There is an astonishing trend afoot and if something isn’t done to stop it in its ugly tracks your right to freely express an opinion is in jeopardy.
President Donald Trump may be the most reviled person in the United States right now but the moves to silence him in the public square – and others who have espoused similar ideologies – is a chilling reality.
Social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have announced plans to permanently remove all Trump accounts. Not just until he leaves office but forever.
In what universe is it okay to eternally bar an American citizen from exercising their fundamental right to free speech at a place where countless millions gather to exchange ideas? And how unbalanced is Twitter’s expulsion policy when it allows Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, to post all sorts of violent and hate filled posts about the U.S., Israel and other perceived enemies on its platform?
The Ayatollah is okay, but the President of the United States is not?
Am I the only one who wants to read what our Chief Executive is thinking no matter what the message might be? Better to know what the powerful are up to than to ignore them. Everyone should be alarmed about being cut off from the most powerful person on the planet.
In addition to social media forever muzzling the president prominent tech companies controlling app distribution – Google and Apple – dropped the Parler app from their offerings. Parler is described as “the conservative alternative to Twitter” and was a logical choice for Mr. Trump’s next social media home.
In what seemed to be a coordinated effort Amazon quickly piled on and informed Parler that its home on the internet would be annihilated. That prompted a lawsuit from Parler.
The stated reason for removing Parler’s fastest growing app? Parler doesn’t do enough, fast enough to delete questionable posts that promote violence and crime. Reportedly, some users partially planned the U.S. Capitol siege via Parler.
Interesting that similar steps weren’t taken against Twitter, Facebook or Instagram when those platforms were used to coordinate last year’s left-wing demonstrations which frequently turned violent. Why the censorship double standard?
Interesting, too, that a Simon and Schuster book deal was just abruptly cancelled with republican Senator Josh Hawley after he objected to some of the 2020 election results. The book’s title? ‘The Tyranny of Big Tech.’ See the pattern here? Trump, Parler, Hawley. Forced silencing of conservative (only) opinion. Shockingly obvious.
Many of the 74 million Trump voters believe these banishment moves were carried out to curry favor with the incoming democratic administration. Maybe, but this really isn’t about politics. It is about a form of censorship, fair treatment for all ideologies and everyone’s constitutionally protected right to freely express their opinions.
An exception: if someone is online inciting hate speech or plotting violence that is a crime and a job for law enforcement which has been maddeningly slow to root out internet-based clues before mayhem occurs.
Even progressive democratic U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have called for breaking up large tech companies. And the liberal-leaning American Civil Liberties Union has issued warnings about Big Tech becoming an unwanted Big Brother. “It should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions,” an ACLU lawyer wrote.
In other words, if some geeky bro in Silicon Valley can decide to permanently kick Donald Trump to the digital curb you could be next.
Last week I wrote to support social media’s temporary ban of President Trump’s accounts. In the wake of the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol it seemed to me to be a necessary step – like placing a belligerent child in the corner for a time out. But forever denying an American citizen the freedom to express their opinion – whether it’s an opinion the majority shares or not – is anathema to everything we stand for in this country.
The argument that, “Well, these are private companies, they can do what they want,” just doesn’t cut it. Big Tech has, collectively, become a monster monopoly of public discourse. And worse yet, our Congress has given them that power and has allowed them to misuse it.
As Harry Truman once said, “Once a government is committed to silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens creating a country where everyone lives in fear.”
Amen to that.
*Note: After this column was published Parler was back on line, hosted on a different platform.