I’m a believer in this case.
Honestly, people, I was shocked when Twitter and Facebook banned Donald Trump. I might be a naive guy from a country that has no tradition of freedom and free speech but the way the Big Tech treated Trump (and some of his online supporters) was shameful. It’s one thing you to not agree with him on a number of issues or even totally. The other thing is just to cancel him. There was no court decision, nothing.
I mean, this is not a Trump issue. Or Biden issue, if you want. This is a freedom issue. Legally, I believe the Big Tech could ban anybody because they’re private companies but hey, let’s be honest: they banned him because of political reasons. And they choose who to cancel and who to support.
This reminds me very much what is going on in Putin’s Russia: seems like the word ‘freedom’ itself – svoboda – might soon be declared ‘extremist’, exactly like Alexey Navalny’s organization, the anti-corruption investigative agency, has just been. The first thing Vlad did in 2000s was to kill any important alternative from Kremlin’s opinion (yes, we in Russia used to have free speech from around 1990 to around 2003).
I suspect people from the West truly do not realize that they’ve gone down a very dangerous road: denial instead of discussion. It seems an easy job to just take somebody out. Then you use some hypocrisy / demagogy to justify your decision. It seems to me the left-wing, with all the Big Tech, have chosen to do what the Bolsheviks did in Russia in 1917: to destroy their opponents. I see clear historic parallels here but in a new set.
This makes free speech – originated by Martin Luther in the 16th century, which is what I was taught in my journalism class by Dr. Loyal Gould back in 1994 in Texas – my God.
To make my point I’d like to quote Ronald Reagan here: ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same…’
This is very true, as we in Russia have lost our freedom that we fought for in the early 1990s and gained it back but then exchanged it for ‘stability’ after 2000. It took exactly one generation to lose it. To me, Boris Yeltsin would be one of Russia’ greatest leaders of all time, paving the way of freedom and development, still giving the #1 place to Tsar Alexander II the Liberator.
Hopefully, people in the West are in a much better position, backed by centuries of freedom tradition, to keep up with free speech, not to give it up to the Big Tech / Big Brother / Deep State / Great Leader.
Social Media and free speech – who should be God?
Dear friends, we are gathered here today to celebrate the good news; targeted advertising will fulfill your empty soul and you will know enlightenment. Let us open to the Book of Marcus, Chapter One, Verse One. Zuckus of Harvard lived in a small and humble dorm room when he was called to screw the masses. And the one percent saw that it was good.
And so it was and The Zuck was pleased. The people stared at their small, glowing screens and worshiped at the altar of bullshit memes. The true king, the Donald, rejoiced as all the billionaires would no longer pay taxes to the false king (#stop the steal). God saw this and it was good.
Dear friends, be mindful that temptation will beseech you: Do not look away from the screen! Hark, listen to the true way. We learn from the Second Book of Tucker that the vaccine is evil, and magnetic (really, like spoons and shit will stick to you. Seriously… this was testimony before the Ohio Legislature) and filled with transmitters to track your very soul. The false King wants to know where you are.
As so it came to pass that a long, dark shadow fell over the Valley of Glowing Screens. The Zuck wanted to save the sheep from ignorance and ordered the Alchemists to create a Facebook Watch, so that he and the data brokers may know your heart rate. But not all was well. Evil forces announced they would throw off their watches and parish first.
The darkness soon spread and The Zuck and The Donald smited each other with lawyers over who should control the glowing screens. The rightful and true King sent his golden forces to create laws forbidding the Zucked One from barring the gate.
Alas, a great battle will soon spill across the Valley of The Glowing Screens. And the Arch Angel himself saw that it was good: Satin’s work is almost complete.
Social Media and free speech: Who should be God?
Years ago, when I was a presenter for the BBC in the tiny island of Jersey, where finance was by far the biggest industry, I remember interviewing the then President of the Finance Committee, effectively the Treasury Minister, about some new law he was proposing. During the conversation, it began to dawn on me that this chap also had another important post, by virtue of being President of Finance.
He was also the bloke who headed the Financial Services Commission, which oversaw the running of the entire finance industry in Jersey. You couldn’t make it up!! Let me just make this absolutely clear – the person who was responsible for making sure that the island’s finance industry adhered to all the rules and regulations was the same guy who was responsible for making all the rules and regulations in the first place. I don’t think the words “Conflict of Interest” are sufficient. Of course, international rules have tightened up since then, but for many years, that was how it was.
And at this time, that’s how I see the major players in social media, like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube acting out their so-called responsibilities. Facebook decides it doesn’t like Donald Trump, so they ban him. But is it up to them? Why should these companies police themselves? It’s simply not appropriate in this day and age. But if not themselves, who should?
The BBC had an independent Board of Governors for decades, then the BBC Trust, and now it’s a company called Ofcom who are responsible for all UK commercial television and radio services in the UK. So the BBC must comply by the terms of their licence, or risk having it revoked. Ofcom also publishes the Broadcasting Code, a series of rules which all broadcast content on television and radio must follow. No-one within the BBC, or any other broadcaster, has any say whatsoever. Truly independent. That’s how it must be. Always.
It has to be the same for the social media companies. Make it illegal to post anything anonymously. Everyone should be accountable for what they say online.
The way Facebook seems to approach their responsibilities is to wait and see and figure out a problem when it emerges. But every other industry has to have minimum safety standards and consider the risks that could be posed to people, through risk mitigation and prevention. I’ve seen a report that says you have to go through more hoops, and checks and balances if you want to market a new toaster, than any of our social media giants have to.
There is, of course, the danger that freedom of speech may be compromised. But an independent body of experts could easily decide that you are free to say what you want, within the confines of hate speech, libel law and so on, and rule on that. They should also rule that you and me are not entitled to have our voice artificially amplified by technology. Which is how misinformation multiplies like a Covid-19 virus.
So let’s do it, and do it quickly. A totally independent authority to rule on all things going on within social media. It’s one of those things that really is not rocket science…….