This is not a column about Donald Trump, and it is certainly not a defense of his social media habits. It is a column about Big Tech and its ongoing utter brazenness, increasingly blatant (or shall I say selective – how about both?) disregard for free speech, and The Thing our government has taken far too long to act upon: clear, repeated violations of our nation’s antitrust laws.
I’m afraid that the banning of Trump and many of his fellow travelers from the Big Tech platforms, particularly Twitter, and the Big Tech bosses’ subsequent efforts to smash platforms such as Parler (named after the French term for “speak,” par-lay, but for some reason pronounced par-lor on these shores) sparked something which could and should become a very serious problem for them.
To the introductory points.
On brazenness: Do you think shutting down Parler so quickly under the guise of “danger to the republic” or some nonsense was an altruistic move to protect America? I say it was nothing of the sort. Had then-President Trump had time to open an account on Parler – and he would have –how many of his 30 million-plus followers would have followed suit? Enough to transform Parler from a mere nuisance into a real business threat. Like, overnight. Parler, which until last week was the no. 1 app in the iTunes store, is crippled and it’s hard to see at the moment how it gets out of the impossible chokehold Jack, Zuck, Bezos and friends continue to have it in without having to resort to shady international partners of questionable character and intentions.
As Mike Allen wrote in Axios AM late last week, “Careful what you wish for and force, people. Imagine conspiracy and plotting happening only in places no one else can see.” It was also reported in The Daily Beast that the U.S. Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies have conceded that not being able to track hooligans out in the open online is making their jobs more difficult.
On free speech: One of the reasons I left Twitter and Facebook more than two years ago is I was tired of the deluge of complete nonsense, aggressive posts, and just general anger and, yeah, hate on occasion that I would run into from across the political spectrum. If you are a sensitive person, as I am frankly, this starts to affect your well-being. So I took the action to just leave. As anyone is free to do (I highly recommend it, by the way). I was also bothered by the increased level of censorship, warnings, temporary suspensions and all-out bans that seemed to always fall on higher-profile folks with a lot of followers whose opinions and influence were considered unacceptable to the Big Tech titans. There are countless examples of people calling straight up for things like assassinations, violence and mayhem, and the spewing of pure falsehoods from people you don’t see on television who are allowed to post away unmolested.
Oh there are high-profile people who spew hate and call for the violent destruction of America constantly who seem perfectly welcome in Big Tech’s social sandbox. Have you ever checked out the feeds of popular angry leftists such as minister Louis Farrakhan, Alec Baldwin, and Keith Olbermann? Foreign adversaries such as Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameni, to name just a few are also perfectly welcome, it seems.
But. As repugnant as they are, I don’t think they should be banned. I’m not a big quoter in my writing, but I will always make an exception when Frederick Douglass can help me make a point. As he famously said on June 8, 1880:
To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.
On antitrust: This is not a new phenomenon in the Big Tech social media space. The large companies have been sucking up startups and potential competitors from day one. The government has just been really slow to make necessary moves. (Bill Gates, whose early Microsoft was nearly choked to death by the Clinton Justice Department – and for stupid reasons, unlike the real reasons here – must be really puzzling over this one.) Of course they didn’t want to acquire Parler, so they just offed it.
I could go on and on but you get the gist and I have space limitations.
I’ll conclude with this, lest you think I’m in the minority on this stuff.
Veteran pollster and all-around good egg John McLaughlin of McLaughlin & Associates, recently released results of a new survey which said 70% believe that technology firms, including Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple, are too powerful and need to be regulated.
And 74% agreed that if they can take away Trump’s free speech, “they can take away the right to free speech for any American.” What the other 26% are smoking, I’ve no idea, but y’all be you.
Again, this was not a column about Donald Trump, this is really a column about you and me … and OUR right – conservative, liberal, Martian, whatever – not to be messed with any more by the out-of-control, out-of-touch and out-of-line Big Tech titans. Let us rein them in while we still can.
Christian Josi is the founder and managing director of C. Josi & Company, a global communications and public affairs resource consultancy. He is a veteran communications and political adviser, author, and frequent opinion columnist for a variety of publications on a variety of subjects.