The Censorship of Big Tech | Calvin Robinson
We are living in unprecedented times. Western democracy is hanging by a thread; rightly or wrongly, civil liberties have been curtailed in the name of public safety. The seriousness of Covid-19 has made even the most libertarian politicians agree to temporarily lockdown entire nation-states.
At the same time, democracy is being denied: the President of the United States is reluctant to concede to the President-Elect; local and metropolitan elections have been postponed in the UK, and many suspect they will be postponed a second time, this year. When the people can no longer affect change at the ballot box, they no doubt resort to more drastic measures.
Much of this began in 2016, when President Trump won and the Left went into meltdown with “not my president” slogans at their protests – much like the Remain camp’s refusal to accept the will of the British voting public in the same year. The metropolitan liberal Left has been attempting to undo democracy for the past four years, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.
Last night, Twitter followed Facebook in permanently banning Donald Trump from their service. There’s an argument to be made on whether President Trump broke Twitter’s T&C, or not. The reasons given were that his latest two tweets incited violence:
“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
The former is certainly more inflammatory than the latter, but whether this was a direct call to action or not is debatable. What’s worrying though, is that these social media executives have appointed themselves judge, jury and executioner. Who gave them the power to decide if someone has broken the law and should be de-platformed?
One could argue that this isn’t about the law, and Mr Trump simply broke Twitter’s T&Cs, but if that was the case, why is this tweet from Iran’s Supreme Leader dated 20th May 2020 still active: “We will support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime, and we do not hesitate to say this.” If that isn’t an anti-Semite inciting violence, I don’t know what is.
Likewise, this tweet from the Chinese Embassy in the US: “Study shows the population change in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region involves the overall improvement in population quality. An increasing number of youths chose to spend more time and energy on personal development.” The CCP is actively promoting a study on the ethnic cleansing, sterilisation – and let’s face it, genocide – of an ethnic minority group. A Twitter spokesperson responded saying “This Tweet is not in violation of our policies.”
Either Twitter is demonstrating double standards or they’re using their policy as an excuse to implement a political agenda. The lack of consistency shows a clear bias against right-leaning politics, whilst implicitly supporting the Left.
My personal experience backs this up: the amount of racial abuse I’ve received on Twitter from left-leaning activists is astonishing. We’re not talking about anonymous trolls; I’ve been called a ‘coon’ by Team GB athletes, and Twitter refuses to take action. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that if a right-leaning individual tweeted a racist comment they’d experience the full force of Twitter’s arsenal.
Unfortunately, this isn’t limited to Twitter. ‘Big tech’ corporations are colluding. Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter – they’re all complicit.
Facebook released a political statement when they banned President Trump; Twitter went further in not only de-platforming the President, but also banned thousands of right-leaning individuals, many of whom were documenters more than commentators.
One might suggest that the right develop their own social media platform if they don’t like how the Left does things. However, they’ve already thought that one through. Google removed Parler – a free speech supporting Twitter alternative – from their Play Store at the same time as the mass-bans on Twitter. Apple also issued a 24-hour notice to Parler, instructing them to apply censorship or face being removed from the App Store.
It’s not enough to build your own social media platform; you’d have to build your own app store, too. This isn’t a case of private companies enacting their rights to run their platform as they see fit; this is a matter of anti-competitive collusion. It would seem events were orchestrated and therefore, surely, breaking trade laws? It’ll be interesting to see if President Trump issues anti-trust lawsuits.
Still, not everyone is concerned. Trump was perceived to be a divisive figure, so removing him from social media platforms is seen as a price worth paying. However, everyone should be concerned. The big tech oligarchs have essentially performed a coup d’etat. They’ve flexed their muscles and shown us that they hold more power than the leader of the free world.
De-platforming a sitting US President should be a criminal offence. Yes, he still has a press room and could deliver a statement via traditional media – but what happens when the television stations and newspapers follow suit? We’ve already seen some stations refusing to air the President’s speeches uninterrupted. The press is supposed to hold the government to account; they’re not supposed to depose and replace politicians.
Trump helped turn Twitter into a political platform. It is now an expectation that our politicians have a voice on social media. For social media execs to pick and choose who is allowed a voice is a dangerously tyrannical territory. Big tech now has too much power, with no accountability. Who watches the watchers?
These social media companies need to decide whether they’re a platform or a publisher. If they want to curate content, they need to abide by the same rules and regulations the rest of the media agrees to follow; if they’re a platform for others to publish content on, they need to respect freedom of speech.
The argument of private companies having the right to restrict users where they see fit doesn’t hold up in a time when the world is in lockdown, and every aspect of our normal lives is rapidly shifting online. Social media is the new marketplace; these companies run the infrastructure needed to survive in the modern world. While they hold monopolies, they’re guarding access to information.
We have allowed private companies to control the flow of information, with no democratic protections.
President Trump later tweeted from the official POTUS account, and Twitter removed the tweets within minutes. Which election gave Jack Dorsey the authority to censor official statements from the President of the United States?
Right now, people are celebrating because they didn’t like Trump or his politics. They fail to realise that if you let your opponents be silenced, one day it may happen to you. If they can silence the most powerful man in the world, what qualms will they have erasing Brenda from Bristol?
Must we now all retreat to our echo chambers? I’m of the belief that opinions should be challenged and ridiculed where necessary, not shut down. This is bigger than Trump, but he was right when he said: “In reality, they’re not after me, they’re after you. I’m just in the way”.