“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.” – George Orwell, 1984
The headlines have been racking up for months. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have been purging the ranks of users on their sites. They’ve censored content for various reasons even when that content is less offensive than similar but opposite content posted by progressives. They’ve silenced many voices by using algorithms to make content less visible. The tie that seems to bind the targets of the purging, censoring, and silencing is varying degrees of conservatism and support for one man: President Trump.
Just a year ago, I would have thought it improbable. After some test cases of conservative “shadow banning” demonstrated they couldn’t easily do it without getting noticed, I assumed harshly worded condemnation from Capitol Hill and mini-revolts by their user bases would be enough to scare them back to the good ol’ days when they would allow freedom of thought. As long as it wasn’t truly harmful, spammy, or porn, it was free to flow on their platforms for the most part.
Today, they’ve found a multitude of excuses to hide behind as they purge their ranks through bans, censor speech that doesn’t conform to their sensitivities, and silence conservatives using multiple techniques that may or may not get noticed by the victims. Meanwhile, their leaders continue to go on podcasts and testify before Congress with the same bogus line.
“We don’t censor conservatives.”
When confronted with evidence, they shrug.
From time to time, they turn their scalpels towards those on the left, selectively adding those who are opposed to politically conservative principles to the list of the purged in order to have a “token leftist” in the mix, thereby demonstrating they don’t have a political agenda. We saw this most blatantly last week when many pro-Trump personalities such as Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer, and Milo Yiannopoulos were purged on Facebook. An anti-Trump personality was purged with them: Louis Farrakhan.
Meanwhile, Republican leadership generally seems to yawn at reports. There are a handful calling out the social media giants, but for some reason there’s no outcry from the RNC or the White House other than an occasional Tweet from the President. It’s a mistake to underestimate the threat these companies pose.
“It’s essential the GOP understands that big tech is not like a mom and pop shop, not like McDonalds or Wendys, like Ford or BMW,” said Ryan James Girdusky, New York Political Correspondent for One America News. “These corporations have more power than most countries. They can alter how we think about major news stories, what information we see, and yes even how millions of people vote. These monopolies have more power than any organization in history. If we want to continue to live in a free and fair society we must limit the power of these institutions before they limit us.”
It isn’t just the three social media giants. On the news front, Google, Apple, Yahoo, and other news aggregators have fixed their algorithms and instructed their editors to deliver the narrative they want seen. Let’s look at an issue that was hot in the news yesterday and how it was treated by Google News: Georgia’s new “Heartbeat Bill” banning most abortions after the preborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.
For this example, I used a clean “incognito” browser so my history and cookies wouldn’t interfere with what Google News presented. Here’s the top of their coverage on the subject:
After a small section for opinions, they posted Twitter’s reaction. As expected, all four highlighted Tweets opposed the bill.
If anyone wanted to get a conservative perspective on the passage of the bill, they’d have to scroll down. And down. And down. I had to go all the way down to the “All coverage” section to find two stories that were not left-leaning reports or outright far-left opinion pieces, one from Fox News and another from The Blaze. Out of the top 25 stories as part of Google News’ coverage of Georgia’s heartbeat bill, 23 were against it. In fact, the lead story on Google News came from far-left Slate, an op-ed titled, “Georgia Just Criminalized Abortion. Women Who Terminate Their Pregnancies Would Receive Life in Prison.”
Not only does that grossly mischaracterize the bill, but it does so with zero acknowledgement that there may be opinions that differ. For a publication that often invokes the term “fearmongering” to describe actions taken by conservatives, their own fearmongering is disingenuous.
But that’s the story that Google News has presented to millions as the primary source of information on the subject. At least they included The Blaze article 24 stories down from the top.
It’s important we all understand what they’re doing, but it’s even more important to understand why. If we look back to 2016, it’s easy to imagine the leaders of these tech giants doing some major soul searching. They couldn’t believe Donald Trump won the election. They were flabbergasted that the GOP retained control of the House and Senate. They imagined their world falling apart and decided, whether collectively or individually, that they were going to do something about it. If they couldn’t find a way to get rid of Trump in the middle of his first term, they were going to make absolutely certain his first term was his last.
