Washington Examiner: How Big Tech Reshaped Politics Through Censorship

From the Washington Examiner, Blacklist Valley: How Big Tech reshapes politics by censoring conservative ideas another tale of internet censorhip.

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For better or worse, social media is the new public square. Of adults, 68% use Facebook, 73% use YouTube, and a quarter use Twitter. The numbers are much higher for adults under 50. Two-thirds of adults and roughly 4 in 5 under 50 use social media to consume news. Three-quarters of Facebook users are on the site every day, and Twitter users have a disproportionate influence on the media because so many journalists are on the service.

The size and scale of social media companies exploded primarily because they presented themselves as open platforms — blank slates. Google, Facebook, and Twitter all characterized their products as engines for social improvement. “We think of Twitter as the global town hall,” said former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. “We are the free speech wing of the free speech party.”

Costolo was Twitter’s chief executive from 2010 until 2015 and the immediate predecessor of current CEO Jack Dorsey. Twitter’s general manager in the United Kingdom, Andy Yang, likewise described Twitter as the “free speech wing of the free speech party” in March 2012. Google became a multibillion-dollar company by offering a portal for free, unrestricted information to anyone with access to the internet; famously, its original motto was “Don’t be evil.” An internal Facebook memo circulated in June 2016 stated that at Facebook, “we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is de facto good.”

The public has given these three tech companies (and others) enormous power to select the information we read, share, and discuss with our neighbors and friends. We’ve gotten so accustomed to the role they play in our lives that we fail to notice that Big Tech is sifting through the available information and narrowing, and prioritizing, our choices. Although Facebook, Google, and Twitter once touted themselves as bastions of democracy and free speech, they are now openly moving toward direct censorship and media manipulation — and specifically targeting conservative ideas and personalities.

They have already acquiesced to their new censorship fetish. In March 2018, Google circulated an internal memo that instructed employees on the benefits of censorship. In the memo, which was titled “The Good Censor,” Google conceded that while the internet was “founded upon utopian principles of free speech,” free speech is no longer en vogue. “Tech companies are adapting their stance towards censorship” in direct response to “the anxiety of users and governments.” The memo said that “tech firms have gradually shifted away from unmediated free speech and towards censorship and moderation” but framed that shift as a positive development. One major way that tech companies are “stepping into the role of moderator” is by “significantly amping up the number of moderators they employ — in YouTube’s case increasing the number of people on the lookout for inappropriate content to more than 10,000.” It argued that censorship was necessary partly because of users “behaving badly.”

The most alarming part of the missive, however, was that it spoke approvingly of foreign governments that were censoring online speech. Google framed the acts as “taking steps to make online spaces safer, more regulated, and more similar to their offline laws. Protected from hate speech on the street? Now you are on the net too …” Twitter has completely and publicly abandoned its brand as the “free speech wing of the free speech party,” with Dorsey claiming the whole “free speech wing” thing was one giant “joke.” His company, once seemingly devoted to the free expression of its users, now says it is prioritizing making users feel safe from others’ speech. Facebook, too, is openly rebranding itself as a benevolent censor. Here’s what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees in April 2018 (emphasis added):

Overall, I would say that we’re going through a broader philosophical shift in how we approach our responsibility as a company. For the first 10 or 12 years of the company, I viewed our responsibility as primarily building tools that, if we could put those tools in people’s hands, then that would empower people to do good things. What I think we’ve learned now across a number of issues, not just data privacy, but also fake news and foreign interference in elections, is that we need to take a more proactive role and a broader view of our responsibility. It’s not enough to just build tools. We need to make sure that they’re used for good. And that means that we need to now take a more active view in policing the ecosystem and in watching and kind of looking out and making sure that all of the members in our community are using these tools in a way that’s going to be good and healthy.

