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Who Do You Want in Charge of the Internet?

Oliver Darcy of CNN, proof that one reporter has the power to do a lot of damage to free speech.

1,919 words

Tech censorship is an existential threat to the Dissident Right. No serious political movement can successfully operate if it is barred from social media. Even mainstream conservatives are being threatened by this, and Big Tech may sway the 2020 election against Donald Trump. This phenomenon only continues to get worse, as the recent YouTube purge attests.

One of the few ways the Right can fight back is with state power. The free market is not going to solve this on its own. Even though many conservatives are threatened by tech censorship, they insist the government can’t do anything about it – because “muh principles.”

This delusion rose to the fore last week after one Senator proposed a state solution. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley announced a bill that would empower the government to intervene in tech censorship. Tech platforms such as YouTube and Twitter operate with protection from publisher liabilities. They can’t be sued for the illegal things users post because they are not considered traditional publishers. As outlined in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, one of the reasons platforms are not considered publishers is due to the impression that they act as a “forum for a true diversity of political discourse.”

Tech giants have clearly violated the spirit of that regulation, and Hawley merely wants to enforce it as written. The Senator’s bill would require all large platforms (they have to either comprise 30 million users in America, 50 million globally, or make $500 million annually) to submit to a government audit that would investigate whether they act as a neutral political forum. Failure to pass the audit would result in the loss of Section 230 protections. The bill would create a commission within the Federal Trade Commission to investigate platforms and issue rulings.

This is a sensible measure designed to enforce laws already on the books. Yet, many Conservative Inc. types are apoplectic that a Senator would dare infringe on the free market. Bill Kristol’s The Bulwark called it a “terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad internet bill.” This Never Trump publication tore its hair out in the belief that the bill would create more bureaucrats. Bulwark writer Andrew Egger admitted there are problems with Big Tech, but he thinks big government is worse. He wrote:

[Hawley] apparently lacks the cautious, pessimistic faculty that habitually has made conservatives sensitive to the way expansions of federal power can be twisted in unexpected and unsavory ways – that might stop to ask, for example, how giving yet another coalition of unaccountable bureaucrats great and opaque cancellation powers over our biggest tech companies is likely to preserve American liberties in the long run rather than to run rampant over them.

National Review’s David French reiterated the stupidity of David Frenchism with his attack on Hawley’s bill. French admits there are serious issues with Big Tech, but worries about the horror of government bureaucracies (as if they didn’t already exist). He suggests Hawley’s bill would empower Democratic administrations to suppress conservative content, and that coercion is not the answer. The answer is . . . persuasion! “I have long urged social-media companies to voluntarily adopt First Amendment-based moderation standards,” French proudly boasts, completely ignoring the fact that his request has fallen on deaf ears. He concludes his piece with the unrealistic hope that gentle persuasion will prevail. (It should be noted that the National Review Institute is funded by Google.)

Reason, naturally, whined that the bill put Washington in charge of Internet speech. And the Washington Examiner claimed it would lead to more censorship, not less. No serious alternative solution to Big Tech malfeasance was proposed in any of these articles. The critics say Hawley’s bill is worse than the problem it is intended to solve.

This position is plainly stupid. It invites tech giants to do their worst while conservatives just take it. “At least I have muh principles!” the conservative says, as the free market takes away his free speech and bank account.

Big Tech is not going to be persuaded by respectable conservatives to protect free speech. Tech execs have already been persuaded to censor speech by a more powerful force: journalists.

There was a pleasant time not too long ago – in fact, it was only three years ago – where most of the platforms allowed all kinds of speech to go uncensored. “Twitter stands for freedom of expression,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said at a 2015 press conference. “Twitter stands for speaking truth to power.”

That all changed thanks to journalists who were irate over Donald Trump’s election. There were warning signs prior to November 2016 – such as Twitter banning Charles Johnson, Milo Yiannopoulos, and others. But the media campaign to persuade Big Tech didn’t see major results until after the 2016 election. Journalists shrieked that Facebook allowed fake news to go viral and did nothing as Russia swayed the election with Arm-Wrestling Jesus memes. Facebook responded by altering its algorithms to prioritize cat videos and mainstream media sources.

