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Against Big Tech Viewpoint Discrimination

This week, YouTube decided American conservative “shock jock” commentator Steven Crowder broke the rules of their Partner Program. Since YouTube is privately owned, shouldn’t principled free market advocates support the company’s right to purge videos Silicon Valley finds triggering, even if a disproportionate number are created by conservative commentators such as Crowder?

Well, imagine electric companies stood up for progressive values by cutting off power to homes with pro-Trump yard signs. Even staunch supporters of free markets would likely object to these restrictions on expression by privately owned enterprises. When we examine why power companies shouldn’t be able to make service contingent on not violating political sensibilities, we see that analogous arguments should stop social media giants from exiling political dissidents.

If Burger King won’t sell you a hamburger, so what—buy one from McDonald’s. Competition among businesses normally protects you from harm if one refuses you service.

Some markets, however, are characterized by “bigger is better” where size bestows advantage. It’s much cheaper on average to hook up electric power lines to homes if the utility also connects nearly everyone else in town. So, if an electric utility decided to just exclude a few customers, it would be extremely costly for a competing power company to sell energy to those people and the former customers would likely go unpowered. An electric utility that refused service to any homeowner who had a pro-Trump sign in her yard would be unreasonably restricting freedom.

The U.S. government understandably requires electric utilities to provide power to everyone in their area of service willing to pay the standard price. “Bigger is better” economics likewise makes it good public policy for the government to prohibit big tech social media from engaging in viewpoint discrimination.

You want to be on Facebook because most of your friends and family are. The tech giants have reached astronomical stock valuations by having a business model where popularity breeds popularity as everyone wants to be on the platform most others use. These platforms benefit from what’s called “network externalities” where the value of the platform is proportional to the number of customers on it. Network externalities serve as barriers to entry, making it extremely difficult for rivals to establish social media companies that are anywhere near as popular as incumbents.

It shouldn’t matter to you if the burger joint you buy from isn’t the most popular. But because the entire point of social media is to communicate with others on the network, being excluded from the most popular networks potentially imposes a huge cost on you. Even though small rivals to YouTube/Facebook/Twitter exist, you still suffer if the main players boycott you.

Some might claim that electric power is far more of a necessity that social media access. True, but food is even more important than power. The reason we shouldn’t mind if Burger King bans you is because this ban would not stop you from getting a close substitute to what Burger King sells. Furthermore, while you don’t need social media to survive, many of us do need it to meaningfully contribute to the national political debate.

Anonymity normally protects consumers from having to worry about offending big business. Burger King executives might hate my Twitter posts, but they have no idea who I am when I buy their French fries. Even if Burger King put me on a blacklist supposedly preventing me from setting foot in their restaurants, I doubt they could keep me out. In contrast, you can’t get power without giving your electric utility your address, so power companies could effectively stop me from purchasing their energy.

Many banned social media customers undoubtedly create new accounts under different names. But having your pseudonymous account banned sets your followers count back to zero and destroys most of the influence you have built up.

Social media companies might counter that they need to remove disruptive customers who degrade other users’ experiences. Certainly, if I sent electric pulses down the power lines connected to my home that cut off electricity to my neighbors, my utility would justifiably terminate its relationship with me.

Social media users, however, can block other accounts. Indeed, big tech could make it easy for their customers to subscribe to block lists created by others so anyone who wished could live in an information bubble protected from views clashing with their cherished beliefs.

Economic blogger Tyler Cowen explains that even with social media deplatforming, information technology has given us far more publishing options than we had even in the 1990s. Given long-term leftist control of most of the media, right-of-center commentators probably are, on average, currently better situated than any time in the recent past. But imagine that some energy breakthrough caused power companies to cut prices by ninety percent to almost all their customers. Would we tolerate them giving just eighty percent discounts to customers with yard signs the utilities disapproved of? Furthermore, current platforming might only be a warmup for what is to come.

We desperately need laws against internet censorship before we get a president in league with Silicon Valley. Right now, big tech’s attitude toward Trump prevents the president from teaming up with the likes of Google and Facebook to circumvent the First Amendment. But if the social media companies fully supported some future president, they could, under current laws, cancel the accounts of anyone who too effectively criticized him.


James D. Miller is a professor of economics at Smith College. He is @JimDMiller on Twitter.

