The Private Suppression of Public Expression
Today we interrupt your regular market insight for something a little different.
There’s a sinister trend developing in the digital world.
I’m starting to think that no one is safe.
At best, it threatens your freedom to obtain information.
At worst, it threatens your freedoms.
For years, The Daily Reckoning Australia has warned that governments around the world were out to limit your personal liberties.
But this growing threat is more powerful than any government could ever hope to be.
That’s because Western governments are elected. To get votes, they must pander to voters. So change is often slow. Freedom-suppressing legislation takes generations to become enshrined in law.
That’s why the real danger lies with private companies.
I’m talking about the trillion-dollar tech sector.
The one controlled by a handful of powerful and unelected CEOs.
The internet to the 21st century is what the steam engine was to the industrial age.
It has revolutionised our ability to discover, consume and share information like never before.
A natural extension of the digital age is social media. As our lives moved online, so did our social habits.
Through this, the world had created a forum for people to express their thoughts and find like-minded individuals to interact with.
Yet in less than a decade, this social revolution has morphed into oppression of the masses.
We began to witness this a few years back. Companies like Facebook, Inc. [NYSE:FB] and Instagram became overzealous in policing the pictures of breastfeeding mothers.
Given the prevalence of lewd material on the internet, this policy reeked of double standards.
Facebook and Instagram’s insistence of removing such photos — and in many cases shutting down people’s profiles — was the canary in the coal mine.
About a year ago, Facebook started issuing warnings to people who they felt weren’t using their ‘real’ name in their profile. It threatened suspected accounts with closure.
This was seen as a sign that Facebook was pushing to remove anonymity online.
It was also the point at which the canary in the coal mine snuffed it. And yet few were paying attention.
The price we pay is that social media companies now control us.
Engineering public opinion
Two weeks ago, American radio host Alex Jones was cut off from all social media.
If you haven’t heard of Alex Jones, don’t worry. Many Americans hadn’t either until he was banned from social media.
However, Jones has a significant and loyal following. Some 2.2 million subscribers tune into his weekly podcast to get his views on global events.
But a fortnight ago, Jones discovered that Apple, Facebook and Spotify had worked together to ban his podcasts from their platforms.
Less than 24 hours later, Twitter did the same. The company issued a seven-day ban to Jones, explaining that he needed to monitor his content if he wanted to stay on Twitter.
If you have listened to Jones before, you may not agree with all his views.
That doesn’t matter.
What matters is that three independent companies have ended Jones’ ability to express his opinion.
Shortly after Jones was barred from Twitter, the company’s CEO Jack Dorsey noted how hard it was to implement a ban on Jones, claiming that it took some time to build a case against him.
That’s in stark contrast to vocal Tesla critic Martin Tripp.
Tripp recently tweeted about a series of purported faults in Tesla engines. Within 24 hours of posting that tweet, Tripp had his account closed down completely.
Dorsey claims it was hard to shut down Jones, yet Tripp criticised Tesla owner Elon Musk and found himself banned from the site within a day.
This sort of explusion from social media sites shouldn’t surprise you, but it’s setting up a dangerous precedent in the digital age.
Conform or disappear.
That’s the message social media companies are sending out. Be at odds with their views and face the threat of being kicked out.
The counterargument is that there is no room for hate speech or fearmongering. But shuffling these topics off to darker corners of the internet only increases their power.
Instead, we are left watching social media companies cajole people into conforming to popular opinion.
They’ve gone from connecting people to containing them.
You’re witnessing the private suppression of public expression in our lifetime.
You’re being told what you can and can’t listen to.
It’s blatant censorship.
This isn’t about removing a controversial voice off the air. It’s about acknowledging the terrifying reality that only a handful of companies can dominate what opinion is allowed on the internet.
That’s something we should all stand vehemently against.