The tech giants concluded President Trump couldn’t stay in office. He wouldn’t be allowed to win in 2020. This was their version of “Never again.”
Now, their machinations are in play. By using three nefarious tactics, they’re going to do what they can to make sure the President’s avid base isn’t able to mislead voters. Let’s look at these tactics so we know what to recognize and how to address them.
Normalizing the purge
Banning conservatives doesn’t go unnoticed. Whether it’s YouTube putting Steven Crowder’s channel at risk, Facebook’s bans last week, or Twitter taking down an AOC parody account, it makes the news not only on the platforms themselves but also on news outlets. These social sites know this. In fact, they’re banking on it.
We’re in the early stages of the unofficial 2020 pre-election purge. The unified goal of these social media giants is NOT to get rid of the most provocative accounts, though that seems to be how their actions are being reported. Banning a few users won’t have the effect they seek. Instead, they want to methodically and strategically ban accounts for lighter and lighter offenses. Today, it’s Alex Jones and Laura Loomer. Tomorrow, it will be people who are slightly less controversial such as David Horowitz and James Woods, both of whom have been recently suspended.
It’s all about normalization. They want a steady flow of bans so they can plant seeds in the minds of conservatives. They want us thinking, “If ______ got banned for saying _______, will I get banned for saying ______?”
“Everything I post is factual reporting or me voicing my opinion on political issues of the day. I am a devout Christian and frequently post Bible verses, and a few baby pics. I broke Macronleaks, the Barr Investigation, and the Ukraine investigation of the dossier. The only provocative tweets I post are about Game of Thrones. I always follow the rules on Twitter and am committed to a spirited, civil discourse as I hope everyone is.” – Jack Posobiec, One America News Host
But their normalization has a secondary and arguably more powerful effect. The more it happens, the more it’s reported in the media. The more it’s reported in the media, the less interested people are in the individual stories. They lose their shock factor. They become expected.
They become normalized.
It frustrates conservatives. Meanwhile, some on the left might see it as wrong, but few would ever speak out. This is why it’s so important for conservatives to stay consistent. We can’t just fret over members of our “tribe” getting nixed. We have to call it out regardless of the victim. Last year, I made a point to call out Twitter for banning Meghan Murphy when she was banned. Do I agree with her far-left politics? No. But she was banned for saying something truthful, and that should concern all of us.
What social media sites find too controversial doesn’t always jibe with what conservatives find controversial. The biggest problem is consistency. Every time they ban someone for saying something, clear examples of similar but often worse comments are found posted by someone on the left. Rarely does it result in reinstatement of the conservative account or a ban for the progressive account.
“Social media platforms should respect free speech, even speech considered offensive, but at the very least they should have clear expectations and standards and enforce those consistently,” said Shane Vander Hart, editor at Caffeinated Thoughts. “Unfortunately, their standards are vague, and they are applied inconsistently.”
Their goals are unified. Whether that’s by design from them conspiring or a natural result of people in power who feel the need to be activists coming up with the same basic plan, we’ll never know. But it’s real and quite apparent. The purge will continue until the 2020 election and possibly beyond.
Censoring and Silencing
Banning users isn’t the only thing in their toolbox. The tech giants actively participate in censorship and silencing campaigns that often do not get noticed by the victims.
But sometimes, the victims are made well aware of their transgression.
My Twitter account was suspended for 12 hours for sending this tweet, which was clearly a joke about the popular meme and John Hickenlooper's comment. I thought @jack acknowledged to @joerogan that Twitter was "too aggressive" in banning ppl over this? pic.twitter.com/3o2cptsAYK
— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) March 11, 2019
The tweet had been up for six hours before that. In the meantime, while I was suspended, a bunch of Resistance accounts "piled on" my account with a ton of dank memes I've never seen.
— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) March 11, 2019
The censorship component of these tech companies’ Orwellian dreams is driven by the hypersensitivity that has pervaded most of the progressive movement. They simply don’t see a problem with conservatives getting thrashed for comments they make on social media when it goes against the prescribed narrative. Meanwhile, they simultaneously don’t see a problem with the hatred coming from some of the most popular anti-Trump, anti-conservative, anti-Israel, or anti-Christian accounts.