 

134 Comments

  1. bumble bee says

    I have zero sympathy for those who feel they will cease to exist if they cannot be on social media. While I agree with the argument regarding being banned, social media is given such power because of people’s inability to see social media for what it is. That being, a false sense of community, belonging, affirmation, as well as being a magnet for negativity.

    The only way to combat being censored or removed all together by a group of ill equipped corporations who have zero integrity is to just not give them the power by partaking in their false world they created. YT has allowed the dissemination of terrorist propaganda, violence, suicides, executions, porn in all its disgusting forms, it is actually a purveyor of bottom dwellers.

    One must ask themselves, would they patronize a place of business if they were removed because of their views, or further marginalized because they did not value you as a customer? No, and rightfully so, people would go to another place to get what they need. So why are people slaves to the subjective, biased, and hypocritical places that have told you they don’t want you. Get off social media, and watch their influence in society dwindle with it.

    • Bob The Builder says

      The answer to your question is in the article. The author explained “why” through a few paragraphs.

      • Miss Yellowbird says

        The author’s argument isn’t very good, and it sounds remarkably just like the last person they interviewed who was complaining about being banned from social media.

        I don’t think power company argument is persuasive at all, and in fact, it also seems very elitist to claim that not being allowed to use one of many social media platforms is akin to being forced into starvation and unemployment. Especially when the people complaining are academic and media professionals who have pretty cush jobs and whose main suffering in life is not being able to attention whore on Twitter.

        Twitter has only been around for a few years – and it could go the way of MySpace (imagine arguing in 2019 that My Space is so important it should be treated like a public utility!). Also none of these people’s Twitter spats are as interesting or important as the people involved they think they are. I know some of them call themselves “journalists” but when their journalism mostly consists of fighting with other people who have inflammatory media brands on Twitter, I’m skeptical.

        Most of the people complaining about being banned on social media are people who have their own websites and who make careers out of writing clickbait on their blogs or otherwise provoking people online to make money. They don’t understand that many people still just use the internet for reading and commentary, and instead they think these random readers are there to prop them up, build their numbers and stroke their egos.

        Many of these “internet personalities” also express narcissistic rage at criticism and spend time using internet tools to track down and bother people who say unflattering things about them online. So the internet now has a bit of a problem where clickbait writers and personalities need “engagement” but the people engaging with them are not internet personalities or people with internet-based businesses. This really has nothing to do with freedom of speech and everything to do with business law not catching up to the internet quickly enough.

        For instance if a media personality with a for-profit website goes around promoting their brand and harassing their critics on unrelated websites under a fake name, this is technically illegal astroturfing and is a serious consumer protection issue. This happens a lot online and you can test it by saying something unflattering about any major celebrity or internet personality – soon you will be swimming in insults provided by rep managers with google alerts or insult bots. RIP all the poor souls who have dared to say online that they think Beyoncé is overrated!

        Consumers have the right to know when they are engaging with hidden advertising or paid posters, and just because the business is internet-based doesn’t change that. The business owner is operating as a business owner, whereas the internet user may have just stumbled upon the commentary from a Google search. It’s a totally uneven and unfair playing field.

        For instance, with the rise of “reputation management” regular commenters are dogpiled by PR hacks and treated poorly for expressing opinions that clash with these online businesses, which makes commenting not as much fun. The internet landscape has changed for the worse in this regard. The problem with playing the victim when you literally have rep managers running around the internet threatening people who criticize you is that for many people commenting this is not a business and we aren’t commenting to boost your engagement stats. There is a lot of talk of freedom of speech online, but this talk is empty from privileged people who make careers out of provoking people and then doxing and dogpiling their critics.

        This honestly describes most of these, “but I neeeeed Twitter for my online business of saying outrageous things and provoking people” drama llamas. You might be surprised that many people don’t consider writing clickbait trash to be a super special thing that needs to be rallied around and protected. I have a journalism degree, so I know the difference between real journalism and outrage-baiting. Happily, I chose another career path that doesn’t involve trying to provoke people for clicks then playing the victim when random commenters rightfully tell you to f— off. So I get it – and I’m still not terribly sympathetic. If you have a website and a media brand with a reputation to protect, you are not a victim or an underdog and in fact a lot of these people are just engaging in astroturfing their internet businesses anyways.

