- Alex Jones, a right-wing provocateur, suddenly found himself banned from most major social platforms this week.
- Twitter remains a lonely holdout on Jones.
- It’s particularly difficult for huge tech companies to balance public goods such free speech with the need to protect their users from harassment, abuse, fake news and manipulation.
Who knew connecting the world could get so complicated? Perhaps some of technology’s brightest minds should have seen that coming.
Social media bans of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones have thrust Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and others into a role they never wanted — as gatekeepers of discourse on their platforms, deciding what should and shouldn’t be allowed and often angering almost everyone in the process. Jones, a right-wing provocateur, suddenly found himself banned from most major social platforms this week, after years in which he was free to use them to promulgate a variety of false claims.
Twitter, which one of its executives once called the “free speech wing of the free speech party,” remains a lonely holdout on Jones. The resulting backlash suggests that no matter what the tech companies do, “there is no way they can please everyone,” as Scott Shackelford, a business law and ethics professor at Indiana University, observed.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and crew, and Google‘s stewards of YouTube gave little thought to such consequences as they built their empires with lofty goals to connect the world and democratize discourse. At the time, they were the rebels aiming to bypass the stodgy old gatekeepers — newspaper editors, television programmers and other establishment types — and let people talk directly to one another.
“If you go back a decade or so, the whole idea of speech on social media was seen as highly positive light,” said Tim Cigelske, who teaches social media at Marquette University in Wisconsin. There was the Arab Spring. There were stories of gay, lesbian and transgender teens from small towns finding support online.
At the same time, of course, the companies were racing to build the largest audiences possible, slice and dice their user data and make big profits by turning that information into lucrative targeted advertisements.
The dark side of untrammeled discourse, the thinking went, would sort itself out as online communities moderated themselves, aided by fast-evolving computer algorithms and, eventually, artificial intelligence.
“They scaled, they built, they wanted to drive revenue as well as user base,” said technology analyst Tim Bajarin, president of consultancy Creative Strategies. “That was priority one and controlling content was priority two. It should have been the other way around.”
That all got dicier once the election of President Donald Trumpfocused new attention on fake news and organized misinformation campaigns — not to mention the fact that some of the people grabbing these new social-media megaphones were wild conspiracy theories who falsely call mass shootings a hoax, white nationalists who organize violent rallies and men who threaten women with rape and murder.
Get this out everywhere. There’s only 2 or 3 articles a day published on the internet that produce such unstoppable rhetoric, talking points and narratives. We must cherish these, and when you come across them, you must help it go viral.
But even if it doesnt, articles like these still deserve some kind of effort from everyone who still truly cares about being part of changing the world.
They are literally sacrificing themselves in the name of this political and sociological agenda. They don’t give a fuck if they alienate half or even more of their users. They are pushing forward with the plan of Chinese style censorship becoming the international standard. The kind of standard that tyrants and autocrats and dictators have only dreamed about since the beginning of human civilization.
We must give them what they want. Boycott the ever loving fuck out of these platforms. Change your Internet habits. Go out of your way to avoid them like a plague. Because the future of the internet and free speech depends on it.
Editor’s note: Since the publication of this article, more information has surfaced about the threatening nature of the posts, which seem to be a clear violation of Gab’s terms of service. PJ Media condemns violent threats in the strongest possible terms. See update below.
Microsoft Azure, the web hosting provider for Gab, has given the company 48 hours to delete some anti-Semitic posts or face a Big Tech shut-down. Gab is a Twitter alternative that claims to protect the right to free speech. It’s not a very good alternative, as the numbers just aren’t there to keep it interesting. Most of the time it’s just righties and ultra-righties fighting amongst themselves. But Gab’s claim to fame is that they won’t kick people off for having unpopular views or engaging in insult trading that morons refer to as “hate speech.” For some, that’s a worthwhile promise.
It should be noted that in America the term “hate speech” is not a legal one, at least according to the Supreme Court. So-called “hate speech,” be it racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic or just plain mean, is protected as reaffirmed in Matal v. Tam in 2017.“Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate,'” wrote Justice Alito.