Every platform was accused of being a breeding ground for the Alt Right. The platforms responded by banning several alleged White Nationalists. Twitter did it in multiple bouts, and suppressed such dangerous voices as Jared Taylor. Mr. Taylor’s sin was that he promoted violence – a ridiculous charge to anyone who has ever even glanced at American Renaissance.

YouTube demonetized dozens of channels and hid hundreds of “offensive” videos. Facebook publicly announced this year that it would no longer tolerate White Nationalists, and promptly banned many non-White Nationalists, such as Alex Jones and Gavin McInnes.

Journalists have been remarkably petty in what they want censored. Tweeting “learn to code” at a journalist can now get a Twitter user suspended. This is now a rule because journalists were upset that conservatives would mock them for losing their jobs – even though dozens of outlets told blue-collar Trump voters to “learn to code” for years. None dare offer valuable advice to the world’s most important profession.

A single journalist with a vendetta can impact entire platforms. InfoWars was banned from nearly every platform due to one CNN reporter. That reporter, Oliver Darcy, asked Facebook officials at a July 2018 press conference why Alex Jones’ outlet wasn’t banned from its platform. Darcy accused the tech giant of failing to eradicate “fake news” by not banning InfoWars. That one question and CNN’s constant focus on the subject for an entire month resulted in Facebook, Apple, and others banning the network. Only one major platform did not cave, which was Twitter – at first. But only a few weeks later, Twitter banned Jones and InfoWars after he posed questions to Darcy on Capitol Hill. That somehow counted as harassment.

The recent YouTube purge was the result of one determined Vox reporter, Carlos Maza. Maza was mad the video site allowed conservative commentator Stephen Crowder to insult him – a gay Latino – on their platform. His tweet thread went viral, and write-ups in places like The Washington Post added weight to his complaints. YouTube initially refused to do anything about Crowder, but after more teeth-gnashing from the press, they demonetized him and dozens of others. YouTube also banned multiple Right-wing channels and erased hundreds of videos – including Counter-Currents.

The Google-owned service said its new rules forbids the justification of “discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.” Google CEO Sindar Pinchai told a transgender journalist that the company would now remove “borderline content” that doesn’t violate its policies, but still may cause harm.

All of this is happening because one single journalist had a meltdown. Maza is pretty proud of his work, as evidenced by this cringe-inducing tweet:

There’s already an unaccountable outside body with cancellation power over Big Tech. It’s journalists, and they want more censorship. Maza himself is outraged Crowder has not been banned, and has used his large platform to do so. HuffPo has drawn up an extensive list of accounts that Twitter needs to ban. Journalists have demanded tech platforms immediately eliminate lame boomer parody videos because they’re “doctored.” And there are several other things journos could decide they want eliminated. They all know their pressure campaigns have the power to make Big Tech submit.

Conservatives do not have this power. They do not have the cultural and moral clout to stand up for free speech and counteract journo pressure campaigns. Their only success has been the removal of Louis Farrakhan’s blue checkmark, and that only occurred because they argued Farrakhan offended a protected minority. No tech exec is going to be persuaded to uphold First Amendment values after reading a National Review column, especially when their companies are overwhelmingly staffed by Leftists who agree with journalists’ censorious agenda.

The only thing that can counter journalist power is state power. All the things conservatives worry about it – unaccountability, power to suppress conservative content, and so on – already exists with media campaigns. A government commission, even one staffed primarily with Democrats, is preferable to antifa-linked reporters. This commission would answer to our representatives; journalists only have to answer to themselves.

Big Tech itself has supported government commissions to make the Internet free and open – so long as they only monitor their business rivals. Google, Facebook, and Twitter all loved Net Neutrality, which regulated Internet service providers. Tech giants pleaded that we needed Net Neutrality to ensure that large corporations could not censor speech and limit the Internet. That’s why we needed the government to oversee these corporations to ensure they behaved. It is true that large corporations censor speech and limit the Internet – but it’s the companies that want Net Neutrality, not Internet service providers.

