Monday, August 06, 2018 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

What's the right way to stop the Big Tech censorship?

Breaking up companies? Quotas on Republicans? Reclassification of them as utilities? Raids on headquarters? New taxes/fines for their harm against right-wingers? Removal of the U.S. citizenship for CEOs?

I am no listener of Alex Jones – maybe he sounds too tough or too non-intellectual to me (and, despite the vague ideological agreement with general political things, I would probably label many of his musings "dumb conspiracy theories") – but today's ban of his and Infowars pages, channels, profiles, and Podcasts by Apple, Facebook, Spotify, and (now also) YouTube (look at the creepy error message shown to 2+ million followers!) all did the same thing within 12 hours – a clear collusion by a cartel) is a clear sign that the freedom of speech (especially for right-wingers) is dying in the U.S.

(Hours later, Jones was also removed from LinkedIn and Pinterest.)

Ironically enough, this dying – escalated by this ban that Matt Drudge predicted years ago – has accelerated under the Republican president Trump. Infowars were basically given no specific explanation of the reasons. Terms of Service violated. Hate speech. Whatever. Four biggest Internet companies suddenly made the conclusion at the same moment.

You may watch Alex Jones' reactions live now. I've watched it for 20 minutes now – it's spectacular, it looks like he was preparing for this day for 25 years.
Lots of related information may be found on the Twitter account of a VIP employee of Infowars, Paul Joseph Watson, whom I like, admire, sometimes follow, and I surely endorse all his comments about these events.

Some people defend similar policies by saying that the companies are private and they can ban anyone they want. There's some true core in this statement. But every sane and sensitive person must feel that it doesn't sound right. Why it doesn't sound right? These Big Tech companies are clearly introducing political censorship to the whole U.S. political landscape. Why is it exactly wrong what they're doing?

First of all, almost each of them – and especially their combination – may be described as (almost) monopolies (or one monopoly) in their respective industries. That's why the Facebook ban isn't just a ban of Alex Jones on a particular social network. The YouTube ban isn't just a ban on a particular video database. It's a ban on the dominant global social network and the dominant video server that are almost impossible to circumvent if you want to make any impact with social networks.

Alex Jones' shows and pages have played a rather important role in the election of Donald Trump. Consequently, they must be considered a major political player. The suppression of these pages and videos is therefore a political act that causes harm to the Republican Party and helps the Democratic Party (although the actual consequences may also turn out to have the opposite effect, after all).

There are probably other ways to explain "what's legally wrong with the censorship". But one of them could be that this removal of the Infowars pages, channels, profiles, and podcasts is a donation from these companies to the campaign of the Democratic Party, e.g. before the midterm elections in a few months. In other words, the coordinated deletion is a collective meddling in the midterm U.S. elections. I don't know whether it's the best way to interpret what's going on but I think it's a possible way.

So this political gift of deletion of the right-wing pages should be included in some limits that the Democratic Party has. The value of the donation should be estimated (it's probably comparable to the fee one pays to make a comparable bunch of videos and texts visible to the Americans) and if the number exceeds some thresholds defined by the law, the deletion should be classified as an illegal one.

Alternatively, one could deal with these problems in a similar way that monopolies are dealt with. In particular, the timing suggests a collusion of a cartel and anti-cartel laws should be used to go after the neck of Apple, Facebook, Google, and Spotify. But there's a systemic problem. The far left activists that are behind this terror against the right-wingers in the U.S. are likely to push, intimidate, blackmail, or influence almost every Internet company which is why we should expect that simply a higher number of competing companies won't solve the problem.

A possible solution could be to force the dissolution of these companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google, and Spotify into two or several companies and at least one of the successor companies would be required to be controlled by right-wing managers to protect the political diversity or neutrality of the landscape.

An even more radical solution would be to turn companies such as Facebook, Google, and Spotify – and maybe Apple and others – to utilities that aren't allowed to discriminate users according to their politics. You can imagine that I am not really happy about any of the proposals that I have written down. Maybe you will propose something better but while I think that something should be done to fix this serious problem, these obvious solutions aren't something that I would be eager to fight for.

OK, this guy makes a rather good case why the Internet distribution companies should become public utilities.

Alternatively, Trump and the Republicans hypothetically control much of America and they could deal with these problems by some more mundane steps. At least, Trump could threaten them in some way. But I haven't invented any good form of such a threat or executive solution.

But something should be done. The Internet and social networks are supposed to be just a technology that replaces books, paper, and pen – something that everyone could have used in the past. These Internet content distribution companies are abusing their control over the technology to influence politics. It's strange that my complaints sound so similar to the complaints by the net neutrality advocates – except that the problematic companies are the Internet content distribution companies, not the ISPs. The ISPs haven't really done any political censorship. It's the content distribution companies that enter the political struggle and for this reason, they are the problem that must be wrestled with.

Meanwhile, I am terribly disappointed by the silence (or downright support) of all the Democratic Party fans for this suppression of the Infowars folks' freedom of speech. It's no longer just the extreme activists and the political elite that organizes and applauds these authoritarian moves. It's probably the bulk of the ordinary registered Democrats in the U.S., too. And that's very, very troubling.

This description of the possible violation of the anti-trust laws seems rather nicely done and persuasive:

The first comment is somewhat similar to the "public utility" status discussed above. The second observation is nice. Big companies have really teamed up to go after the neck of another, smaller (Alex Jones') Internet company. That can't be right!

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