Skip to comments.Why Silicon Valley is Killing Free Speech
Posted on 08/18/2018 8:32:09 AM PDT by Louis Foxwell
Why Silicon Valley is Killing Free Speech Control leads to censorship. August 17, 2018 Daniel Greenfield
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism
In one survey, 75% of tech entrepreneurs voted for Hillary Clinton. 8.8% voted for Trump. 83% back higher taxes, 82% support gun control and another 82% are in favor of socialized medicine.
Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon employees were 4 out of 5 of Bernie Sanders top donors. Cash from Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft poured into the Clinton campaign. $1.6 million was donated by Google employees to Hillary Clinton and Google employee money is still pouring into competitive congressional races in the midterm elections. The same is true across the tech spectrum.
People have a right to their own political views. But thats an idea that todays Silicon Valley rejects.
The internet was born through universities, hobbyists and neglected labs. It was experimentally libertarian. Two generations later its controlled by a handful of monopolistic tech firms whose leaders and employees are dogmatically leftist. Most users havent cared much as the local BBS and then the forum gave way to centralized platforms like Facebook. But centralization represented a cultural and political shift. Freedom ceased to be part of the internets innate technological DNA and instead became an eccentricity that Big Tech temporarily tolerated because it made the tech companies money.
And relying on the tolerance of the adherents of a political movement that had never been noted for its willingness to tolerate the dissenting speech of its political opponents was never going to end well.
The internet was free when control over its medium was diversified. Its message ceased to be free as its core platforms became centralized. Its old model had been innately libertarian. Its new model was just as innately socialist, imitating its old hobbyist culture with free services, but offering those free services in exchange for reselling control and surveillance over the people who were making use of them.
Google, Facebook and other big tech firms tolerated freedom on the internet for a variety of reasons, some cultural, some political and some economic. The old generation of Boomer hobbyists had long since made way for Generation X liberals and millennial lefties, but the culture was still there. Even tech industry lefties have a more libertarian outlook than their peers in other industries. And none of the firms wanted the responsibility of actually censoring their content. Not only is it an expensive and difficult process, but it would make them responsible for what actually appeared on their services.
A laissez faire attitude made it easier for Google, Facebook and Twitter to agnostically cash in on user content. They were providing a service and werent responsible. But that was never going to last.
Even before Trumps victory, the cultural shift to a millennial activist tech workforce, increasing pressure from Europe and growing desperation by the media over the internet threat were turning points.
European governments had never been comfortable with American tech companies and their permissive attitude toward free speech. As domestic political pressures mounted, nervous governments, especially Merkels in Germany, came to view big tech companies as unlicensed media operations that allowed extremists to bypass the regulated media with dangerous populist opinions.
Meanwhile the medias business model was already under siege from Google and Facebook. The media had to manufacture a crisis that would force regulation of news content on social media platforms. That crisis arrived in the form of Donald J. Trump. While Clintons people blamed their defeat on the Russians, the media seized on the fake news angle to blame Trumps victory on social media misinformation. (Later these two competing narratives were synthesized into Russian bots spreading fake news, but initially the media was blaming the Macedonians, not the Russians.)
The media did not especially care whether it was the Russians or the Macedonians. Its real targets werent in Moscow or Skopje, but in Silicon Valley. It had already seen Craigslist wipe out the business models of many local papers. And it feared that Facebook was about to do the same thing to it. And so it whipped up a panic among nervous elites by blaming Trump, Brexit and political populism on the unregulated social media environment on Facebook and throughout the entire internet.
The media isnt just an ideology. Its an industry. It was in the business of selling buggy whips, while social media firms were giving away sports cars. But as rattled elites confronted the specter of populism, being in the buggy whip business suddenly had a clear advantage as world leaders trembled at the roar of sports car engines rounding the track. It wasnt really about the Russians. It was about populism.
And what was more populist than the internet? The common denominator of Trump, Brexit and other subversive political movements is that the people ignored what the media had been telling them. Why? Because they were being influenced by unregulated materials on social media instead. If the internet were better regulated, everyone would listen to the media and the populism problem would vanish.
The medias assault on Trump, its advocacy against Brexit and for Muslim migration, wasnt just ideological, it was an industrial act of virtue signaling intended for the consumption of political elites. Imagine, its message is to Democrats, to Labour, to left-leaning Republicans and Tories, to Merkel and a horde of other European bureaucrats and leaders, just imagine if we were the only game in town.
Every furious media attack on Trump isnt just ideological hatred. Its an audition.
