Censorship is Suicide in the Information Age
First they came for the super-male, sensational conspiracy theorists and I did nothing because I thought his bit on gay frogs was a bit far-fetched.
On August 6th, several major social networks including Apple Podcasts, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify removed the accounts and content of Alex Jones and his Infowars media company. Jones has essentially been “unpersoned” in the modern media age.
The reasoning was that Jones and Infowars violated ‘community standards’—a generic excuse when big media companies oust unsavory personalities. But why is Alex Jones all of the sudden a pariah? He hasn’t done anything particularly outrageous recently—at least more outrageous than his typical stuff. But even more suspect than the boilerplate reasoning is that it was clearly a choreographed effort across many platforms.
True, Jones is over the top and reports some bizarre, unbelievable theories. But why does that deserve such a concerted effort to shut him down?
Jones was an early Trump supporter and may have helped get him elected. Perhaps that is why the big tech firms find it prudent to take his voice away. But, as George R.R. Martin wrote, “When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”
Whether the Internet giants are trying to snub out voices of dissent, alter future elections, or get ahead of proposed regulations, they are certainly pushing a political agenda.
Recently Twitter suspended conservative Candace Owens for reposting racist tweets from New York Times editor Sarah Jeong and replacing “white” with “black” or “Jewish.”
Note: Jeong was never suspended.
Several liberty-minded personalities have been demonetized on YouTube or booted from Patreon, a popular fundraising site. And I’m no stranger to this type of discrimination myself.
Two pages that I write for—Being Libertarian and The Libertarian Catholic—were both put in Facebook jail for similar non-reasons. It’s not a good feeling and it naturally stirs up the instinct to fight back with government controls.
Nigel Farage made the point that it’s clear these companies aren’t unbiased platforms anymore, they are publishers, “This is why they no longer even fit the bill of ‘platforms.’ They are publishers in the same way we regard news outlets as publishers. They may use more machine learning and automation, but their systems clearly take editorial positions. We need to hold them to account in the same way we do any other publisher.”
But some would argue that this censorship is well in the rights of private companies—that it is the equivalent of a Christian baker rejecting to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding. These companies are expressing their right of free association and not violating the First Amendment’s right to free speech. After all, the government isn’t forcing these companies to oust Jones and others, conservatives and libertarians (as far as we know)—private companies are.
And this is the important distinction between Internet company propaganda and government censorship: there are alternatives to Apple Podcasts, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
These outlets may have the largest market share in their respective fields but they aren’t monopolies by any stretch. And while they are in bed with governments across the globe, their cronyism can’t match the free market engine.
None of these platforms existed 15 years ago and now people can’t live without them? I’m not buying it.
Remember when AOL was the big player? How about MySpace? Fifteen years from now, there will be an entirely new cast of unstoppable media giants to grapple with.
Facebook is already seeing the results of their censorship campaign. 2018 has seen Facebook users spend less time on the site, and then lost users in the prized 12-17 demographic and others amidst a #DeleteFacebook campaign, followed by two big selloffs in the stock market.
If other Internet companies want to follow Facebook’s lead, they will share in their gloomy outlook.
There is a market for truth—even truth that’s buried under mounds of conspiracy theories and super-male pill advertisements. If “Big Internet” isn’t going to offer that content, people are going to find it elsewhere.
They are already gravitating to the platforms that are truly open and, thanks to the large companies’ censorship, now have unique and proprietary content like Infowars.
With modern web technology, it’s even possible to create your own social network as I did with CatholicX.
The Internet is the most open and free form of communication humanity has ever witnessed and thanks to the revocation of Net Neutrality, it will remain that way for the foreseeable future. With such a wide range of communications options available today, censorship is worse for the censor than the censored. You will never be able to hide the truth; you will only make yourself irrelevant in the process.
It may be a slow death, but censorship is suicide in the Information Age. Let’s hand these companies the noose.
Latest posts by JSB Morse (see all)
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- InfoWars and Why Censorship is Suicide in the Information Age - August 10, 2018