Contrary to conservative fears, Net Neutrality was benign and didn’t lead to a government takeover of the Internet. In spite of it being a Democratic initiative, it did not suppress conservative content. It was largely unneeded, because it was based on unfounded fears about Internet service providers. The fears about Big Tech, on the other hand, are well-founded. Tech platforms has shown they need Net Neutrality more than the Internet service providers they dislike.

Big Tech wields incredible power in contemporary society. More Americans receive their news from social media than traditional print media, indicating their views are being shaped by the new medium. Many of them operate as monopolies, leaving the consumer with no choice but to use them. They have our personal data and sell it to other major corporations. Their power will continue to increase as more of our lives happen online.

Too many conservatives fail to acknowledge this new order, either because they actually believe libertarian fantasies or because they receive checks from Big Tech. Their favored ideas of persuasion and letting the market fix the problem will not work. Many of them may not see the problem because they feel they won’t be censored. That may be true, but their outlets won’t survive when journalists decide to kneecap the competition.

Government bureaucrats are not exactly noble heroes, but they’re far better than Left-wing journalists. Conservatives need to ask themselves who they would rather have policing the tech giants. Opposing Hawley’s bill means they want journalists to stay in charge. Supporting it indicates they want a change.

A free and open Internet can only be ensured by a power that is answerable to the people. It ain’t the free market. It’s the state.

8 Comments

  1. Gnome Chompsky
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Many good points in the article. However, Mr. Hampton repeats a completely fallacious idea of the meaning of ‘net neutrality. The term has nothing to do with political or other forms of speech neutrality.

    It was, and is, solely to do with the treatment of traffic and bandwidth.

    The (particularly US) Internet behemoths get a massive free ride on often taxpayer-funded telecommunictions infrastructure, as do bandwidth-hogging private individuals.

    The ideas of so-called non-neutrality were only to shift more of the profits from the American mega-corporations to infrastructure providers, and to provide differentiated ways of handling packets, so that the bandwidth hogs (or free-riders) pay a little more and the more frugal pay a little less, while maintaining best-effort end-to-end connections for all.

    I have worked on RFCs related to non-neutral schemes, and used to be in two minds about them.

    However, since the biggest bandwidth hogs on the corporate side (Alphabet, FB, Twit, etc.) so strongly supported their own free ride on just about all infrastructure beyond their own server farms and have demonstrated that they are absolutely not neutral in terms of expression, I end up in favour of making them pay more for the public and semi-public (depending on where you are) infrastructure on which they rely.

    Likewise, on the user end, some vain fool who spends every waking moment in a video selfie should pay a little more and those using much less bandwidth pay almost nothing.

    To repeat, it was never about neutrality in any sense of speech or politics, only in terms of packet handling. None of the non-neutral schemes involved blocking any specific packets, unlike the real situation of today, created by the strongest (from self-interest) supporters of traffic neutrality.

  2. Afterthought
    Posted June 24, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Deplatforming isn’t an existential threat, it is actually useful to get fence-sitters to understand that this is a war and that the solution to our problems is separating and forming a state of our own.

    Campaigning to get this government to stop treating us as an occupied people is just “Take Back America” in disguise. It’s silly.

    At this late hour is Counter Currents really a “Take Back America” venue? What ever happened to the “Racial Divorce*”? As in: “the solution to being deplatformed is a Racial Divorce”?

    * which isn’t going to happen by magic**, by the way

    ** eg the “Slow Cleanse”

    • Hammerheart
      Posted June 26, 2019 at 3:17 am | Permalink

      Thank you. Agreed & seconded.

  3. Vagrant Rightist
    Posted June 24, 2019 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    “forbids the justification of “discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.”

    Good God. This is monstrously oppressive. What it’s saying is you can’t make a reasoned case for your own survival, your essence, your history, for any serious value worth attaining, and for anything that actually matters in the world.