        I also don’t believe for a second that being on Twitter is “essential” for modern journalists. Instead of fighting on Twitter, they are welcome to write articles and promote themselves on thousands of other websites. Trust me when I say I’m playing a tiny violin for the poor, poor suffering of media professionals who can’t use their preferred social media properties and instead have to rely on their own websites. The horror! 😉

    • Ray Andrews says

      @bumble bee

      “I have zero sympathy”

      I have sympathy for them. Most of what you say is true — if the people stood up as one and refused to submit to tyranny, no tyrant would survive. Alas we are not so coordinated and so tyrants are usually removed thru other means. And one might deplore the way SM seems to dominate people’s lives, but it is a hard fact of business that if Google won’t advertise my business then I’m out of business and that’s true regardless of my attitude toward SM. The right to speak used to be exercised in the town square, then in newspapers, now on SM, and it could be argued that one has the right to speak even there irrespective of the fact that SM is privately owned. The parallel with the newspapers is apt.

      • Howdy says

        I agree. It is the new “town square”; and they know it is the town square. Free speech should be protected there.

    • Darren says

      Currency could be considered a ‘False World’ product as well. It has value and power only because of our confidence in it. The Social Networks transferred power from the media gate keepers to the common people. The gate keepers are doing everything they can to get that power back. With the power to swing public opinion, to call out propaganda of the mass corporate media, to speak and listen directly to politicians who govern our lives (everyone should be able to see and respond to politicians tweets), to explore ideas and truths that the powerful don’t want you know. We’ve had a small glimpse into the false narrative fed to all of us, but the mega corps are working to blind us again…don’t let them.

    • Just Me says

      That is as ridiculous as saying that if the government tapped phone lines or opened mail 30 or 50 years ago, people should have stopped using the phone.

      The mail and phone had become essential means of communication, just as social media has become essential today.

      Only a Luddite would not recognize that.

      Even you are here, aren’t you?

    • DeplorableDude says

      Would you be ok with Quillette preventing you from commenting on their articles simply because they disagree with you? Social media is how information is moved these days. WIthout social media Crowder has no way to communicate his message. That is what big tech barons are doing, silencing people they don’t like.

    • Stephanie says

      Bumble bee, that may be true for people with no influence like us, but for political commentators, entertainers, and others who derive income from social media, being banned isn’t about not being able to indulge an addiction (most of these people don’t even manage their own social media), it’s about disseminating content and generating revenue.

      Not that it’s okay that people with no influence are banned for their political opinions. If this happens to sufficient people, it can warp public perception of the range of normal opinions, with potential electoral consequences.

    • Kauf Buch says

      TO bumble bee

      “Thank you” for being the voice of LUDDITES throughout history. rolls eyes

      Social media is the new NEWS OUTLET.
      (You really wonder why the TV and print “news” audience has dwindled so?!)

      Yet: YOU want people to drop it?!?
      Meaning, the only news sources being the Lying Leftist Media???
      Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

  2. Cherish says

    I think that it is foolhardy to try and force those in the marketplace to serve under circumstances they don’t want to serve. There’s no winning that fight. Do you want to a) Allow Christian bakers to choose when they serve?; or b) allow Google to choose when they serve? You can’t have your cake and eat it (hehe). Let the market work itself out.

    • Lydia says

      The Christian Baker served everyone. please get your facts straight before you assert something that is not true. What he chose not to do was design art for a certain cake. He would do the same for four other groups that requested something he was in disagreement with. It was about creating art. Not baking a cake. Homosexuals were in his bakery all the time buying baked goods. That just didn’t fit the media’s narrative.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Lydia

        Thanks. The issue was forced artistic expression. May as well try to force a Jewish artist to paint a portrait of Hitler. These ‘rights’ things end up going batshit crazy. As I argue above, I think a wee bit of common sense would often go a long way. Folks should have the right not to be materially harmed by someone choosing not to do business with them, but Supreme Court cases that boil down to — at the very most — hurt feelings? And maybe not even hurt feelings. Maybe a deliberate targeting of a Christian’s conscience. Being the champions of Tolerance that they are, perhaps gay activists might find it simply polite not to ask people to violate their religious duties? I wouldn’t ask a halal butcher to sell me some pork chops, that would violate his religion. Why would I be so stupid and so rude?

        • Cedric says

          The Christian baker comparison doesn’t work in this context. As with the Burger King/McDonald’s example in the article, the customers searching for a wedding cake had plenty of bakeries to choose from. A major point in the article is that when it comes to online video platforms, YouTube is the only real game in town.

