Censorship Increases in U.S. Tech Arena
Aug. 7, 2020 (EIRNS)—The rise of the internet and of plentiful avenues for free discussion of ideas posed a serious threat to ability to shape popular opinion through the establishment media. The lies of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election have been used not only to prevent cooperation with Russia and to launch a coup (in the guise of a legitimate investigation) against President Donald Trump, but also as an excuse for a crackdown on free expression.
The assault on freedom of expression—which has been in the testing phase for years through the use of patently unconstitutional bans on expression of support for the BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) movement calling for action to be taken against Israel—is going increasingly mainstream.
Identity politics, racialism, “cancel culture,” safe spaces, trigger warnings, and various aspects of being “woke” that involve denying people the chance to be confronted respectfully with paradoxes and the space to offer their views or change their mind, are creating a situation on college campuses (or in their Zoom counterparts) where support for the freedom of speech, long considered an absolute freedom in the United States, is declining.
Hearings in which angry members of Congress confronted tech executives about their failures to prevent the election of Donald Trump due to their allowing silly social media posts supposedly created by Vladimir Putin—whom they endow with nearly mystical, Rasputin-like powers for insight into U.S. domestic policies—are bearing poisonous fruit.
In the last few days, Facebook removed a post by Donald Trump and Twitter removed a tweet by @TeamTrump that expressed the President’s (incorrect, but not uncommon) view that: “If you look at children, children are almost—and I would almost say definitely—but, almost immune from this disease.”
Twitter has also begun marking accounts that it considers to be government-affiliated, including private corporations, if, in its sole judgment, they are under pressure or influence from a government.
Naturally, while this is applied to RT (no surprise) and Caixin (which protests that it is a private, not government, news agency in China), such warnings are not applied to MSNBC or CNN, outlets that are increasingly staffed by “former” intelligence officials! In a way this is fitting, since these intelligence services, and their big brothers in London, do not represent the interests of their governments. The British Broadcasting Corporation and Voice of America—whose names offer the particularly insightful observer some slight hint of their government connections—are not marked as government-related media by the gods of Mount Twitter.
There are two questions to ask: (1) Does preventing the expression of odious views actually reduce the number of people who hold them? (2) Who decides what is right and what is wrong?
As many of us have experienced in speaking to people who oppose wearing masks, believe vaccines are the evil work of Bill Gates, or think Tony Fauci planned the coronavirus pandemic, the removal of such silly videos as “Plandemic,” the two bozo doctors from Bakersfield who apparently flunked statistics 101, or America’s weirdest doctor extolling the virtues of hydroxychloroquine from the steps of the Supreme Court, serves to amplify the sense that they’re on to something. Considering how many absurd conspiracy theories appear on prime-time TV (like the habitual fabulist Rachel Maddow) and how many true stories are swept under the rug, this is an understandable response.
Ideas should be discussed and fought out. It is through the Socratic interchange of views that paradoxes are raised to provoke the individual to make a discovery.
On the question of who decides, it should be apparent on initial reflection that empowering a panel of arbiters (or corporations, or government bodies, or—God forbid—the Congress) to decide what is misinformation and must be blocked. The British have been prime players in this, through the Integrity Initiative and the related Propornot McCarthyite media-destruction operation.
It should be recalled that the Trump campaign’s use of social media was a significant factor in his 2016 election victory.
In light of increasingly blatant censorship, President Trump has called for reconsideration of the application of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects companies like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook from lawsuits based on posts by users. Some weeks after Trump called out these institutions, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration formally took up with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the issue that if the platforms begin deciding on which posts are true and which are false, and offering their own commentary on material posted by users, they are no longer functioning as neutral bulletin boards, but more like news agencies, and should be held responsible for the material that they selectively allow through their filters.
Will the censorship of the big tech firms be resisted? Will legislation be written and passed, to address the monopoly power of the tech giants and the public benefit of free speech?