I’ll disclose my bias upfront. I think Twitter, Google (and by Google I actually mean Alphabet), and Facebook are profoundly evil corporations that epitomize Lord Acton’s admonition, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” They have eluded liability under the safe harbor provision of the Communications Decency Act and ruthlessly targeted conservative voices they think are hitting too close to home. They have even blocked the parody site Babylon Bee because the jokes were too close to being actual news.
They have branched out from merely ripping off your personal information and selling it for a profit to actively interfering in the politics of the United States. A prime example of this is the decision by Twitter to suspend the Twitter account of Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign for encouraging violence when it tweeted a video of leftwing wackos, at least one of which appeared to be very chummy with Elizabeth “Ol’ 1/1024” Warren, at McConnell’s home shouting obscenities and threats of physical harm. This behavior is not new. During the 2018 campaign, Facebook pulled ads by Elizabeth Heng because she made reference to the fact that her parents had escaped from the Khmer Rouge genocide.
In short, I’m 100% in favor of the Department of Justice’s Anti-Trust Division putting them out of business. I’m in favor of sending as much of their staff to prison and homeless shelters as can be done legally.
When one points out the fact that these companies are so dangerous is because they have a monopoly and that if you want to use any of the major social media outlets you have to tailor your content to fit their ever morphing rules, (did you know that Facebook will flag your story as “click bait” if the headline asks a question?) you are often told “hey, we’re conservatives and they are private corporations and they can do what they want” and “well, just create a start-up and compete with them.” My contention is “screw them if they want to meddle in politics” and “you will never be allowed to compete with them.” Some small number of these people actually believe that the social media behemoths will stand idly by and let a start-up begin taking market share (naive or idealistic?). Most of them, though, belong to anodyne, milquetoast Vichy Republican outlets who actually aren’t threatened by the new rules because their real motivation is being invited to the right parties and the grift (as Ace says, “the shame is part of the kink“).
In a very short while after the Patrick Crusius, the El Paso shooter, was identified, it was a reported that he was a visitor to 8chan, a message board that is very close to an absolute free speech area. Let me digress for a moment. I’m pretty close to a free speech absolutist. If someone says something that hurts your feelings, there are lots of avenues open to you to relieve the pain, but one of them is NOT silencing the stuff you don’t want to hear. My view on this extends to people espousing racial superiority (I really don’t care which race they are talking about) and racial animus. As I posted earlier in the week, I don’t care what you think and believe, I only care about how you act.
To get back to the story, the 8chan message boards were supported by Cloudflare. In the aftermath of the shooting, Cloudflare withdrew its support from 8chan and took it offline. 8chan quickly lined up another vendor, BitMitigate, and were back online.
But later in the morning, internet infrastructure provider Voxility announced that it would be cutting off support for BitMitigate and its parent company Epik in response to the decision to provide service to 8chan.
“We do not tolerate hate speech in any form,” Voxility spokeswoman Maria Sirbu said in an email. “This is a firm stand from our team, and we will not reinstall services for Epik/BitMitigate under (any) circumstances.”
Epik and BitMitigate rented dedicated servers from Voxility, Sirbu said, and used them to sell hosting services to third parties. She said Voxility learned approximately three weeks ago that Epik was providing services for neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, and responded by cutting access to IP addresses related to the website.
After learning that BitMitigate had begun providing security services for 8chan, Voxility made the decision to cut Epik’s access off entirely and drop them as a client, Sirbu said.
Bitmitgate’s security services also ran on server space rented from Voxility, according to BitMitigate founder and former owner Nicholas Lim, so Voxility’s decision will halt all of the subsidiary’s operations unless Epik decides to seek out an alternate server host and is able to find one.
By late Monday morning, 8chan had gone down again, and BitMitigate’s own website was also unreachable — likely a result of Voxility’s decision, Lim said.
So 8chan, a backwater only visited by a very small number of people, and quite possibly anti-free-speech advocates stalking the board to try to get evidence to shut the board down might well have outnumbered actual participants, could not be ignored. Because one of its visitors committed a crime, it had to be destroyed. The social media start up Gab has likewise found itself forced, on pain of loss of internet access, to take down accounts and posts by order of companies providing services to it.
Though 8chan and Gab represent an extreme example, they provide a good model for why creating a social media network that allows free speech within the constraints of what is legally permissible rather than what is socially acceptable to a 26 year-old gay trans woke hipster in a long-term relationship with xis gerbil (NTTAWWT) is simply not possible. 8chan was shut off from internet access by a vendor. Not by market forces. By a vendor. A new vendor was found. The new vendor was shut down by one of its vendors for providing services to 8chan. There was a time when this might have been called “restraint of trade” but if you say the wrong thing, then no one cares.
If you think this can’t happen to conservatives, you’re delusional. Look at how the concept of “white supremacy” has been broadened to include all of Donald Trump’s supporters and donors:
"For those of you funding Donald Trump's re-election campaign, you may want to take note: Because you keep writing checks to this president, it's on you…because you are funding this white supremacist campaign…It is your money that is funding this white supremacy." —@JoeNBC pic.twitter.com/w0kxC0KJAk
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) August 5, 2019
Moments ago on @DeadlineWH:
— 11th Hour (@11thHour) August 7, 2019
You, my friend, are a white supremacist to these people. And your right to political speech is just as endangered by Vichy Republicans as it is by the left.
In this case, 8chan needed a service vendor to allow it to operate on the internet. That vendor walked. The replacement vendor was dependent upon a third party for leased servers and they were shut down because they provided a service to 8chan.
The fact is that in the current environment, you can’t start a competing social media network that allows opinions that the left finds offensive unless you have the financial wherewithal to own, outright, all the hardware, software, and can provide all the necessary services to keep that network online if Big Tech disapproves of what you’re doing.
And, if you can, how do you stay in business? Who controls most of the internet advertising sales? And if an internet service company can be shut down because of its unpopular client, how many companies will permit their ads to appear on your network after Google warns them off?
No, my friends, there are two ways forward. Either we comply with situationally malleable rules designed to shut us down and accept our role as serfs or we use every tool at our disposal to either tame or destroy these corporations which are literally trying to rule the country.