The arguments about the dangers of the internet were the same old ones that had been made by the media for a generation. Its reporters were responsible professionals. The bloggers, vloggers and social media influencers were a dangerous horde of rabble. But Trumps victory had put teeth into the smears.
Suddenly the idea that the internets freedom was dangerous wasnt an abstraction, but a reality.
The media successfully turned its problem, Silicon Valley, into the problem of political elites. Suddenly Facebook wasnt just a good way to reach constituents or look at your cousins cat pictures. It was how Trump won. It was why Brexit happened. It was why people opposed Muslim migration. It was evil.
And then it was no longer a question of whether the internet would be censored, but on what terms.
The media wanted special privileges. Google and Facebook baked in media fact checkers to oversee its results. But that wasnt enough. Fact checking brought in clicks, but the media wanted a whole lot more. And Big Tech wasnt about to give it all away either. It met the medias virtue signaling with its own virtue signaling by deplatforming the sites and individuals that it associated with the right.
That was how the purge began.
The media went after Big Tech. And Big Tech went after the right.
A rising millennial workforce, more organized than ever in the #Resistance era, applied internal pressure. The media and political elites applied external pressure. And Google, Facebook and Twitter, and assorted smaller companies who shared an interlocking economic and cultural ecosystem with them, began erratically censoring, shadowbanning and deplatforming their targets.
The censorship was erratic because there were no real rules. Attempts to formulate consistent rules faltered. And set rules would represent a liability. Especially when they were applied to the left.
The purge was ideological. But it was primarily self-serving.
The media was trying to survive economically by creating a political crisis. Big Tech was fighting to survive politically by defusing the crisis to prevent the media and its lefty allies from regulating it.
And many on the right were caught in the shockwave from the hostile collision of two huge industries.
But despite their size, all the players in the purge are afraid. The political elites are terrified. Trumps victory, Brexit and the rise of populist parties in Europe have them fearing that the consensus is collapsing. The media is afraid that its industry wont survive the internet. And Silicon Valley is afraid of what every industry, once it becomes established, fears, the great hand of government regulations.
While Big Tech may support higher taxes (for other people), gun control (for people who arent their bodyguards) and nationalized health care (see above), it really doesnt like regulation.
What the elites, the media and Big Tech all fear is change. And the totalitarian answer to change is control. Control people and you control change. The tighter you control them, the more you can predict. The old internet had been based on unleashing human unpredictability. The new internet is all about predicting what people will do. And then using that knowledge to control what they actually do.
The internet had unleashed a wave of incredible change. Now the tech companies who had ridden that change to become a new establishment are ready to dam up the change and hand over the keys.
The censorship wave has one core problem and one core solution. The political elites, the media and the tech companies are all villains. But centralization made censorship inevitable. Once a small number of interlocking companies gained the power to choke off free speech on the internet, it was only a matter of time until they did it. The triggers discussed in this article are a detail. The ability is the real threat.
Free speech cant only be protected legislatively; it must also be protected at a technical level.
The First Amendment didnt create a new ability. It protected an existing one. Without a printing press in every town, freedom of the press would have been an absurdity. Google, Facebook and Amazons centralized control over the internet have made the First Amendment into just as much of an absurdity.
Centralized control over speech by any organization inevitably leads to government censorship. The only way to protect freedom of speech on the internet is to decentralize the control of big tech companies. As long as Google, Facebook and Amazon can choke off freedom of speech at a moments notice, its not a question of whether speech on the internet will be censored, but when it will be censored and why.
The only way to protect freedom of speech is to break up the centralized power of Big Tech.
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Great article. Here’s a similar one...
Sounds like he read George Gilder’s latest. I might have to read it too.
Terrific article. Whoa!
Breaking up the monoliths online will be a legislative challenge. Creating genuine opportunity for competition may be a better solution, or at least a companion rider.
1. Access to computers, the internet, social networks, and smart phones is a RIGHT, not a privilege. Everyone has that RIGHT. To ensure this RIGHT, we need 'IT Reform'!
2. Thus, we must socialize Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Cisco, etc., with the government setting prices and acting as a single payer to tech employees. Given their training and education, IT 'providers' should make a good salary, but not the type of salary they're making now. It's just not fair, and threatens each American's RIGHT to equal access to IT.
3. Everyone in Silicon Valley (and the poorer surrounding counties and cities) will be required by law to purchase an 'IT coverage' plan - the details of which will be determined by the government. This plan will 'level the playing field' and provide near-equal IT quality to all (e.g. high-speed internet, a MacBook Pro or equivalent, and an iPhone X or equivalent - to all). Those who can't afford to purchase an 'IT coverage' plan will be subsidized by the government (i.e. their coverage will be paid for by those who do purchase coverage). If those who are able to afford 'IT coverage' (as determined by the government) don't, they will be fined by the IRS.
