There are many legitimate concerns over big tech’s abuse of its monopolistic power, its overreach, and its attacks on freedom of speech and freedom of association.
By allowing a company that has repeatedly sought to interfere in the affairs of nations around the world to dictate what may and may not be discussed in what are now de-facto public forums, the world’s governments are giving it a weapon that can easily be turned against them.
We already have a situation in which media outlets openly disseminate untruths about covid, vaccinations, people trafficking, racial prejudice and crime. A situation where there is active suppression of reports, research and scientists. This leads to certain pressure groups retaliating by shrieking hyperbole (partly in response to the lies). Harm is clearly being done to the mental and physical health of the world.
No government anywhere has sought to clearly explain to the fearful how masks influence viral transmission. In the USA, Presidents Trump and Biden have both publicly stated untruths concerning the disease, vaccines and treatment, and federal courts have both struck down presidential mandates as well as forced federal bodies and vaccine makers to reveal information that is necessary for people to make informed consent decisions. Closer to home we ourselves have heard the rantings of Macron and the frankly bizarre behaviour of the EU towards the UK ever since the Brexit referendum.
Trust is broken and the only cure is the light of open discourse. There is no way and no situation in which it is better to drive crazies into the dangerous spiral of group-think rather than encouraging open debate.
Facebook and its fellow tech giants have seen their profits and influence soar throughout the lockdowns, and are actively involved in exerting pressure for more highly profitable curbs on individual freedom. Brexiteers, Trump supporters, those who question mass migration, cultural Marxism, trans ideology or the lie of “white privilege” as opposed to “wealth privilege” (which big tech’s major shareholders enjoy in abundance) are hounded as a matter of routine.
Facebook and Twitter, in particular, have form, with the support of politically active fact-checking organisations, deleting and restricting the accounts of people who have published information proven to have been true in numerous criminal and civil cases and public enquiries. This is on top of suppressing important news stories in ways that clearly interfere with electoral processes.
It is noteworthy that those sympathetic to freedom of speech are loath to work in censorship, and so these ‘fact-checkers’ and ‘content checkers’ are almost drawn exclusively from those hostile to this fundamental right on which all liberal societies depend.
All the while neither company does a thing about the fact that their platforms are the preferred place of business of the world’s drug dealers and people traffickers. Meanwhile they have symbiotic relationships with businesses and nations that can fairly be said not to always have our best interests at heart.
Abuse of power by the tech giants has grown for a number of years but has been given a huge boost with the deals they have made for access to markets controlled by the world’s most brutal regimes. To gain that access they built filtering and monitoring into their software and applied rigorous controls to enable them to “unperson” (to use the Orwellian term). These monopolistic businesses now ruthlessly exploit features and processes developed by themselves at the behest of the world’s most repressive regimes (PRC, Saudi Arabia and Iran among them) against people and business and parties they see as their political rivals in the West.
How will those currently holding positions of authority in the West feel if important positive stories for themselves or their beliefs or political parties, or those exposing calamities caused by their opponents, are suddenly swept from the internet and those legitimately discussing them are silenced in the run up to a future election?
This warning does not just go out to my fellow conservatives, but to all who believe in free and democratic societies, in personal liberty and in fair elections. By the time your next election is upon you it will be too late to address the danger.