The past week has seen the giants of Silicon Valley crack down on conservative voices on their platforms. Candace Owens was locked out of Twitter on Sunday after she copied and edited old tweets from New York Times editorial board member Sarah Jeong. The following day, Infowars was banned from most social media platforms. On Thursday, Microsoft threatened to boot social media site Gab off its Azure cloud hosting site after a user published two posts flagged as hate speech.
These incidents demonstrate that these corporations consider themselves the gatekeepers of free speech, and will use everything in their power to silence undesirables — in other words, every right-winger who uses their platforms. While individual corporations have previously denied services to right-wing organisations, the Infowars incident suggests that Big Social is now actively collaborating to deplatform right-wingers.
Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify banned Infowars within 12 hours of each other. Pinterest, Disqus, Spreaker, Flickr, Stitcher, Audioboom, Tunein, LinkedIn and MailChimp have also denied services to Infowars. The sheer number of corporations involved in such a short time is suggestive of behind-the-scenes collusion to deplatform one of the most popular right-wing websites in America. At the very least, the Silicon Valley giants are taking cues from each other to identify and deplatform prominent right-wingers.
What happened to Infowars is an escalation and a portent of things to come. Over the past few years, Silicon Valley has steadily degraded the ability of non-leftists on their media platforms to communicate with their audiences. From the deplatforming of Stormfront to the demonetisation of many YouTube videos, the censorship of pro-Trump YouTube personalities Diamond and Silk to the recent shenanigans, Big Social and its allies among Internet service providers will continue to ratchet up the pressure on everyone to the right of Mao Ze Dong in an attempt to remove them permanently from the Internet.
With social media an intrinsic part of life in the First World, Big Media and Big Tech have the power to decide who gets to communicate with a worldwide audience — and who will be condemned to the dark corners of the Web. While Infowars is infamous for its conspiracy theories, if Big Media can deplatform Infowars and other high-profile groups and personalities without censure or legal consequences, then they have the power to silence anyone. Today they may go after someone you hate, but if left unchecked, tomorrow it will be you.
There’s only one solution to this: fork and replace.
The need for alternative media platforms has never been greater. Every Silicon Valley tech company must be considered in league with the censors unless proven otherwise. All platforms and digital infrastructure created, owned and operated by Big Media and their allies in Big Tech are vulnerable to corporate censorship; everyone who uses their platforms and does not subscribe to the narrative du jour must be aware that it’s only a matter of time before Big Tech comes for them.
Currently, Idka and BitChute offer similar functionality to Facebook and YouTube respectively without the threat of censorship. Gab aims to be the Twitter killer. Unlike Google, DuckDuckGo does not track user search data and will not personalise search results (and advertisements). While these platforms are serviceable, they still need more support before they can truly topple the titans of Silicon Valley.
I’m more concerned about Big Tech attempting to censor popular right-wing websites like Breitbart, Dangerous, or Vox Day’s blog. Websites hosted on servers allied or beholden to Big Social or Big Tech will, like Stormfront and Gab, find themselves on the wrong end of a takedown notice.
I’m intrigued by the possibilities blockchains offer as an alternative to traditional hosting platforms. Gab is planning to create a blockchain to ensure self-sufficiency and to preserve their users’ freedom of speech. Steemit shows how individual bloggers can post freely on censorship-proof platforms.
However, Steemit in its current form isn’t adequate as a true website or blog replacement. The user interface and user experience poses challenges to inexperienced users and users accustomed to the sleek tools and customisation options traditional blogging and website platforms offer. There is still no archive function, no way to easily format text, and no way for uses to personalise their presentation through themes, sidebars or other widgets common on other platforms.
For decentralised blockchain social media platforms to take off in an age of corporate censorship, they must offer functionality and user-friendliness similar to existing platforms in addition to being self-sufficient and censorship-proof. Without a superior UX, adoption will be limited to tech geeks and those willing to invest the time and energy to learn the foibles and quirks of the platform.
I’m not sure Steemit will be able to revamp itself to meet these requirements. But perhaps a future platform can, one that builds upon the Steemit experience and offers a true blog-like user experience on a censorship-proof platform powered by cryptocurrency.
Today, Big Media holds great power over the Internet, and is unafraid of exercising its power to shut down users with different points of view. But with crisis comes opportunity, and to those who wish to be free, the time is now to fork and replace, and leave behind the corporate censors forever.
Fortunately, Amazon is still free from blatant corporate censorship. Check out my latest novel HAMMER OF THE WITCHES here.
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