Fourth Estate — as the enemy doesn’t feel right.
  • The Spanish translation links and accessibility options on the White House website were removed.
  • Ajit Pai, the FCC’s new chairman, is “no fan of net neutrality
  • The continued refusal to release the president’s tax returns, which would certain help clear up any confusion around any conflicts of interest, connections, and business dealings.

I believe this transcends partisan politics. After all, it’s crucial to bring a diversity of opinions to the table, debate them, and come to informed conclusions that best address the needs of the nation and the world. What we’re seeing is not that. It appears to be suppression of information for political purposes. I hope I’m wrong about all this, but I’m not exactly seeing calls for  collaboration within the government or for citizens (in fact, the White House petitions web app has been a bit glitchy as of late). Until I see explicit words and actions from Trump’s administration that prove all this wrong, I’m going to take all of these red flags seriously.

We, the people who work on the web, have seen firsthand the great things can be accomplished when we open up, share, discuss ideas, and collaborate together. We need to stand by our commitment to openness and collaboration, and must unequivocally condemn any efforts to suppress the freedom of speech and ideas. We have a tremendous opportunity to help spread the spirit of the web, as it has woven itself into every industry and aspect of society.