Have we reached the point where Big Tech censorship is simply accepted?
The most shocking thing about Twitter’s ban of Marjorie Taylor Greene, the first national US politician since Donald Trump to be de-platformed, was the lack of outcry about Big Tech’s self-appointed role as the arbiters of truth.
What is at stake here is far more critical than one congresswoman spreading nonsense on social media. The precedent set a year ago, where unaccountable Big Tech simply banned an elected president from the public square, has morphed into a new reality: unaccountable tech barons have become the judge and jury of political debate and what is true or not in society.
The dangers of this reality cannot be stressed enough. Whatever one thinks of Greene or her bonkers views on Covid-19 vaccinations or the QAnon conspiracy theory, the censoring of her opinions from the public realm – particularly by private social media companies – is far worse, for two related reasons.
The first is that the censors are Big Tech oligarchs. They have by default become the unelected, unaccountable corporate Ministry of Truth. Because they are not the state, we have a naïve belief that their arbitrary ideological purges are either less odious or a welcome intervention.
But their control over the modern public square has enormous implications for the future of elections. They, and they alone, will determine what can and cannot be said on their platforms –where, it should be remembered, millions of voters share ideas and look to for information.
With the arrogance of only those who have zero self-awareness, Facebook and Twitter are pretty proud of their role as defenders of what they regard as the truth. According to Facebook Vice President of Content Policy Monika Bickert, the company is “taking steps to combat election interference and misinformation while also working to help people vote.”
Twitter’s view of its role as Big Brother is even more chilling. A company spokesperson sent the following statement to Recode on Tuesday following Greene’s suspension: “Our approach before and after January 6 has been to take strong enforcement action against accounts and Tweets that incite violence or have the potential to lead to offline harm. Engagement and focus across government, civil society, and the private sector are also critical. We recognize that Twitter has an important role to play, and we’re committed to doing our part.”
Seriously? Should accounts and tweets that have the ill-defined “potential to lead to offline harm” be banned? So, Twitter now has God-like powers, with insights into the minds of those tweeting and those reading them. One wonders what this might mean during the 2022 midterm election cycle and its coming onslaught of contentious speech from elected officials and political candidates running for office.
And this is the second problem. The assumption behind all this ideological suppression is that Big Tech knows the truth, and we, the little people, don’t. They can spot misinformation, but we can’t. Dubious claims do not influence them. We are easy prey, stupid and gullible, who need saving from ourselves.
The obvious point here is that this debased view of ordinary people is why there is no outcry against Big Tech tyranny, as seen in the suspension of Greene, Trump, and others. The mainstream media, the institution that ought to be playing the role of speaking truth to power, shares the same misanthropic views of the great unwashed.
The problem is not just Big Tech and their self-appointed role of herding the sheep. Truth is not something that can be delivered from on high. Neither Big Tech nor politicians are qualified to pronounce what is true or not. That is for the electorate to decide, and to do that through the exchange of ideas, through a clash of opinions, debate, and the presentation and rejection of information in the public realm. In short, through the exercising of free speech – something the Big Tech oligarchs have shown they have no regard for whatsoever as they seek to define and police social media.
Greene has been the first big platform cancellation of 2022. She will most certainly not be the last. The fight for free speech in 2022 will be an uphill struggle. But Greene’s ban shows that what is now rampant and needing to be checked is not misinformation, but the arbitrary power and tyranny of Silicon Valley’s unelected oligarchs.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.