Three forces are driving Big Tech’s online censorship. Two are external and related: market pressures and de-platforming campaigns by liberal activists and journalists. The third pressure is internal: Silicon Valley is staggeringly one-sided politically. Profit margins and market pressures are crucial levers that left-wing ideologues use to pull tech giants and other corporations in the direction of censorship. Companies want to avoid controversy, and, in the era of outrage mobs, that means avoiding offending the Left, which controls most of the cultural institutions in America. That’s part of the reason why massive companies are embracing left-wing politics in advertising, such as what Gillette did with its “toxic masculinity” ad. Left-wing activists amplify those pressures with smear campaigns and boycotts intended to rattle advertisers and investors, forcing the hands of tech companies. If you convince corporate marketing agencies that advertising on Facebook is risky, you can be certain that Facebook will take some form of action to shed controversy and reassure investors.

The external pressures of left-wing activists are compounded by the internal pressures of the companies’ employees, who want Big Tech to embrace censorship against nonliberal opinions as a moral and political necessity…

Click here to read the entire article at Washington Examiner.

Mises Institute: The Silicon Valley Gulag

Author and university professor Jason Morgan has written an review at Mises Institute of Michael Rectenwald’s Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom.

he near-homogeneity of Silicon Valley political beliefs has gone from wry punchline to national crisis in the United States. The monoculture of virtue signaling and high- and heavy-handed woke corporate leftism at places like Google, Twitter, and Facebook was once a source of chagrin for those who found themselves shut out of various internet sites for deviating from the orthodoxies of the Palo Alto elites. After the 2016 presidential election, however, it became obvious that the digitalistas were doing a lot more than just making examples of a few handpicked “extremists.” From the shadow banning of non-leftist sites and views to full-complement political propagandizing, Bay Area leftists have been so aggressive in bending the national psyche to their will that there is talk in the papers and on the cable “news” channels of “existential threats to our democracy.”

It is tempting to see this as a function of political correctness. Americans, and others around the world, who have found themselves on the “wrong side of history” (as determined by the cultural elite in an endless cycle of epistemological door closing) have long been shut out of conversations, their views deemed beyond the pale of acceptable discourse in enlightened modern societies. Google, Facebook, Twitter — are these corporations, and their uber-woke CEOs, just cranking the PC up to eleven and imposing their schoolmarmish proclivities on the billions of people who want to scrawl messages on their electronic chalkboards?

Not so, says reformed leftist — and current PC target — Michael Rectenwald. The truth of Stanford and Harvard alumni’s death grip on global discourse is much more complicated than just PC run amok. It is not that the Silicon Valley giants are agents of mass surveillance and censorship (although mass surveillance and censorship are precisely the business they’re in). It’s that the very system they have designed is, structurally, the same as the systems of oppression that blanketed and smothered free expression in so much of the world during the previous century. In his latest book, Google Archipelago, Rectenwald outlines how this system works, why leftism is synonymous with oppression, and how the Google Archipelago’s regime of “simulated reality” “must be countered, not only with real knowledge, but with a metaphysics of truth.”

Google Archipelago is divided into eight chapters and is rooted in both Rectenwald’s encyclopedic knowledge of the history of science and corporate control of culture, as well as in his own experiences. Before retiring, Rectenwald had been a professor at New York University, where he was thoroughly entrenched in the PC episteme that squelches real thought at universities across North America and beyond. Gradually, Rectenwald began to realize that PC was not a philosophy, but the enemy of open inquiry. For this reason, and because Rectenwald is an expert in the so-called digital humanities and the long history of scientific (and pseudo-scientific) thinking that feeds into it, Google Archipelago is not just a dry monograph about a social issue. By turns memoir, Kafkaesque dream sequence, trenchant rebuke of leftist censorship, and intellectual history of woke corporate political correctness, Google Archipelago is a welcoming window into a mind working happily in overdrive.

There is much in Google Archipelago addressing the lie that Google, Facebook, and Twitter are neutral platforms for free-ranging debate. This is not so much, because, statistically and empirically, it is irrefutable that Silicon Valley is hostile to non-Beltway-leftist opinions, but because, much more damningly, their woke-capital corporate structures are themselves iterations of massification, propaganda, and deep social control. For Rectenwald, the “Google archipelago” is not PC version 2.0; it is Marxism, version 1,000 (and raised by several orders of magnitude to boot).

