The Week in Tech: Can You Put a Price on Your Personal Data?


“On Sunday, Ravelry, a popular website for knitters and crocheters, took a political stand when it announced that it was banning content that supports President Trump, in what it said was a resolution against white supremacy.”

Some users were … displeased? “Kill yourselves,” one said. “Boycott Ravelry,” said another.

As a private social media platform, Ravelry isn’t limited by free speech rights; it can go right ahead and take such a step. And it will probably weather the haters: It’s a free service, so users have little recourse (apart from telling it to kill itself, or boycotting it), and most of its eight million users will probably accept it and keep knitting.

Expect more of this. Ravelry got the idea from another small social network, the role-playing game forum “There are very clear incentives for smaller platforms to take strong stances,” Rasmus Nielsen, a professor of political communication at Oxford University, said in an email. That might be for product differentiation purposes, or to make an ideological stand for the community.

There’s an interesting point about size here: Facebook is a private social media platform, just like Ravelry; it could ban topics and clean up problems overnight.

It won’t, of course, because the backlash (and ad revenue hit) would be huge. As a society, we don’t really want huge platforms like Facebook to turn into censors. (Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, reiterated at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado that he had no plans to do that, defending the need for free speech even for factually incorrect statements.)

“The tricky part is what gets to count as small and thus relatively unproblematic,” Professor Nielsen said. “Ravelry clearly is. Is Twitter?”

■ Bitcoin enjoyed a sugar rush. It hit $13,880 on Wednesday, a 17-month high. But as Bitcoin tends to do, it quickly dropped, falling below $11,000 the next day. There are competing theories about the resurgence, but Facebook’s cryptocurrency project could have provided some legitimacy, even though it won’t be using Bitcoin.

■ Speaking of … Facebook’s crypto project still faces skepticism. Not just from regulators but from Facebook’s partners in the venture, too.

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