The social-media giants won’t stop censoring conservative speech anytime soon. Why would they? The reality is that conservatives must fight back against big tech immediately. Here are several ways to do it.
Will you see this essay on Facebook or Twitter? Maybe, maybe not. The two major social media networks have been censoring political speech for a while, and now that the election has been decided in the Electoral College they are cracking down harder than ever. The banning of President Trump from these and a number of other media (don’t worry, Pinterest followers—President Trump can no longer hurt you!) on the utterly absurd pretext that he is guilty of inciting a mob by his claims that the election was stolen is a major step in their ongoing war on conservatives. It is an utterly absurd claim since we know that many liberal users, including major politicians, have claimed this repeatedly about the 2016 election. Nancy Pelosi tweeted the following on May 26, 2017: “Our election was hijacked. There is no question. Congress has a duty to #ProtectOurDemocracy & #FollowTheFacts.” She was never banned for such “incitement.” Of course, Twitter has an out since it did not even cite any particular Tweets in its announcement of its ban on President Trump. Instead, it cited “how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter.” Using this as a standard would force almost every politician whose followers have committed an act of violence or crime off the site.
For those who claimed Trump was too easy on authoritarian Russia (and even Fareed Zakaria on CNN now can say out loud that he was tougher than President Obama on that country), it might be useful to know that Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who has survived two assassination attempts, condemns these acts of censorship and warns that they will be used by governments all over the world to normalize the technological disappearing of political opponents. He observes, “Among the people who have Twitter accounts are cold-blooded murderers (Putin or Maduro) and liars and thieves (Medvedev). For many years, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have been used as a base for Putin’s ‘troll factory’ and similar groups from other authoritarian countries.” Indeed, the Ayatollah of Iran, who calls for death to all Jews, and Louis Farrakhan are among those with fully functioning Twitter accounts (the other day I saw the former being promoted on Twitter).
The excuses of Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of the big tech companies are pathetic. The group “WalkAway,” for people who’ve left the Democratic Party, was banned from Facebook the other day, while the ad account for PatrioticMe, a company that sells patriotic clothing, was deleted. MailChimp, the email newsletter service, refused to service the Northern Virginia Tea Party because of a message about a recount rally. And we need not even get started on the censorship of views about the efficacy of masks or other aspects of the approach to Covid-19. The reality is that these tech companies censor views not because of “hatefulness” or “misinformation,” but because they can. The National Pulse reported on emails that showed that Facebook banned users at the request of Hunter Biden. And we all heard about Twitter’s locking the New York Post out of its account for tweeting its stories about Mr. Biden fils and what his emails revealed. These corporations are using the power of their platforms, supposedly open to everybody, to squash voices that oppose their interests and those of the politicians who protect them.
Nor will these corporations stop anytime soon. Why would they? The reality is that conservatives—and liberals and anybody who is awake enough to recognize tyranny—must fight back against big tech immediately. Preventing overreach is a task for the Federal government, but sadly, congressional Republicans had a chance to do something from 2016-2018 and refused to do so. They didn’t do much when they held the Senate from 2018-2020 either. As always, the Babylon Bee captured the reality better than anybody else in their story, “Senators Vow to Hold Big Tech Accountable by Flying Them to D.C. and Saying Mean Things to Them.” Democrats do not seem inclined to see a problem since they are largely benefiting from the censorship. Besides, one of the difficulties of a regulatory solution, as University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan observed on Parler before it went offline, is that “big tech alumni” would likely be writing the rules. (Foxes, please keep our hens safe.) Therefore, until there is sufficient strength in Washington to act, much less act effectively, there must be a multi-front strategy involving different actors.
Conservatives are famed for personal responsibility language, but it’s just as hard for us as it is for anybody else. As consumers, we need to flee from these platforms as much as possible. I never joined Twitter, and shortly after writing this essay, I am going to delete my Facebook page after 11 years. I understand the argument that conservatives should stay on the site in order to be “leaven” or a “light,” and I understand if those who are in business or promoting a group want to keep their sites on these media to get the word out. But I think the way in which we exercise influence on such groups must ultimately be by disconnecting ourselves from them. They depend on selling advertising and also our information. Both of these will be affected if they have fewer users.