This is just the start of what I imagine will be an ~2700 page document/bill (sound familiar?).
These are private companies. If they want to limit speech, that is absolutely their right. And as conservatives, we should support that right. That being said, we are also free to develop competitors.
I am not so sure. There are far more barriers to conservatives developing competitors than to leftsts doing so. I hope you are correct.
What barriers are there? Look at free republic. That is a competitor.
“....The only way to protect freedom of speech is to break up the centralized power of Big Tech.”
IF it was possible to get the Right a spine the Left would only change everything once they take back power. So what does one do?
I see a vicious conflict in our future.
“1. Access to computers, the internet, social networks, and smart phones is a RIGHT, not a privilege. Everyone has that RIGHT. To ensure this RIGHT, we need ‘IT Reform’!”
Some...repeat “some”... of that might...repeat “might”...become true. As more and more business and social transactions come to be accomplished electronically, and come to be required to be accomplished electronically, will people have a right of some sort to the means to accomplish those transactions? Can one part of society legitimately cut off another part of society from accomplishing those transactions because the latter doesn’t have the means?
Maybe some sort of dual access is indicated.
Freerepublic was formed at the beginning of a freewheeling Internet. Those times are past. Freerepublic uses software developed by its founder, Jim Robinson. It is a barrier to develop independent original software. Freerepublic does not depend on ads. It depends on donations. It barely survives. The number of people donating are tiny. As I recall, less than 1% of Freerepublic members. The software and banking institutions used to fund donations are being weaponized against conservatives. They are tightly centralized and controlled by leftists. The amount of money required to start and develop a social media has become very large. It has become a barrier. The use of Social Justice Warriors (SJW) to destroy platforms that disagree with conservative platforms, is a barrier. Anyone who is willing to place an ad with a conservative platform will be attacked on the existing platforms. The barriers to entry are there, because it is much harder to build a competing railroad when there are several railroads already operating. I am not saying a platform cannot be developed, but it will be difficult. I would love to see it happen.
Freerepublic was formed at the beginning of a freewheeling Internet. Those times are past.
Freerepublic uses software developed by its founder, Jim Robinson. It is a barrier to develop independent original software.
Freerepublic does not depend on ads. It depends on donations. It barely survives. The number of people donating are tiny. As I recall, less than 1% of Freerepublic members.
The software and banking institutions used to fund donations are being weaponized against conservatives. They are tightly centralized and controlled by leftists.
The amount of money required to start and develop a social media has become very large. It has become a barrier.
The use of Social Justice Warriors (SJW) to destroy platforms that disagree with conservative platforms, is a barrier. Anyone who is willing to place an ad with a conservative platform will be attacked on the existing platforms.
The barriers to entry are there, because it is much harder to build a competing railroad when there are several railroads already operating.
I am not saying a platform cannot be developed, but it will be difficult.
I would love to see it happen.
Tech entrepreneurs know very little about the real world Utopia world will never will be real.
Waiting for the "We'll just make our own internet, wires and everything, from scratch!" idiocy to show up.
Agree, I have his book and it really opens your eyes to the underpinnings of what has been going on, and how it is already in retreat and there is no going back. I am connected to him on LinkedIn, great guy and I am beginning to work with him on my own entrance into the market which is diametrically opposed to the methods and end game which the big boys have been playing. Security is top priority as is the preservation and protection of personal information.
Glad to find a fellow seeker here, I am looking at his other books as well as some others that providentially appeared in my suggested reading list.
Great post, ThanQs
“These are private companies. If they want to limit speech, that is absolutely their right ...”
I agree totally. Furthermore I’d say half of the problem is the gullible audience.
Working on exactly that, an the train as we say is well down the tracks. It gets very deep into the very premise of all the data collection they are really about, trying to figure out who we are and will buy or use and then using so called analytics predict our behaviors. But they have some fatal flaws in their premise, like over 7 billion people who may all be human but we still have quirks that cannot be codified or stuffed into a box forever
Aye the games afoot indeed, and I am not going back nor giving ground, I hate paying for the same ground twice...
Sic Semper Tyrranis!
PS - The foundational code for what I am building already exists, it is how it is implemented, supplemented and secured that makes a difference. And in 42 + years in high tech I have people I trust who get it and share the vision. In short a monolithic non focused social media model will never work..
That is all I will say about that
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