For example, in the first and second chapters of Google Archipelago, Rectenwald lays out how the various elements of woke-capitalist ideological repression work together in actual practice. Rectenwald’s chief example is the Gillette ad campaign of January 2019, in which a company whose products (razor blades and shaving cream) are purchased, of course, was said to insult the very essence of its customers by belittling manhood as “toxic.” Why would a razor blade company go out of its way to alienate the people who buy the majority of razorblades? The answer is surprising…

Click here to read the entire review at Mises Wire.

Related:

SHTFPlan.com: The YouTube Censorship Continues: Thought Police Begin The PURGE

YouTube has begun to purge accounts that they have decided violate “acceptable thoughts.” The censorship is continuing and exponentially skyrocketing on all social media platforms…

EFF: Big Tech’s Disingenuous Push for a Federal Privacy Law

Following the theme of the earlier article on The Meat Packing Myth is this article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation – an organization leading the fight for digital privacy and free speech — about a push by big tech companies for federal regulation of digital privacy and why this push is in the self-interest of these corporations rather than in support of your actual privacy.

Big Tech’s Disingenuous Push for a Federal Privacy Law

This week, the Internet Association launched a campaign asking the federal government to pass a new privacy law.

The Internet Association (IA) is a trade group funded by some of the largest tech companies in the world, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and Uber. Many of its members keep their lights on by tracking users and monetizing their personal data. So why do they want a federal consumer privacy law?

Surprise! It’s not to protect your privacy. Rather, this campaign is a disingenuous ploy to undermine real progress on privacy being made around the country at the state level. IA member companies want to establish a national “privacy law” that undoes stronger state laws and lets them continue business as usual. Lawyers call this “preemption.” IA calls this “a unified, national standard” to avoid “a patchwork of state laws.” We call this a big step backwards for all of our privacy.

The question we should be asking is, “What are they afraid of?”

Stronger state laws

After years of privacy scandals, Americans across the political spectrum want better consumer privacy protections. So far, Congress has failed to act, but states have taken matters into their own hands. The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), passed in 2008, makes it illegal to collect biometric data from Illinois citizens without their express, informed, opt-in consent. Vermont requires data brokers to register with the state and report on their activities. And the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), passed in 2018, gives users the right to access their personal data and opt out of its sale. In state legislatures across the country, consumer privacy bills are gaining momentum.

This terrifies big tech companies. Last quarter alone, the IA spent nearly $176,000 lobbying the California legislature, largely to weaken CCPA before it takes effect in January 2021. Thanks to the efforts of a coalition of privacy advocates, including EFF, it failed. The IA and its allies are losing the fight against state privacy laws. So, after years of fighting any kind of privacy legislation, they’re now looking to the federal government to save them from the states. The IA has joined Technet, a group of tech CEOs, and Business Roundtable, another industry lobbying organization, in calls for a weak national “privacy” law that will preempt stronger state laws. In other words, they want to roll back all the progress states like California have made, and prevent other states from protecting consumers in the future. We must not allow them to succeed.

A private right of action

Laws with a private right of action allow ordinary people to sue companies when they break the law. This is essential to make sure the law is properly enforced. Without a private right of action, it’s up to regulators like the Federal Trade Commission or the U.S. Department of Justice to go after misbehaving companies. Even in the best of times, regulatory bodies often don’t have the resources needed to police a multi-trillion dollar industry. And regulators can fall prey to regulatory capture. If all the power of enforcement is left in the hands of a single group, an industry can lobby the government to fill that group with its own people. Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai is a former Verizon lawyer, and he’s overseen massive deregulation of the telecom industry his office is supposed to keep in check.

The strongest state privacy laws include private rights of action. Illinois BIPA allows users whose biometric data is illegally collected or handled to sue the companies responsible. And CCPA lets users sue when a company’s negligence results in a breach of personal information. The IA wants to erase these laws and reduce the penalties its member companies can face for their misconduct in legal proceedings brought by ordinary consumers…