Actor James Woods was suspended for paraphrasing Ralph Waldo Emerson.
— Kaya Jones (@KayaJones) September 23, 2018
— Sara Miller (@Millerita) April 20, 2019
There are numerous examples of popular leftist Twitter users who take it much further than Woods did without getting suspended. Keith Olbermann literally called for his followers to make a hunter’s life a “living hell” but didn’t get banned or suspended. He left the Tweet up for 12 hours before taking it down and apologizing over backlash, not because Twitter did anything to him. They allowed it. Why? Because despite the clear violation of policy, they agreed with the sentiment.
One of the clearest examples of the double standard came when conservative activist Candace Owens duplicated Tweets by New York Times reporter Sarah Jeong, replacing instances where Jeong referred to “white” people with the word “Jewish.” The results were predictable:
Indeed, it is not difficult to find cases of liberals engaging in speech that appears to cross the line while not being punished for their transgressions. This includes the case of Sarah Jeong. After she was hired as an editorial writer for The New York Times, it was discovered that over the years she had posted dozens of messages expressing hatred and contempt of whites. When conservative activist Candace Owens copied some of Jeong’s tweets and replaced the word “white” with “Jewish,” she was suspended from the platform. Perhaps realizing how hypocritical this looked after they had not taken any action against Jeong, Twitter allowed Owens back on, but only after she deleted the offending tweets.
Interestingly, if you search “Sarah Jeong” in Google, you get no auto-complete suggestions regarding her controversial tweets, despite this being the source of considerable infamy. On Bing and Yahoo!, “Sarah Jeong racist” is the first offered search suggestion when her name is typed in. While one could argue that individuals’ worst moments shouldn’t follow them around forever, it is difficult to imagine a big tech company suppressing unflattering information about a conservative in a similar manner.
The last point in the story leads us to the silencing component. When tech giants willfully hide information they know goes against their narrative, they silence it. Shadow banning was an example that’s still alive and well today despite protestations by CEOs on their various apology tours. How often do you see conservatives on Twitter asking if their Tweets are being seen by their followers? For every instance that you see, there are dozens of others that you don’t see. This is by design.
Sometimes, it’s topics that get covered up by tech giants. Google has been accused of doing it with their search results; the “Hillary Clinton Email” scandal is a perfect example of covering up stories they don’t want people to find. YouTube has begun filtering videos on topics they consider to be false. Whether it’s conspiracy theories, information about Democratic politicians, or videos that are critical of Islam, the new algorithms are very clear in what they want and don’t want seen by the masses.
Entire websites get hit by “algorithms” as well. These algorithms or “fake news filters” keep stories from reaching users of search engines and social media. I’ve watched the stats of impressions for websites that I’ve both Tweeted and posted to Facebook. Watching it in real time is interesting because you can see the effects prior to other people sharing or liking a post. If I post a story from certain sites, it doesn’t get nearly the initial impressions that a story from Salon or Vox will get.
This systematic approach to controlling the narrative is arguably big tech’s greatest power. They can drive eyeballs to messages they want seen. They can also prevent messages they don’t want seen from being found by anyone.
It’s not just conservatives
The left has gone into full-protection mode when it comes to Islam. This isn’t new, though it’s becoming much more apparent in recent years. That’s their prerogative, just as many conservatives are protective of the Judeo-Christian faiths. But big tech companies have joined the fray and sided with the left in a way that is destructive to those who believe in the Bible.
“The social media companies ultimately want to destroy Christians,” said documentary filmmaker Mike Cernovich. “Note how they have banned pro-life ads. And how they allowed a state representative to target underage girls for harassment because they prayed in front of a Planned Parenthood. This is more than Orwellian. This is a holy war against Christians.”
Cernovich was referring to Pennsylvania state representative Brian Sims. Despite harassing a praying Planned Parenthood protester and offering to pay money to “dox” teenage girls, his anti-Christian attacks aligned with the left’s perspectives on abortion. He was not banned, censored, or silenced.
