The Chinese Virus has given Big Tech a further excuse for a major crackdown on dissent. Consider the latest: Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have suppressed a documentary that claims the experts are wrong about the virus. Twitter muzzled black conservative commentator Candace Owens after she suggested people defy lockdown orders. Twitter has also banned several accounts that shared a parody of a Joe Biden ad. The apparent objective: to suppress dissent for the sake of the “common good.” This censorship will only worsen as we get closer to Election Day, so President Trump and his backers had better wake up. Trump The Sequel is by no means a sure thing, particularly if Big Tech has anything to say about it—which it most certainly does.
But Twitter did not, of course, censor the World Health Organization “expert” who claimed people did not spread the virus to one another [WHO haunted by January tweet saying China found no human transmission of coronavirus, by Nick Givas, Fox News, March 18, 2020]. If we’re supposed to be so worried about “imminent harm” from false information, why doesn’t Twitter slam WHO?
This was “turning point in the way we live in this country, a sharp break with 250 years of law and custom,” Fox’s Tucker Carlson said. “YouTube and its parent company Google have now officially banned dissent” [Tucker rips YouTube for pulling 'problematic' coronavirus video: 'Censorship never is about science', by Yael Halon, Fox News, April 28, 2020].
Conservatives, including top Trump supporter Charlie Kirk, were up in arms.
RT it you stand with Candace Owens! Chinese Communist Party propaganda accounts reign free to tweet their garbage yet they ban @RealCandaceO.— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) May 2, 2020
Yet Trump himself hasn’t uttered a peep about Owens, despite the perfect chance to send Big Tech a message.
Trump supporters are by no means immune to Big Tech’s Big Blue Pencil. Ridiculing Joe Biden is verboten, too.
This in late April, many Trump supporters tweeted out a humorous ad that appeared to be from the Biden campaign. “His Brain? No, his heart,” read the satirical ad, which featured Biden with a glowing light coming out of his chest. For years, such satirical ads have flooded social media. Yet Twitter declared it “manipulated” and suspended accounts that tweeted the image after the Biden campaign complained. [Twitter is locking accounts that share a fake ad mocking Biden’s brain, by Claire Goforth, Daily Dot, April 24, 2020].
Again, Trump said nothing.
And that wasn’t Big Tech’s first time censoring content that mocks Biden. In March, Twitter suppressed a video tweeted out by the Trump campaign that depicted Biden appearing to endorse Trump. The unmanipulated scene was a typical Biden gaffe, but Twitter labeled it “manipulated.” On this occasion, the Trump campaign protested, but to no effect [Trump camp fires back after Twitter labels Biden video 'manipulated,' by Gregg Re, Fox News, March 9, 2020].
Even more ominously, MSM Leftists, and the professoriate, including law-school professors who should know better, don’t think this censorship has gone far enough. They openly prefer the Maoist model in Beijing.
“In the great debate of the past two decades about freedom versus control of the network, China was largely right and the United States was largely wrong,” Jack Goldsmith and Andrew Keane Woods wrote in The Atlantic last month [Internet Speech Will Never Go Back to Normal, April 25, 2020]. “Significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet, and governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with a society’s norms and values.”
Goldsmith worked for Bush 43 and is what passes for a “conservative” in the Ruling Class. But sadly, he’s not the only figure on the “Right,” loosely defined, demanding more censorship.
Thus National Review stood athwart history defending Big Tech last week. The Cato Institute’s Matthew Feeney [Email him] insisted that tech censorship isn’t censorship, but instead, “content moderation.” Feeney criticized conservatives like Tucker Carlson and Breitbart for crying foul at Big Tech’s suppression of Politically Incorrect virus content. “Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and many others,” Feeney claims, “made the prudent business decision not to use the First Amendment as their content-moderation guideline” [Big Tech Is Not Engaging in Coronavirus Censorship, May 7, 2020].
“Content moderation” is a euphemism for editing and publishing. But this is not what those platforms present themselves as doing for the purposes of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That law protects them from liability for defamation and other claims to which the Main Stream Media are subject because social media are, we are to believe, “bulletin boards” where speech is unregulated.
Last, Columbia Law Professor Timothy Wu, who coined the term “net neutrality,” also wants more censorship. “What is more important: freedom of speech or freedom from propaganda,” Wu wrote earlier this month in a since-deleted tweet.
So much for “neutrality.”
Facebook knows censoring people is a bad look, and so it has created an Oversight Board to review its moderation policies. Problem is, the board is stacked with Leftists who want to crack down on conservative speech, including professor Pamela Karlan, the anti-white lesbian who attacked Barron Trump on national TV [Facebook’s New Censorship Czar is Anti-Trump Leftist Who Made Barron a Punch Line, Summit News, May 6, 2020].
What should Trump and the GOP do?
As the Watcher has written before, the tech giants don’t like and might even fear Trump’s criticism. They want to keep him happy so he doesn’t target their power and privileges. A couple of Trump tweets might get at least some small concessions.
But tweets won’t solve the problem. The GOP must
The best right now: Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley’s proposed Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act that would subject Big Social Media to government oversight to ensure they comply with Section 230. If they violate it, they will be stripped of those protections. Thus, if Hawley’s bill passed, tech giants would do everything possible to maintain their immunity.
Whether the measure could pass a Democrat-controlled House is open to question. Apropos of the censored Biden satires, the Democrat vice presidential candidate wants to scrap 230 to impose more censorship and the Congressional party shamelessly wants to outlaw the Dissident Right.
But the GOP must at least move the bill through the Senate, get Trump behind it, and then use free speech as a campaign issue.
Trump won 2016 with the help of a guerilla army of supporters on the internet in general and social media in particular. The industry’s Social Justice Warriors, particularly those who work for the tech giants, know that, which is why they’re pushing the censorship, part of the unreported “Holocaust of the Alt Right” that has seen an astonishing number of individual Trump supporters sanctioned and suppressed since 2016. If they can silence Trump’s Keep America Great movement, he could lose the White House even with an opponent as weak as Sleepy Joe.
Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are the public squares of the 21st century. The First Amendment is meaningless if one is barred from using them.
Trump and the GOP must act now.
Washington Watcher II [Email him] is an anonymous DC insider.