    As usual it reflects the left’s mindset, which forms the backdrop to everything they do. The left believe diversity is an eternal, settled moral truth.

    They work from that presumption. It’s frighteningly delusional.

    I think something will happen eventually. It’s difficult to see how the situation is going to be sustainable in the long run. Something will happen.

    I mean I thought the thing with Alex Jones at the time was simply despicable, irrespective of what one feels about his content. It was simply the left’s revenge because Jones was seen as being an influential figure in the election.

    I think the first step is organized complaining and to make as much capital out of every deplatforming as possible.

  4. Viv
    Posted June 24, 2019 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I don’t think journalists are as powerful as this author believes, and therefore find this piece misleading. Journalists tried to browbeat NFL owners into hiring Kaepernick but failed. Why, if they are so powerful?

    I believe more is going on behind the scenes with Tech censorship. And I believe the government is involved to some extent, also.

    • Theon
      Posted June 24, 2019 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      Yeah, I agree that the government is involved in some way, and I think tucker Carlson alludes or implied in his book that government entities are manipulating the tech companies by means of tax and postal incentives. Government regulators have the levers to make life uncomfortable for the tech companies. It works out as and end run around the first Amendment, with censorship enforced by non state actors at the behest of state power, which would be subject to the constitution if acting directly.

      The answer would be to put it clearly in the government ballpark and thus subject to the constitution(we hope). Notice how the neocons are all statist when it comes to desegregation and militarism and things they want, but suddenly chameleon to libertarian small government when it suits their ends. Suddenly they sound like Ron Paul.

      • R_Moreland
        Posted June 28, 2019 at 1:45 am | Permalink

        It’s the outsourcing of repression.

        Really, the government and corporations have been working together since the Managerial Revolution of the mid-20th century (pace Burnham). But the facade of government power versus corporate power has been maintained to serve ideology. Conservatives can believe in a morality tale where heroic entrepreneurs battle against oppressive state power, and in the final chapter a free market will ride to the rescue. They can believe this even though the current Internet exists largely due to government investment. They can believe this even where the IT sector and government have pretty much unified via Beltway companies, contractors, universities, the military and law enforcement. And they can believe this even when the corporate sector is de-platforming and de-monetizing those same conservatives en masse.

        For the managerial regime, handing off censorship and the unpersoning of dissidents to “private companies” provides a buffer in which plausible deniability can be maintained. Similar to the way in which private military companies and private prisons do much of the regime’s enforcement.

        This is where White Nationalism comes in, because it can provide an alternative ideology, one where de facto cartels have to serve the national interest. And yes, by promoting the cause of freedom against oppression.

    • Gnome Chompsky
      Posted July 4, 2019 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      I always mentaly think of him as Colon Capers. Sure, it isn’t his fault that Colin Powell pronounced his first name ‘Colon’, but if the glove fits, and it does, Colon Capers is how I always think of him.

      A millionaire from being a failed player, what a guy! What an exaggerated hair-style!

      I don’t like branded sportswear (don’t mind ASICs, what I usually wore in time as a srs athlete), but have a few items, hand-me-downs, all Adidas.

      Which also irritates me. I only ever wear the track pants when I do my laundry.

      The shoes, though, beat sandshoes for walking on gravelly or forest tracks. Maybe I should unpick the three stripes (because I hate them). Probably too difficult.

      I feel like a fool right now, either i didn’t read Hampton’s article closely enough the first time (most likely) or it has since been adjusted. Either way, I stick by my earlier comment.

      If Colon Capers so easily had the ‘Betsy’ flag shoe desgn pulled from the market (and you can bet that a few pairs are around, since they were already in shops), a confederate flag (stars and bars) version would sure be a best seller.

      Hell, I’d buy a pair, just to irritate people.

      Near where I live, there is a university that has many SJW students from western places, but they can’t fully express themselves, not being on home turf. It is funny to watch the confusion (and hypocrisy). The only two foreign students there I really know right now are Russians, so they don’t seem to suffer that tension.

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