An existential threat
In their quest to stop Trump, quash conservatives, and control the narrative, big tech companies are clearly going to great lengths to make sure they don’t lose now and never lose again. They’ve been testing the waters to see how much they can get away with, especially in the eyes of mainstream media and the progressive base. They know they will get called out by conservative media and their conservative base, but they weren’t sure if there would be backlash over fairness from those in their political tribe.
What they’ve learned so far is that they’re getting no backlash from their progressive users and very little attention other than a wink and a nod from leftist media. In other words, they’ve been given the go-ahead to move forward as planned.
What does this mean for conservatism and the Republican Party?
“The only two issues that matter to the survival of the GOP, conservatism in America, and the two party system is immigration and big tech. If nothing changes on those two issues, the Republican Party is dead.” – Ryan James Girdusky
As long as Google controls search and video (through YouTube) while Facebook and Twitter control the narrative on social media, there is very little conservatives can do to counter their efforts. We fell for the trap. They sucked us in for years and gladly accepted us as users. But when their political apocalypse of 2016 happened, they all made the choice to abandon the fairness of their platforms in favor of using the immense power they’ve accumulated for the sake of their political bias.
This has many on the right calling on DC to act.
The wrong answer: Government intervention
It’s natural for conservatives to seek help from a higher power. That often means prayer, but in this instance of powers in our world acting against our freedoms, the other “higher power” is sought for direct action. This would be a mistake.
“Nothing good can come from government regulating social media platforms, but these platforms do have a responsibility to their users,” said @AG_Conservative, a popular media watchdog on Twitter. “They have to establish clear rules and enforce them consistently. They aren’t doing that now. Their enforcement is selective, and their attempts to police speech are full of inconsistencies and double standards. As a result, they are alienating the very users that gave them value.”
There are two popular calls being made of government to help balance things out on social media. The first is to remove the protections afforded these sites as platforms. Currently, they are not held responsible for their content. Many conservatives are calling for these protections to be lifted, but the repercussions would be devastating. These sites would no longer be able to allow, well, anything that could even remotely be perceived as abusive to be posted. If you wanted to call out an Antifa thug for harassing a 9/11 first responder widow, your post could be construed as grounds for a lawsuit and the social media site would be obliged to remove it or face the consequences. This wouldn’t achieve the desired balance. It would eliminate the nature of the sites themselves, rendering them useless.
The other call is for them to be regulated like utilities. To this I say, “Be careful what you wish for.” It is nearly impossible to find an instance when a bureaucratic layer was added for oversight on an industry that did not result in the degradation of the industry itself. As conservatives, the last thing we should hope for is more government. Would it solve the problem for now? Perhaps. But the long-term implications would be disastrous. Those who cheer today will not be cheering when the inevitable progressive takes control and decides to shift their oversight in a direction we don’t like.
But at this point, government intervention may be inevitable as the tech giants push the envelope to the edge of sanity.
“They are also making their platforms less enjoyable and valuable,” AG continued. “The inevitable result if they keep going down this road will be increased pressure for the government to intervene or users will simply abandon these platforms. There will eventually be a market correction and these companies won’t like what it looks like if they don’t get ahead of it now.”
If we shouldn’t get the government involved and we have very little power to fight big tech, is there a solution?
The right answer: Fight here, build there
Today, there are alternatives to every tech giant’s search and social offering. Unfortunately, none of these alternatives have a fraction of the reach of the big four.
That can change. It will take time, but as these alternative sites grow or others pop up, more conservatives will make the switch. They have to reach a tipping point in order to make an impact, and none of them are close today. But we have to look at the long game. Keep pushing. Keep talking about them. If you have the means support them or build something better.
If the long game is to leave the leftist sites and find either unbiased or conservative alternatives, then what’s the short game?
For now, we have to keep fighting on the venues that have the reach. Just because they’re making it harder doesn’t mean we stop trying. Lest we forget, sharing conservative stories or perspectives on these platforms has the ability to reach those who can be influenced by them. That’s what makes these platforms so powerful. That’s why the left wants to control them.
We can’t allow that.
We have the truth on our side. They will do what they can to suppress it. They will make it harder the closer we get to election day. It behooves us to keep fighting the good fight even if it’s difficult. Keep your voices strong.
Image via www.vpnsrus.com