          • Jonny Sclerotic says

            @ Cedric

            If YouTube is indeed a natural monopoly, would you advocate nationalising it? Or stricter regulation? Would that create more problems than it solved?

            I’m in favor of publicly owned utilities (as much as any other one-in-a-hundred commenters on this platform) but YouTube doesn’t fall into that category.

          • Cedric says

            @Jonny

            I wasn’t really taking a position. I was just asserting that the wedding cake situation doesn’t apply. I actually don’t necessarily think the monopoly comparison is apt either. Clearly, we are in uncharted waters.

        • 370H55V says

          Thank you, Ray, for making that very important point. I once read such a definition as the difference between material harm and (as you call hurt feelings) dignitary harm.

          And yet, it is much more than that. We hear much from the Left about people who are “marginalized”, but the goal of their project is not simply “dignity” but rather a reversal of polarity of what they consider current societal makeup: black privilege instead of white privilege, worship (not simply tolerance) of LGBTQXXXX lifestyles, matriarchy instead of patriarchy, etc. The marginalized become the new center, and the old center becomes the new marginalized. Let’s recognize it for what it is: a power grab.

  3. TIM says

    The problem is that these big tech companies have special immunity since law set them as protected platforms. BUT, they now act as publishers. They operate differently from all other media. If they didn’t have this legal protection, I would not care about their editing of voices. So, in effect, they are squashing free speech rights since they operate outside lible laws.

    • Glenn Pface says

      You nailed it, TIM.

      Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. are being allowed to enjoy a dual status:

      They’re treated as common carriers and thus not liable for whatever criminal acts (child porn, fraud, intellectual property theft, terroristic conspiracies) are perpetrated on their platforms.
      They behave as publishers and censor political views they don’t like.

    • Lydia says

      This is also my view, Tim. Take away those protections and let’s watch the market shake itself out.

    • Geary Johansen says

      Couldn’t agree more.

      However, I do think there be some special nuance involved when it comes to protected classes. If you cast yourself back to the civil rights era, then dinner owners could have skirted the courts restrictions on denying service, by encouraging their customers to hurl abuse at black patrons. This would be wrong. I far responsible response, on the part of Google would be to only demonetise historic videos- and keep the possibility of monetisation open in the future. This allows for the possibility of reform and forgiveness. In this scenario the dinner owner, is actively encouraged to quieten his patrons abuse, leaving them free to not associate with the black patrons.

      However, there are plenty of issues that YouTube, Google and the other Tech Giants do take sides on. An example is trans desistance. I am sure there are many other issues. Plus, there is the fact that people on the leftist end of the political spectrum get away with shit, that would never be allowed. If race is a protected class, then ALL races are protected, including whites. If title IX protects women from discrimination, then men are protected as well. Critically, political speech should be the foremost protection covered by free speech- as it the very foundation of all democracies.

      This is one thing that the regressive left, with their intersectional feminism and oppression olympics, seem to not understand. Another, is that is illegal to discriminate against ANYONE, other than on the basis of merit- so positive, or constructive, discrimination is a complete non-starter. This is the point that the left’s hopes of diversity and inclusivity falls apart- unless they can look to their own glass house- and fix the broken, progressive education system, replacing it with a highly structured, highly disciplined, knowledge-intensive system. Even then you won’t get full parity, because there is simply no way to completely substitute for an upper-middle class background, with a home full of books and two parents that are walking encyclopedias.

    • David George says

      The social media providers have a legal obligation (in the US at least) to “act in good faith” .
      From commercial lawyer Ron Coleman:

      Communications Decency Act , section 230, subsection (c)(2):

      “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of… any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”

      Subsection (c)(2) should guide our attempts to fix social media censorship. This provision permits social media companies to “restrict access” to “obscene…or otherwise objectionable” material,

      But it also requires ISP’s to act “in good faith” – and right now, they are not.”

      “If there is any question as to whether subsection (c)(2)’s “good faith” requirement permits individual states to protect their citizens from arbitrary bans, Congress should clarify the point by amending the statute. Congress should also make it clear that, bad faith or not, nothing in subsection (c)(2) permits de-platforming people based on political ideology or offline conduct.

      The debate about whether social media companies are “publishers” or “platforms” is beside the point. Legislators and influencers should focus instead on writing new law that protects users from bad faith deplatforming.

