by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,
reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a
hallmark of an authoritarian regime.
Stewart, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the
past Friday, Alex Jones was de-platformed from the last couple of
third party tools he had been using to publicly communicate his
message after Twitter and Apple permanently banned him and
his website Infowars. This
means an American citizen with a very large audience who played
a meaningful role in the 2016 election, has been banned from all
of the most widely used products of communication of our age:
Twitter, Facebook, Google’s YouTube and Apple’s iTunes.
can point out he still has his radio show and website, and this is
unquestionably true, but when it comes to the everyday tools most
people interact with to receive information and communicate in
Jones has been thrown down the memory hole. Not
because he was convicted of a crime or broke any laws, but because
corporate executives decided he crossed an arbitrary line of their
prove the point that tech oligarchs are acting in a completely
arbitrary and subjective manner, let me highlight the following
not against the law to be crazy or say crazy things in this
country. It’s also not against the law to say hateful things. It’s
pretty obvious the main reason Alex Jones was deleted from
public discourse by Silicon Valley executives relates to his
impact and popularity. As highlighted
in the tweet above, unabashed bigots like David
Duke and Louis
Farrakhan continue to have active presences across
social media, and rightly so. The difference is neither David Duke
nor Louis Farrakhan played a major role in the election of
Donald Trump, whereas Alex Jones did. Jones and Infowars were
having an outsized impact on the U.S. political discourse in a
manner tech giant executives found threatening and offensive, so
they collectively found excuses to silence him.
the outrage mob consisting of politicians, corporate media outlets
and even his own employees, complained to Twitter’s Jack Dorsey on
the issue of Alex Jones, he couldn’t hold the line on free speech
because his company’s own policies are junk. Twitter,
Facebook and YouTube should have a clear policy when it comes to
speech, and it should be this: If it isn’t breaking the
law - in other words, if it’s protected speech under the First
Amendment - it stays up. Period. When you have
corporate rules against “hate speech,” you’re relying on a concept
that doesn’t really have any sort of legal standing when it comes
to free speech in this country. There is no “hate speech”
exception to the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution.
such, when Twitter, Facebook or Google executives throw someone
off their platforms for hateful speech, this isn’t because someone
broke the law, but because the
individuals in charge of these platforms decided such speech
wasn’t something they wanted on their products. If
these products are the primary ones used for communication in this
country, then we lose our speech rights in practice, even though
they remain protected under the law.
like to talk a big game about how proud they are of their
country and how exceptional it is, but what in fact are we so
proud of? Is it GDP growth, a
booming stock market, or is it something else? For me, it’s the
Bill of Rights. The civil liberties enshrined in the U.S.
Constitution are non-negotiable as far as I’m concerned, but we as
a people have been dangerously complacent as these rights have
been systematically eroded since the post 9/11 power grab. Despite
all the anti-freedom trends that have transpired in 21st century
speech rights remain quite expansive and very much in place. In
theory that is.
say in theory because in practice we’re learning how easily
speech can be marginalized to the point of becoming erased
from public discourse. We’ve
allowed the digital public square to be dominated by corporations
focused on profit maximization and whose policies quite explicitly
do not reflect the law of the land and values that we supposedly
you’re like me and you think the civil liberties enshrined in the
U.S. Constitution are fundamental to who we are as a people, it
must necessarily be unacceptable that a
handful of private technology corporations that do not adhere to
these principles have dominated the rails of public
communication to the point a handful
of executives get to decide what acceptable speech is.
has ushered in suppression of free speech by other means, and
reminds me of a 1975
quote by Henry Kissinger:
Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at
meetings, “The illegal we do immediately; the
unconstitutional takes a little longer.” [laughter] But
since the Freedom of Information Act, I’m afraid to say
things like that.
such, we now find ourselves in a situation where we as Americans
continue to have expansive free speech rights under the law, but
face subjectively minimized free speech rights in practice. So
what are we supposed to do about it?
we need to recognize and accept that this problem exists, and
then admit that it will only get worse the longer we rely on
these tech giants to provide the rails of public communication.
we need to understand that creating digital public squares that
adhere to constitutional principles is not a luxury, but a
necessity at this point if we want to actually flex our civil
liberties in the digital world.
we need to think about why the tech giants are so vulnerable to
pressure when push comes to shove on free speech. It’s this last
point I want to discuss further.
we’re going to create and embrace communications platforms for
both video and text dedicated to protecting the civil liberties
defined by the constitution, I
don’t think they can be structured as for-profit corporate
entities focused on making shareholders happy. Facebook,
Twitter and Google rely on advertisers for their revenue, so if
big business starts to get uncomfortable with certain types of
speech they can effectively pressure these entities to censor.
Likewise, if these companies become concerned that “hate speech”
could affect expansion into lucrative overseas markets that have
laws against such behavior, they will typically make the best
business decision as opposed to the best civil liberties decision.
As such, in
order to create successful, anti-fragile communications
platforms guided by constitutional civil liberties, such
platforms must be driven by principle instead of profit. Profit
focused entities are far more likely to quickly fold under
other fundamental problem with our current suite of social media
companies is their use of proprietary algorithms. Hidden code can
conceal all sorts of practices you wouldn’t want at work in a
genuine free speech focused platform. Corporations can use such
algos to suppress content from certain people, while promoting
that of others. When code is secret, users can only guess what’s
going on behind the scenes, while the companies can just brush off
concerns as conspiracy theory and claim the code must stay hidden
for proprietary business purposes. Speech
and human communication is too important to leave in the hands
of profit-focused tech oligarchs. Code must be open source.
me wrap up by sharing an interesting video on the dangers of our
growing acceptance of censorship, by Canadian organic farmer
Curtis Stone. While the points he brings up aren’t anything we
haven’t discussed before, I find it meaningful
when people not hyper-focused on politics begin to get seriously
concerned about the existential dangers of allowing tech
oligarchs to control the public square of human communication.
you liked this article and enjoy my work, consider becoming
a monthly Patron, or
visit our Support Page to
show your appreciation for independent content creators.