For several years, I’ve been highlighting Big Tech bias when I encounter it, knowing that my ability to do so online may not last forever. I’ve received a lot of pushback to this. The many examples I’ve provided were algorithmic anomalies, I was told—and I may in fact be suffering from a victimhood complex.
So last week’s deplatforming of President Trump and the Big Tech purge that followed it is surely the smoking barrel that proves my case once and for all, right?
Wrong. The narrative has suddenly now changed from Big Tech doesn’t censor conservatives to Big Tech platforms can censor anyone they like because they’re private companies.
This cognitive sidestep has been described by author Rod Dreher as the Law of Merited Impossibility. In short, Dreher’s law goes like this: “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.”
We have definitely moved from the “it will never happen” to the “when it does” phase of this law.
After the deadly storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters last week, Donald Trump had his accounts on Twitter and Facebook removed. Other social media platforms quickly followed suit, with Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitch, Reddit, Shopify and Pinterest blocking Trump accounts or removing Trump-related content.
Twitter went on to delete an untold number of Trump-linked accounts, with Republican politicians and high-profile conservatives reporting follower losses in the tens of thousands.
Brandon Straka was one of these. He’s the founder of the #WalkAway campaign, a community of disillusioned ex-Democrats. Faring worse than most, his 500,000-strong group was deleted by Facebook, and his entire staff team was removed from the platform.
Part of the “when it does” phase of Dreher’s law is the idea that conservatives should create their own platforms. That would make everyone happy, right?
Wrong. That narrative was also blown out of the water when three of the most powerful Big Tech companies united against Parler to chase it off the internet.
Parler had been growing as a popular alternative to Twitter and was known to be more friendly to conservatives and Trump supporters. After Trump’s ban, some 4.5 million social media refugees fled to Parler.
But then Apple removed Parler from their app store. And Google did too. Then, with just 24 hours notice, Amazon kicked Parler off of its servers altogether, in response to the news that Donald Trump might open an account there. Visit parler.com now and the site no longer exists.
So now we’ve moved from conservatives should build their own platforms to conservatives don’t deserve their own platforms. Kinder voices might suggest that social media isn’t all that important anyway; that people upset about all this should delete their apps and go and live in the real world.
The problem with this, however, is that so much of the real world is now lived online—whether our banking, emails, shopping or business. This has only become more pronounced as a result of the Covid lockdowns.
So what happens when banks, email servers, payment services and other online platforms begin punishing conservatives for their sincerely-held viewpoints? Actually, we’re already finding out.
The email marketing firms MailChimp and Constant Contact cut ties with Brandon Straka’s #WalkAway group after Facebook de-platformed them. Signature Bank closed two of Donald Trump’s accounts that held over $5 million in deposits. PayPal has blocked the Christian charity GiveSendGo for their ties to the “Stop the Steal” event in D.C. that later devolved into violence. Other such examples abound.
While not all conservatives are being targeted, the purge has most certainly begun. The way things are trending, half the population may no longer be welcome in polite society.
The final pushback to all of this is that such suppression is justified in order to quell violence, remove hate speech, and fend off conspiracy theories. But like all the other justifications, this one falls short too.
Amazon sells over 200 products that urge violence against Trump and Trump supporters. Iran’s Ayatollah preaches genocide against Israelis via his Twitter account. Many platforms let the “Russiagate” conspiracy theory run wild for Trump’s entire presidency. Twitter allows the Chinese Communist Party to spread the conspiracy theory that Covid began in the United States. Hashtags like #AssassinateTrump or #KillJews reveal reams of hateful content on Twitter as well.
Big Tech doesn’t censor violence and hate speech. It censors conservatives. No number of ever-shifting justifications can paper over this.
So can we be done with all the myths?