      Let’s take the fight to the book burners of our age.

      Let’s make platform access a civil right.”

      https://humanevents.com/2019/06/07/the-section-230-illusion/

    • Joe Van Steenbergen says

      Not exactly right, though it should be. In a recent case involving Twitter and PragerU, the judge ruled that (paraphrasing) Twitter can act as both a platform and a publisher under the law; i.e., Twitter gets to have its cake and eat it, too.

      My biggest fear with all of this is that, as a society, the minute a significant number of citizens embrace the idea that we can and should limit freedom of speech in any way that does not violate the law (e.g., incitement to immediate or near-immediate violence), we are on a path to destroying the American Republic as we know it. The United States is the only country on the planet that has enshrined protections against the restriction of freedom of expression, and that fact alone has gone a long way toward making this country as successful as it has been. Lose that, and we lose our liberty (such as we have any left under what is becoming a police state).

    • theoldzombie says

      Yes. Take away the protections from these companies. They want to be publishers, and decide who can and can not use the sites, but at the same time want immunity from everything by claiming they are just platforms.

      You can’t have it both ways.

      I say remove the legal protections and let them reap what they are sowing.

  4. Farris says

    When does deplatforming involve Freedom of Speech? In the U.S. the Equal Protection Clause prohibits the governments or its agents from denying equal protection of law to some while recognizing it for others. However like First Amendment that only applies to government actions meaning that it would not apply to businesses, lunch counters, ect.. that did not wish to extend services to all individuals. For this reason Civil Rights legislation was passed under the Commerce Clause. Since businesses engage in or impact interstate commerce, the Clause allows the government to regulate their conduct. So if a Christian Bakery is open for business, it must provide service to the public and not just the public it prefers. Consequently, if a platform wishes to be open to the public, it should not discriminate against views with which it disagrees. Therefore the First Amendment civil right of a deplatformed individual may be potentially impacted.

    The other side of the coin is should a platform be required to fly flags it or its users find offensive? Is the offending party co-opting the platform brand to enhance the legitimacy of the message (Think NFL players protesting in uniform)? How open should the flood gates be. If legislation denied platforms from banning groups or group ideas, could ISIS, the KKK or Nazis find refuge in such legislation? Could not offensive enough groups co-opt the platform brand to such an extent that it harms the business model?

    No doubt platforms are attempting to use their power to stifle ideas they find offensive. But should government intervene to require platforms to quasi endorse viewpoints? Yes, platforms are behaving poorly but sometimes that is their right. Chick-fil-A is not required to donate to an LBGT parade or fly and LGBT flag. I think the legislation the author advocates could wind up back firing on conservatives. I believe the best option for conservatives would be to litigate the user agreements regarding whether or not such agreements provided adequate notice and are not arbitrary and capricious.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Farris

      Perhaps the paradigm is wrong. Perhaps instead of trying to decide if the government should regulate any and all SM as to what they may, mayn’t and must censor, the better approach is that used against Standard Oil: The government will break up monopolies if, when and where it seems necessary to do so, but neither does is interfere in the marketplace when there is no pressing need for it. Thus we needn’t agonize over whether some small SM platform can or can’t censor all Trump voters because, as the author so very well explains, one is not disadvantaged in any way from using some other platform. (Just as Burger King might very well decide that they don’t serve Trump voters and that’s fine, there’s a Wendy’s just across the street.) However when Google or Facebook becomes a defacto monopoly then — as with Standard Oil — intervention becomes necessary. Thus the paradigm would be ‘intervention when necessary but not necessarily intervention’.

      “So if a Christian Bakery is open for business, it must provide service to the public and not just the public it prefers.”

      The above attitude might be applied to bakers: rather than huge amounts of money and court time being wasted (yes, wasted) because a baker doesn’t want to decorate a cake, the court might ask if — rather than a theoretical violation of some ‘right’ — if anyone was really harmed in any way. Are there no other bakers? Did the gay activists even really want the cake? Strange that they asked for it so many days in advance of their wedding that it would surely be stale. Perhaps they were in fact simply making trouble for the baker and had every intention of getting their ‘real’ cake elsewhere? I suspect that what they were doing was nothing much more that attempting to bugger the baker’s conscience. It is true that the law likes theoretical frameworks for it’s laws, but there have been legal frameworks that had a more practical and down to earth way of looking at things. Had I been the judge in that case, I’d have fined the baker $20 for hurting the feelings of the gay couple and that would have been the end of it.

