In just over two years, suppression of political speech online has grown from Google’s purge of conservative employees and the subsequent collusion between tech companies to simultaneously ban commentator Alex Jones from their platforms, to the point where these companies are emboldened not only to ban the president of the United States from social media, but official campaign websites, financial services – and even his email companies are refusing service. In the past week, Twitter removed over 70,000 conservative accounts, and Facebook suspended former Texas congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul after he wrote a column criticizing tech censorship.
In a remarkable development, the American Civil Liberties Union has weighed in by sounding the alarm over the “unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions.“
Americans are concerned things will get worse. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on airlines to put political opponents on terrorist no-fly lists; an attorney for the Public Broadcasting System was caught on tape discussing seizing children from Republicans and sending them to ‘reeducation camps’; and large corporations are openly targeting Republican members of Congress for voting or debating against their agenda.
Most Americans, regardless of political party, go about their days in generally the same manner: Going to work, paying bills, getting the kids to school and making dinner. With the mass purges of social media and other corporate and government attacks on conservative Americans, those holding unapproved political opinions must now be very careful of what they say, even in private. The only option left for millions of Americans is to withdraw from political discourse altogether. Many are banned from social media, anyway, but there is a rush for the exits for those conservatives not yet expelled by the tech giants for openly expressing support for the wrong candidate or political issue.
Most people cannot afford to lose their jobs, have banks cut off service or be prohibited from flying on airlines. As a last-ditch, many conservatives flocked to alternate social media site Parler, only to have Google and Apple respond by banning the Parler app from their stores, followed by the entire site being de-platformed by Amazon. As with Twitter’s ban of President Trump (claiming his words, encouraging “peaceful” and “patriotic” protests violated some policy if viewed in the context of how they were received by other people off the platform), no specific reason was given for the multiple, coordinated bans of Parler. Only the vague excuse the site allowed “dangerous rhetoric” or other ambiguous words. These bans and coordinated de-platforming took place at the very same time Twitter promoted the political hashtag “HangPence” in its trending topics, and several verified accounts openly called for violence, including Kathy Griffin re-tweeting her famous Donald Trump’s severed-head photo and violent tweets from the Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei.
The greatest difficulty for most is in the mixed signals. While major media spent all of 2020 praising violent protests and demonizing police for daring to interfere with rioters laying siege for months against federal courthouses and other buildings, looting businesses, tearing down monuments, erecting “autonomous zones” and assaulting people attending speeches or political rallies, the same media flipped 180 degrees in their narrative last week. The implication of major media now is that Capitol Police officers displayed racism in not killing more pro-Trump demonstrators, because they would have done so if the crowd were primarily African Americans. In reality, Capitol Police knelt in solidarity with BLM protesters, even as significant areas of Washington were set on fire, monuments and other public property was damaged or destroyed, and a 200-year-old church was burned. During attacks on the White House, 60 Secret Service agents were injured with not a single shot fired at protesters.
In addition, Big Tech’s denials of service come on the heels of decades of government mandates that private businesses must not discriminate in the provision of services to customers. From lunch counters in the 1950s to bakeries in the 2010s, liberals used government to ensure businesses could not discriminate in providing service to customers.
In 2018 a federal court ruled that President Trump was forbidden from blocking abusive Twitter users from his personal Twitter account because doing so violated those users’ First Amendment free speech rights. Also confusing to many is the obvious disconnect between social media giants’ sweeping legal immunity pursuant to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 based on the premise they have no control over the content posted on their platforms. They are simultaneously suspending and banning users for content, while demanding continued legal immunity because, they claim, they cannot control content. Likewise, tech giants also destroyed the Parler social media site on the premise Parler is responsible for the speech of its users.
So, what is a person to do?
Unless one holds political opinions in line with tech and corporate giants, the only option remaining is to adopt a personal policy of extreme discretion. When discussion of one’s beliefs may be overheard and reported, resulting in your being fired, bank accounts closed, family or business refused service, home attacked or airlines putting you on a no-fly list, the only thing left is to keep your thoughts to yourself and nod along in agreement with whatever the corporate narrative of the moment happens to be. We are living in a unique period of American history.
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