Thomas Gallatin / Jan. 27, 2021

Where Stands the Battle Against Big Tech Censorship?

The “free speech” hypocrisy of social media leftists is on full display.

Following Facebook and Twitter’s banishing of Donald Trump and Google, Apple, and Amazon’s deplatforming of competitor Parler, Republicans, conservatives, and free speech advocates of all stripes have been even more aggressively ringing alarm bells. So, what has transpired since?

First, Big Tech is a lot more powerful than many may have appreciated. Parler, which filed a lawsuit against Amazon Web Services (AWS) for breach of contract, had its demand for a preliminary injunction denied by a Washington State federal court. However, as The Federalist’s Margot Cleveland observes, the failure to win the injunction was not the court’s fault. She notes, “The court’s analysis proved solid — and sadly also proved it will be hard for conservatives to counter Big Tech’s stranglehold on the modern public square.” This is due primarily to the fact that “the governing legal precedent makes it unlikely anyone seeking to challenge a deplatforming decision will ever succeed.”

Amazon celebrated the ruling by invoking the Left’s flawed notion of “free speech” and reiterating the dubious claim that Parler failed to prevent violence. “This was not a case about free speech,” said the tech behemoth. “It was about a customer that consistently violated our terms of service by allowing content to be published on their website that actively encouraged violence (and without an effective plan to moderate it.)”

Turning the FTC’s Section 230 on its head, Amazon justified its abuse of Parler by arguing, “Under that statute, the provider of an ‘interactive computer service’ is immune for acting in good faith to restrict access to material that is excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable. This is precisely was AWS did here: remove access to content it considered ‘excessively violent’ and ‘harassing.’”

Oddly enough, AWS also provides web hosting services for Facebook … and yet took no action despite the fact that some perpetrators of the Capitol riot extensively used Facebook to communicate and orchestrate the attack. There is no evidence that Parler users did so, but that hasn’t stopped Democrat lawmakers from continuing the effort to demonize Parler by demanding an investigation into its supposed role in “planning and incitement” of the riot.

Of course, the Democrats’ real goal is to demonize and cancel anyone who dared to support Donald Trump. One of their biggest targets is Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), who recently called on Americans to “stand up against the muzzling of America.” Hawley offered a sobering warning that Big Tech stands as a major threat to Americans’ First Amendment freedoms, especially our freedom of speech. “The alliance of leftists and woke capitalists hopes to regulate the innermost thoughts of every American, from school age to retirement. And they’ve trained enforcers of the woke orthodoxy to monitor dissent or misbehavior,” he wrote. “Everyone knows it can happen to them, so everyone shuts down. The circle of trust narrows. Conversations — too easily recorded — shift to encrypted messaging apps. For now. Until those get banned too for interfering in efficient social credit markets. … The powerful see in the present moment an opportunity to consolidate their control over society and to squelch dissent. That means those who believe in the First Amendment and the fundamental principles of American liberty must now take a stand, while we still can.”

Meanwhile, the Leftmedia is calling for the cancellation of even mainstream conservative media outlets like Fox News. The New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof wants “advertisers to withdraw from Fox News so long as it functions as an extremist madrasa, and cable providers should be asked why they distribute channels that peddle lies.” MSNBC’s Anand Girdhardas wonders, “Should Fox News be allowed to exist? Brain-mashing as a business model shouldn’t be legal.” And The Washington Post called for cable providers such as Comcast and Charter Spectrum to boot Fox News from their list of channels.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp. (which owns Fox), says, “For those of us in the media, there’s a real challenge to confront: a wave of censorship that seeks to silence conversation, to stifle debate, to ultimately stop individuals and societies from realizing their potential. This rigidly enforced conformity, aided and abetted by so-called social media, is a straitjacket on sensibility. Too many people have fought too hard in too many places for freedom of speech to be suppressed by this awful woke orthodoxy.”

Finally, there’s the glaring issue of Big Tech’s massive hypocrisy on free speech. Back during the Obama era, Big Tech came out in favor of “net neutrality.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg then claimed, “Net neutrality is the idea that the internet should be free and open for everyone.” Gee, where did that idea go?

When Trump’s Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai sought to repeal “net neutrality,” Twitter’s public policy manager Laura Culbertson objected, “Free expression is part of our company DNA. We are the platform that lets users see what’s happening and to see all sides. … Without Net Neutrality in force, ISPs would even be able to block content they don’t like, reject apps and content that compete with their own offerings, and arbitrarily discriminate against particular content providers by prioritizing certain Internet traffic over theirs.” Yeah, that sounds bad, and Twitter should definitely never do that.

Now, only three years later, these same Big Tech companies are justifying their own efforts to silence free expression, block content they don’t like, and arbitrarily discriminate. The truth is that Big Tech behemoths never wanted an “open and free Internet.” They want Internet providers barred from “selectively excluding” certain content while they themselves are free to censor and suppress whatever they don’t like.

(Updated.)

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