      • Farris says

        @Ray

        FULL DISCLOSURE: I do not partake in social media nor do I begrudge those who do. Admittedly however my lack of participation may be causing me to under state its influence.

        I do not believe being a monopoly alone is sufficient to warrant government intrusion without some type of unfair competitive advantage or price gouging. One may have a monopoly on toothpick manufacture or Barnum and Bailey may have a monopoly on circuses. So what? I do think you hit the nail on the head when you mention some type of impact test. For instance if a National Veterans cemetery displays a Cross or Star of David is this really e-s-t-a-b-l-i-s-h-i-n-g a religion or just a pesky display annoying to atheists? Ben and Jerry’s may elect to provide free ice cream to SJWs gatherings and deny the same to DAR gatherings. Chick-fil-A may elect to not sell sandwiches on Sunday to the chagrin of non-Christians. Newspapers don’t print all letters to the editor. I failed to see the need for government intervention.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Farris

          Right, the case for some sort of intervention would have to be demonstrated. We’re on new ground with SM and one would hope for vigorous arguments both ways. I think that I myself would still be 60/40 to leave Facebook alone, but probably the other way with Google who really can hurt you.

          I like your examples. Indeed Ben and Jerry can give away their ice cream as they see fit. But, to split the hair, could they charge more to whites so as to punish them for Privilege? Probably not, tho even then we’d prefer that they were boycotted and went broke than that the courts need intervene.

        • Stephanie says

          Farris, I think you might be underestimating SM’s influence and necessity for independent public figures. A popular video on YouTube can make $10 000s, $100 000s, even $1 000 000s. This is a major income stream, shutting it down can effectively put someone like Crowder out of business.

          An excellent independent journalist runs the YouTube channel “China Uncensored,” with better China coverage than you’ll find in MSM. Such unflattering coverage means few sponsors will support his channel, so he depends on income from viewership to do what he does. Allowing YouTube to block political content they don’t like (or are coerced/paid not to carry) has far-reaching consequences not just for disseminating political opinion but information deemed unflattering to a tyrannical government.

          Both these channels have subscription-based services on external websites, but YouTube is essential for drawing in new viewers. Crowder has a “mug club” with a yearly rate, but no one is going to pay $100 until they know they like the content. China Uncensored relies on Patreon, which has had its own problems with deplatforming politically controversial creators.

          As explained in the article, social media is a natural monopoly because the purpose is to communicate with others, something that is not possible across platforms. Breaking them up would not work if cross-platform communication is not possible. Smaller alternative platforms are attractive if you’re specifically looking to avoid family, friends, and coworkers, but for independent public figures you have to go where the market is.

          I think this does amount to censorship, and can easily become fascist (in the true sense of the word) if the government can team up with communication monopolies to censor dissenting opinion. The only question, and I think where the debate lies, is what approach should be taken to prevent censorship of political opinions.

          • Farris says

            @Stephanie

            Thank you for your reply. As I stated I’m not a social media consumer so I will defer to your knowledge regarding social media impact and potential. I would respectfully point out that news organizations are not required to air all opinions and networks and local tv are not required to sell advertising to all who request it. I’m very much aware this is an attempt to squelch conservative voices. But conservatives need to beware before demanding government action or they may just throw the baby out with the bath water.

          • Stephanie says

            Farris, SM would have the right to decide they don’t want certain editorial positions if they were a publisher, but that means they would be liable for all the content on their websites. These companies don’t want to be, because it is impossible to filter out all the illegal content, and they don’t want to be charge with, say, distributing child pornography or inciting people to commit terrorism. Their position is that they are simply platforms, so can take no legal responsibility for the content on their sites. Lawmakers accepted this claim and are regulating them as platforms.

            However, if SM are exercising an editorial position, they should be regulated as publishers. I agree conservatives need to be careful not to overreach, but right now SM is trying to have their cake and eat it too, and they should be forced to decide if they want to be platforms or publishers so they can be regulated as such, and treated as such my the consumer/creator/product.