I think that we are ultimately going to need to wean ourselves off of Amazon, Apple, and Google as much as we can, given that they have played an outsized role in blocking the next phase of the fight.
In addition to banning President Trump and many conservatives and conservative groups from their sites, the big tech giants reacted to the growth of Parler, an alternative to Twitter. Having amassed over 10 million users, Parler was emerging as a viable competitor. Because Parler depends on Amazon Webhosting Services, Amazon was able to successfully shut down Parler as of this past Monday. Parler has begun lawsuits against Amazon for breach of contract and violation of anti-trust laws but has not been successful yet. It has secured the services of Epik, a web-hosting service that has Gab and has had other, sketchier clients such as 8chan in the past. But even if Parler comes back up soon, Apple and Google have banned the site from their app stores.
Consumers are going to have to put their profiles and their money where their mouths are if they are going to exercise any power and get any change. I think we all need to do more in-depth reading of books and articles, but if we’re going to be on the interwebs, we need to do something different. Here are some suggestions, though I warn you that I have not used all of them myself. You can get your news from a variety of websites, particularly aggregating sites such as RealClearPolitics or Bongino Report. I get a lot of news from InstaPundit. If you want to be on social media, however, join Parler when it’s back online. Use Facebook alternative MeWe (I do) or Discord’s community forums. For video, use Vimeo, Bitchute, and Rumble rather than YouTube. I long ago stopped “Googling” and made DuckDuckGo my search engine. I’m looking at browsers for my personal computers and have been told I need to look at Brave. The folks at Legal Insurrection recommend SalsaLabs since it accomplishes more functions on one platform than does MailChimp. Readers of this essay probably know about more of these services than I do. If you want to fight the censorship and tyranny, disconnect from the censors and go to their competition.
This might seem impossible with Google and Apple, and even Amazon, given that indie writers often use Amazon for their publishing. But even directing your business as best you can to competitors will send a message if enough people do it.
“Corporate responsibility” is too often a euphemism for the kind of woke censorship we are talking about. But people who run businesses can exercise their own responsibility in this fight by their own choices. Internet providers have a special capability. YourT1Wifi, an internet provider in Idaho, received so many complaints about Twitter and Facebook’s censoring actions that they decided to block the two sites, while allowing customers to receive an exemption if they needed them. This might seem like a small thing—how many people are in Idaho?—but what if enough consumers bugged their internet providers that multiple locales started blocking such sites? Again, this action required consumer action, but it also required courage on the part of executives. What kind of businesses could do something creative like this? Identify them and ask for some “corporate responsibility.”
Finally, even if our federal government has proven in this case to be useless, the reality is that aspects of our federal make-up as a nation remain. Local and state politicians still have quite a bit of authority in many areas—note the difference between red states and blue states in the reactions to Covid-19. What can your local officials do to fight back against big tech?
Randy Fine, a state representative in Florida’s legislature, announced (on Twitter!) that he had asked Governor Ron DeSantis and his cabinet to divest the state from Twitter, Apple, Google, and Amazon: “They may get to decide who to do business with. So do we.” He said that he is writing legislation that would prohibit Florida’s state and local governments from doing business with these companies. Will these initiatives work? I don’t know about Florida, but I could easily imagine other, even redder states or localities being able to do something similar.
It would be nice to think that what we have seen with these tech companies is a tempest in a mocha latte cup—or whatever it is tech people drink. But we face a very dangerous situation today. Amazon customers themselves might know this—as I write this essay, I notice an article that says George Orwell’s 1984 is at the top of the Amazon sales charts. I hope these customers read with an eye toward what can, indeed, happen here.
The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.
The featured image is courtesy of Pixabay.