The United States is a great country because of the freedoms it provides for its citizens. Immigrants, from all over the world, come to the US, to provide their families with a better life. Some of them will risk a dangerous journey, but they undertake the risk, because life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are ingredients to a better life.
Our founding fathers realized how precious these freedoms were. They fought in the Revolutionary War against England to gain these freedoms, for all of us. “The First Amendment gives everyone residing in the United States the right to hear all sides of every issue and to make their own judgments about those issues without government interference or limitations. The First Amendment allows individuals to speak, publish, read and view what they wish, worship (or not worship) as they wish, associate with whomever they choose, and gather together to ask the government to make changes in the law or to correct the wrongs in society” (ALA American Library Association, 2009).
BigTech is censoring information from a major newspaper, the New York Post, to aide a political figure, Joe Biden, who is running for the highest office in the land! We are missing some outrage, some concern, for this gross violation by BigTech. Ethical news outlets should care about this injustice, and ALL AMERICANS should care about this infringement, and violation of our First Amendment rights!
In an article from Business Insider, there were 57 countries without civil liberties and freedom of speech, “The countries counted as “not free” are those that fail to hold valid elections, don’t have active independent media, and do not endow their citizens with basic civil rights” (Cranley, 2019).
This means they do not have fair elections or elections at all, the media is controlled by the government, and civil rights violations run rampant! Also, consider some of the countries on this list: China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, to name a few. They are communist, or socialist regimes, with a history of human rights violations, censorship of the press, the Internet, and totalitarianism ideology, meaning a dictatorship. The citizens have no authority to question anything.
BigTech is censoring information, to control opinion, and by doing so, control the election. If you are for Biden, this might seem acceptable as it supports your candidate. However, the allowance of this censorship, even when it suits our purpose, is a scary proposition. We, the people, do not have a say, or control, what is censored or suppressed, when we relinquish our constitutional rights, they are gone. We may have to fight another war to get them back. I see this as one of the biggest threats, in our lifetime!
This past summer, Congress held Judiciary hearings called, “Online Platforms and Market Power: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google”. These hearings had the leaders, from the social media giants, testify about their business practices, content moderation, and each of them, in various ways, claimed to have fair, and non-biased moderating practices for their platforms (Bond & Selyukh, 2020).
However, these hearings, brought forward, several whistleblowers, that were former employees of these BigTech companies. Each wrote letters to the Judiciary Committee detailing their first-hand knowledge for censorship, and innate bias concentrated on conservative people, and groups (Tuzara, 2020).
A Google whistleblower named Zach Vorhies, highlighted some of the material he uncovered, including the “Machine Learning fairness” program that transforms America’s open internet system into a Chinese-style system of internet censorship” (Tuzara, 2020).
This censorship along with collaborating with the Chinese Communist military, if found to be true, demonstrates how much our freedoms are being infringed upon daily. Not only our freedoms, but our safety, by having an American company collude with a foreign government. One that has become increasingly intolerant to our interests.
Another whistleblower from Facebook, Ryan Hartwig, wrote about censorship on a global scale in his letter, “In my interviews in Spain, Canada, and Colombia, I noticed that citizens are concerned about Facebook’s reach and influence in their elections. Conservatives in these countries also suffer political censorship. This is not just a domestic concern, this is a global pandemic; political censorship has infected the world in a major way…” (Tuzara, 2020).
As for Twitter, there has been ongoing concerns, and cries of foul, by numerous conservative voices for some time. Dr. Joe Tuzara expanded on these concerns of censorship, “Although Twitter presents itself as politically neutral, its culture behind closed doors is one of blatant censorship, systemic bias, and political targeting” (Tuzara, 2020).
BigTech has protection under the law called section 230. Section 230 provides immunity to social media companies against being sued over the content on their sites. This means they cannot be held accountable as a content publishers, editors, or suppressors of content. The Joe/Hunter Biden story is a prime example of censorship, bias, and control of information. They are demonstrating a preference towards a specific candidate for the presidency of the United States. By suppressing a negative news story, they are using their power and influence, to sway public opinion, using censorship across the social media spectrum of platforms. This in turn, is social media interfering in a US election! The Section 230 protection needs to be revoked, their status as a publishing editor initiated, along with more transparency about their use of technology algorithms, and regulations against any monopolistic practices (Brown, 2020).
We are moving swiftly towards an Orwellian style of censorship and control. In the book titled, 1984, George Orwell writes, “it was the state that conducted surveillance and censored speech” (Orwell, 1948).
In 2020, social media companies deploy vast armies of human and algorithmic moderators that surveil their users 24/7, flagging those that commit thoughtcrimes and deleting their violations from existence. Those that commit too many thoughtcrimes are banished to “unperson” status by these same private companies, without any intervention or even in contradiction with the will of the state and without any right to appeal (Arwen567, 2019).
If we do not fight for our freedoms, they could be forever lost. We must stand up to these BigTech companies that want control and influence over our lives. They are violating our constitutional rights, that make our country so great! We need to wake up, and rebel against the BigTech control and censorship, or we will be living in a totalitarian, dystopia, in the near future. “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb, and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” (George Washington).
ALA American Library Association. (2019, July 13). First Amendment and Censorship. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorship
Allyn, B., Bond, S., & Selyukh, A. (2020, July 29). Heads Of Amazon, Apple, Facebook And Google Testify On Big Tech’s Power. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2020/07/29/894802424/watch-heads-of-amazon-apple-facebook-and-google-testify-on-big-techs-power
Arwen567. (2019, May 14). As Orwell’s 1984 Turns 70 It Predicted Much Of Today’s Surveillance Society. Retrieved October 15th, 2020 https://arwen567.wordpress.com/2019/05/14/as-orwells-1984-turns-70-it-predicted-much-of-todays-surveillance-society/
Brown, A. (2020, May 29). What Is Section 230-And Why Does Trump Want To Change It? Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/abrambrown/2020/05/28/what-is-section-230-and-why-does-trump-want-to-change-it/
Cranley, E. (2019, June 11). The 57 nations in the world that aren’t ‘free,’ according to an international watchdog. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/countries-that-arent-free-report-2019-5?op=1
Leetaru, K. (2019, August 12). As Orwell’s 1984 Turns 70 It Predicted Much Of Today’s Surveillance Society. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2019/05/06/as-orwells-1984-turns-70-it-predicted-much-of-todays-surveillance-society/
Lemeunier, A. (2004). “1984” (1948), George Orwell. Paris, Texas: Hatier.
Paul M. Barrett, O. (2020, October 15). The Section 230 fight Congress should be having. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://thehill.com/opinion/technology/521141-the-section-230-fight-congress-should-be-having
Tuzara, D. (2020, August 23). The hidden dangers of Chinese-style Big Tech censorship – Opeds. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/285704
Vorhies, Z., & Hartwig, R. (2020). Final Version Joint Letter to Congress from Three Whistleblowers_A.docx. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://www.docdroid.net/hPIv4CP/final-version-joint-letter-to-congress-from-three-whistleblowers-a-docx