          • Rev. Wazoo! says

            @Stephanie
            Good points!I’d add that the anti-trust issues aren’t merely theoretical: Google operated yuoutube at a loss with little to no advertising (subsidised by it’s de facto monopoly on search advertising) until any meaningful competitors were driven from the market then cranked up the intrusive advertising big-time. Classic monopolist behavior.

            Combining that with government power is indeed fascist in the classical sense and dangerous indeed; witness the Chinese Communist Party’s social credit system, already field-trialled and now being rolled out in the world’s largest country and 2nd largest economy.

    • E. Olson says

      I think the wedding cake example is a false analogy for the YouTube banning of Crowder (and others). The baker is creating something after it is ordered by the customer, and he chose not to accept certain customer orders for religious reasons. In contrast, YouTube is merely supplying a platform for others to post materials they own or create so that others can view it, and hence are not creating anything special for a particular customer. Thus the proper analogies would be a baker who would rent out his kitchen to clients so they could design and bake their own cakes with no input or branding from the baker, OR YouTube creating and posting YouTube branded videos based on customer requests.

      Thus the question is whether it is the same thing for a Nazi group to create a video themselves celebrating Hitler and the Final Solution and posting it on YouTube versus a situation where YouTube is asked by the Nazis to create and post a YouTube branded video celebrating Hitler and the Final Solution. I don’t think these are the same thing, as the first is distasteful but should not be seen by the public as a YouTube endorsement of the Nazis (as long as YouTube allows all parties to post videos), while the second could much more easily be perceived as a YouTube endorsement because of their more active participation in the making of the video.

    • Kauf Buch says

      TO Farris
      What horsesh!t.
      Your diatribe sounds like the rattlings of a brain-dead libertarian,
      complete with ready-made, one-size-fits-all
      bombast and polemic to “soma” you into your comfort zone.

      Free Speech AIN’T comfortable.

      • Scott says

        In all fairness, Farris was making his(?) comments in a reasoned, respectful manner, hardly rattlings, bombast, or polemic. We don’t have to agree, but we could at least manage a bit of courtesy.

        Any special reason you couldn’t show the same civility?

        • Kauf Buch says

          TO Scott

          “We” can, but I have no intention of doing so (Southerners might say, “Oh HAIL no!”) to anyone who spouts the mealy-mouthed mantras of the totalitarian Left…especially not when they hypocritically claim interest in/respect for private property and/or First Amendment…

          …when, in reality, all they are doing is offering up a fig leaf for their censorship addiction.

          LOOK UP: Communications Decency Act, Section 230
          https://gigaom.com/2011/03/05/419-the-legal-magic-bullet-that-protects-twitter-and-yelp/

          Enjoy your George-Will-oh-so-polite pearl clutching, while the rest of us try to stop these vulgar barbarians from destroying America’s freedom.

  5. Respek Wahmen says

    As stupid as the above comments were, so too is the article. Who is it trying to convince? Those who already know this or those committed to ignoring it?

  6. John says

    I am a libertarian. I believe in freedom of expression, of contract, of association, of exchange etc. I don’t have a good answer for Google is doing. I have no solution. I find it awful nonetheless. I find dangerous nonetheless. I find the worldview that support what Google does in this regard (not just their right to do it) to be unwittingly (or wittingly) evil if not simply immature, intolerant, hypocritical, unwise and shortsighted. None of it is excusable.

    Google needs blowback but not enough exists with enough zeal to make a difference. The idiots…yes idiots…who support this authoritarian puritanism (yes, that’s what it is) lack the perspective to see what they are doing to their “enemies” as well as to themselves. Whether it’s a shallow education that ignores the wisdom of our forebearers or simply “forgetting where you came from”, these narrow-minded left-wing bullies are the heirs of two now-conflicting worldviews. The potential conflict perhaps wasn’t as visible in the beginning. They are the heirs of the Left of the post WW2 counter culture as well as co-heirs are the classical liberal tradition that gave them the power to rise up, be heard, be irreverent, be dirty, be free, be different, be proud to be all of the above and not give a damn what any stuffy powers-that-be had to say about it…in true counter culture fashion.

    The heirs of those who remember the first part as well as the latter are the true liberals, libertarians, socially flexible jeffersonian conservatives or simply those who never forget the value of freedom and tolerance regardless of personal differences with others.

    The heirs of the former who now disregard the latter because they either no longer find it useful or are too miseducated to have ever appreciated its value in the first place are the far left, woke crowd, the SJWs and PC bullies who see virtue in their simplistic intolerance of views they object to.

