Alexander Hall is a staff writer for MRC TechWatch
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When the U.S.-based crowdfunding website GoFundMe booted Australian athlete Israel Folau, critics had no idea it would be the best thing they could do for him. Folau is a popular national figure both as an athlete and an outspoken Christian. He was fired from his profession and deplatformed when he used GoFundMe to rally funds for a legal case to take his job back. Christian Australians however, have rallied around him in a huge way.
An Antifa-related activist group called “All Out DC” has been putting up posters with the personal information of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, as well as other free speech figures, in an effort to “Block the Alt-Right.” The group’s poster announced an upcoming rally on July 6 along with Carlson’s face and personal information. The caption labeled him as a “racist with a huge following and platform” who “uses it to promote racist dogwhistles.”
XBox has video game smack-talk in its crosshairs. In an interview with Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo, Xbox head Phil Spencer proclaimed that “Xbox Live is not a free speech platform.” He added that “It is not a place where anybody can come and say anything.” Spencer explained that his team is “working to ensure it’s a safe and inclusive environment.”
In the wake of terror attacks, Big Tech companies are being taken to task over content policing. The June 26 hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee will feature testimonies from Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet. According to Bloomberg Law’s coverage, Facebook’s head of global policy management Monicka Bickert, Twitter’s senior strategist for public policy Nick Pickles, and Google’s global director of information policy Derek Slater are going to testify.
How do Americans feel about Big Tech companies policing content? Most people are for it but even more people doubt the companies can do it properly. Sixty-six percent of Americans, approximately 2/3rds of those surveyed say “social media companies have a responsibility to remove offensive content from their platforms,” according to the liberal Pew Research Center.
Pro-life groups are rallying together against liberal censorship on Pinterest, an online scrapbooking site. After the pro-life group LiveAction was censored by Pinterest, allied pro-life groups have rallied to load the platform with the group’s content.
Facebook, which no longer funds CPAC, is now sponsoring an upcoming far-left convention. Netroots and its convention event Netroots Nation, originally founded by the far-left blogosphere during the Bush era, has enjoyed a renaissance amid the Democratic party’s leftward lurch on racial and feminist politics. Aside from Facebook, other sponsors included in the event range from immigration advocacy groups such as Informed Immigrant to pro abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the scandal-ridden Women’s March.
Google and YouTube aren’t less interested in free speech than in maintaining politically correct status. Google CEO Sundar Pichai told his gay Google employees, aka “Gayglers,” that the company will consult “many groups, including people who have themselves experienced harassment” in order to descide future company policy. He proclaimed that “our Gaygler and Trans communities have always been a core part of Google culture,” according to The Verge, which received a copy of the June 12 e-mail.
Twitter suspended the account of investigative group Project Veritas after it exposed censorship at Pinterest against pro-lifers. According to the pro-life group Live Action, Pinterest “permanently suspended” its account on June 11. This was after Pinterest was exposed by Project Veritas for limiting conservative groups on the platform. A Project Veritas secret investigation quoted a Pinterest insider who revealed how the site censors such content.
An upcoming free speech platform promises to provide users the best features of other social media, but without the censorship. The subscription based “anti-censorship” platform “Thinkspot” is being created by popular psychologist Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. It’s being marketed as a free speech alternative to payment processors like Patreon in that it will “monetize creators” and as provide a social media alternative to platforms like Facebook and YouTube.
Censorship of conservative and pro-life content isn’t limited to the main tech platforms. Even Pinterest, the online scrapbooking website, is banning conservative voices. According to Live Action, Pinterest “permanently suspended” its account June 11 after a series of exposures about bias on the platform. In an undercover investigation by Project Veritas, an insider revealed how the site censors conservative content in general.
While YouTube has been panicking over one offended LGBT reporter, the platform’s overreaction has both sides outraged. YouTube announced a crackdown on Wednesday June 5 on videos promoting or glorifying racism and discrimination. However, in what appears to be the haphazard actions of a hastily deployed algorithm, even videos critiquing “hate speech” and conspiracy theories have been taken down or demonetized.
As YouTube cuts off the ability of conservatives like comedian Steven Crowder and free speech advocates to support themselves on YouTube, it has allowed massive Russian disinformation to thrive. In the wake of revelations about Iranian subversion on Facebook and Russian accounts on Twitter seeking to “inflame opinions on both sides,” YouTube’s track record appears to be just as bad — or worse. Reuters reported in a June 7 article that “fourteen Russia-backed YouTube channels spreading disinformation have been generating billions of views and millions of dollars in advertising revenue.”
If you thought Big Government was the main threat to your free speech and gun rights, think again. Big Tech has come for both in recent weeks. As The Washington Post reported in a May 30 article, Salesforce has rolled out a new company policy that “bars customers that sell a range of firearms — including automatic and semiautomatic — from using its e-commerce technology.” Salesforce, a $120-billion Fortune 500 company based in San Francisco, creates software which many companies depend on to sell their wares online.
An incident where a Facebook employee gave private info to a predatory journalist has free speech advocates up in arms. “Do we want to be on platforms that are just waiting to release our private information to places of journalism that would be more than happy to doxx us and take us down?” Dave Rubin asked during a June 4, interview with Tucker Carlson.
While the United States is blasting Big Tech for censoring conservative speech, the European Union is mulling a similar crackdown on “offensive content.” Europe has been putting pressure on tech companies for a variety of reasons in recent years, ranging from stricter privacy laws to the “Right to Be Forgotten” and the “Paris Call” for government regulation of hate speech.
When it rains, it pours. Big Tech companies have lost more than $140 billion in market value as the Justice Department and Federal trade Commission announced impending investigations. The two arms of government are preparing antitrust investigations for Big Tech companies. According to CNN Business, several stocks have tanked shortly afterward.
Conservatives have been booted for tweeting “learn to code,” meanwhile a liberal calling for violence against conservatives has gotten a free pass. Far Left Watch claimed that Steven Bonnell, better known as Destiny, “participates in political debates and is very outspoken about his proclivity towards political violence.” They complained about the double standard of exposing extreme right-wing views, but ignoring left-wing ones.
Twitter has gathered a group of academics to help decide the fate of free speech on its platform. Twitter, the platform that bans people for tweeting “learn to code” at journalists, is considering cracking down on offensive “white supremacists.” Vice’s Motherboard wrote that that Vijaya Gadde, Twitter's head of Trust and Safety, legal and public policy made multiple public comments on the issue. Gadde initially stated that Twitter believes "counter-speech and conversation are a force for good, and they can act as a basis for de-radicalization, and we've seen that happen on other platforms, anecdotally."
Big Tech companies say Iranian hackers used social media to interfere with the American 2018 midterm election. A group of anonymous hackers infiltrated social media sites in April 2018 to influence the midterm elections. According to prominent public cybersecurity firm FireEye’s report these fake accounts had a very clear mission to spread “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes.” Reuters recounted how Lee Foster, a FireEye researcher, claimed that many of these accounts had impersonated American journalists. They “had successfully convinced several U.S. news outlets to publish letters to the editor, guest columns and blog posts.”