Twitter bans Trump. Apple takes Parler off its App Store (I type from the hypocrisy of my iPhone). And Amazon Web Services (AWS) de-platforms Parler completely.
If you haven’t figured out yet this blog post is about censorship on the Internet and how the Big Tech oligarchs have suddenly become the judge/jury/executioner for what they deem as “violent” speech.
Twitter banned Trump. Not like temporarily suspend (somehow “permanent suspension” sounds less totalitarian than banishment), like straight up silenced the current sitting President of the United States of America, on his platform of choice. Cue the “they’re a private company” commentary now. Yes, yes you are correct; gold star for you. Condescension aside, while Twitter is a private company, they’ve also laid claim to be the “town square” so to speak of the Internet. They claim to be a platform in which opinions and thoughts were to flow freely (within the understood context of Section 230 that Twitter claims to be hiding behind.)
I’m not here to debate the semantics behind “private” company since Twitter has a “Global Public Policy” division that just recently advocated for a “#OpenInternet” after the Ugandan government shut down social media prior to their upcoming election. Yes, the same Twitter touting “private company” to the United States President on one side of their mouth is also upset that another countries government censored them on the other. I think the best part of the entire thread on Twitter was the “violation of human rights” statement. Which implies that any government that would censor social media and messaging apps were violating the human right to communication/information. Funny that the Chinese and North Korean governments do this to their people religiously without Twitter’s condemnation.
The precedence this sets is major and scary. Some random dude(s) in California, who have no government power (that we know of) just took the President off the internet (yes, that is hyperbolic). This caused a massive downward spiral of other companies banning or eliminating President Donald J. Trump (or anything associated with him) from the Internet. Even Pinterest banned the President, not sure why he had a Pinterest, but that’s neither here nor there.
To take things a step further, there was suddenly a mad dash to the social media app “Parler” soon after Twitter’s ban of the President. As they say, “if you don’t like it, build your own.” So, ultimately John Matze created Parler to be Twitter’s “conservative” rival. There weren’t subjective restrictions on speech with Parler, people could discuss whatever they wanted and not worry that someone who didn’t agree with their opinion was going to forcibly shut them down. Parler did have a Terms & Service and has in fact removed posts from people who violated them. Meanwhile, Twitter is okay with #HangMikePence to actually TREND on their site for hours. Are their crappy people who say disgusting and vile things on the internet? Absolutely. Should people be allowed to express different opinions freely without fear of being shut down or silenced by one person who may not agree? Absolutely.
So, here’s the obvious problem that exists, we’ve given the definition of “obscene, offensive, not constitutionally protected” over to the Big Tech Overlords in California and now they can basically wave a magic wand and deem anything they want as “bad” without reason. It escalated so far that after Trump’s ban, Amazon Web Services (AWS) pulled its servers from Parler, after Apple and Google took it off their App Stores. Yes, a social media company (not even funded/run by Trump) was not allowed to operate its business, because Parler’s existence SUDDENLY violated the Terms & Services initially agreed upon with Big Tech.
Within Section 230 there is a “Good Samaritan” clause when it comes to the censorship of material on the internet. It basically states as long as a provider (or user) of an “interactive computer service” is voluntarily taking good faith to restrict the distribution/provision of what could/would be considered obscene, lewd, not constitutionally protected, etc., they can. This has opened the door for Twitter to basically be able to make the argument that anything Pres. Trump tweeted fell under what they deemed to be “unnecessarily violent,” so he should just be washed away. The obvious hypocrisy of Twitter is that they continue to let the Ayatollah of Iran‘s tweet about questioning the existence of the Holocaust remain, but it’s not marked as “disinformation.” However, “kudos” to Twitter for making you click a button on Kathy Griffin’s retweet from 2017 where she’s holding the blood covered, severed head of Donald Trump and being cheered on in the comments. This is where I see issue — rather than being fair and EQUAL (that thing Democrats claim to want), Twitter and their “policy team” get to deem what they think is allowed/not allowed on their platform, even if that means they are one big echo chamber.
However, there is a bigger underlying problem here and it’s glaring — there are massive antitrust/monopolistic waves crashing at our front door. Amazon owns servers that allow websites to exist on the Internet. If Amazon doesn’t like what you’re doing/saying as a company — they can pull your servers. Google runs the search engine that has 5.4 billion searches a day. If Google doesn’t like what you’re promoting or selling they can throw your webpage into the abyss, since no one seems to click past page 1 anyway, you may never get seen. Twitter has 321 million users and Facebook has 2.7 billion. If social media CEOs don’t like what you’re posting, goodbye profile. So, before you go shooting off fireworks to celebrate the “end” to Trump, just be aware some Big Tech oligarch has decided THEY make the rules of what’s “good/bad” under the guise of “good faith.” And while right now some people are on the “side” of Twitter, this sets a dangerous precedence for the future and what may or may not be allowed on a “platform.”