    • Glenn Pface says

      “I believe in freedom of expression, of contract, of association, of exchange etc.“

      Much of the deplatforming of political speech can be accurately described as a breach of contract. YouTube treats its customers differently and does so in an unwritten, arbitrary way.

      • John says

        See, now that is getting into legalese. I don’t know if that’s true or has legs under legal scrutiny. I simply think Google has a skewed view of who’s who and what’s what. They lack the humility needed to properly “police” its youtube content. I know that wishing Google had the “wisdom” to step away and let its creators hash it out is not realistic but it’s the best solution.

      • mag0ne says

        Crowder hasn’t been deplatformed, he’s been demonetized. His content is still available for his viewers, but YouTube made the decision that the advertisers they are beholden to would be discouraged by a person who uses abusive language. YouTube has that right. If they eventually get out of line in their judgements on these issues, a competitor platform will ascend.

        They inconsistently enforce these rules, and don’t want to dedicate the resources to offensive/non-compliant videos that nobody really sees. Which falls in line with advertisers really only caring about high profile controversy.

        And technically, Crowder wasn’t demonetized for his political views, but rather the harassment of some chump journalist.

        What it comes down to is that YouTube isn’t really about enforcing leftist ideology, but rather in making as much money as possible. That includes swaying with the winds of the zeitgeist, which tends to be leftist among tech users.

        • John says

          @magone You are rationalizing what Youtube is doing by minimizing what it really means in terms of societal implications and what is really at play here. And Yes: Youtube is enforcing leftist ideology to a certain extent because their guiding principles, as well as those of the people screaming in their ear, are based on left progressive priorities to fit a left progressive morality and leftist world view. If anti-SJW types are so inclined, they can usurp the poorly conceived “rules” set in place and go after progressives who can be argued to be doing the same thing as crowder. Exploding cigar! Twitter has already had automatic bans on leftist activists and journalists that they sometimes later reversed or undid because of algorithms put in place to stop “hateful content”…algorithms that were created because of progressive whining about “hate”.

          It’s NOT A BETTER WORLD being created by all this tattling and whining and censorship and arbitrary guidelines to define the poorly defined or undefinable.

          If Youtube really only cared about money, they’d stick to their guns and show as many ads as possible and not care what a few advertisers worried about progressive activist whiners are saying. It would be in Youtube’s best interest to lower the bar as much as possible with regard to acceptable speech (which is a lot lower than it is right now) and monetise as many videos as possible. Advertisers want eye-balls…including the millions of normal consumers’ who watch crowder! Demonetizing content with a mainstream audience cuts down ad revenue and misses consumers. That’s what ads are for….not virtue signaling.

          • James Felter says

            The adds and their revenue are still there…but none reaches Crowder. He is invited to continue contributing content and attracting audience for free…

        • WW says

          No this is not about making as much money as possible. YouTube is literally working against its best interests to force ideological obedience. The massive demonetization loses both the creators and YouTube money. They don’t collect anything for an ad not shown. Recently they modified their algorithm to lower recommendations of things they dreamed right wing. This was also against their interests since it results in fewer views. They could show me all the Colbert they want, I’m never clicking on that assholes videos. Oh and “cock holster” Colbert gets to use gay slurs and it’s totally ok, double standards much YouTube?

          If this was YouTube enhancing their business it would be one thing, but they are not. They’re literally destroying their business model in service to the progressive mob. They have volunteered to be the firemen of Fahrenheit 451, the Witch Accusers of Salem, the PMRC banners of music, foisting a moral code on us in pure service to their politics. This never ends well, and often times it has murderous consequences. They aren’t doing this because it’s their business to do so, they are doing it because it’s their political propaganda goals. Ironically the company banning historical Nazi propaganda films from its platforms are the new age fascist propagandists.

      • Cedric says

        @Glenn Pface

        GREAT point. You wrote: “YouTube treats its customers differently and does so in an unwritten, arbitrary way.”

        I would change this to say: “YouTube treats its CONTRIBUTORS (its bread and butter) differently and does so in an arbitrary way, DESPITE its written policy.”

        They actually do have written guidelines for contributors. The funny things is that Steven Crowder had not violated YouTube’s policy, but YouTube decided to move the goal posts with this weak statement:

        “Even if a creator’s content doesn’t violate our community guidelines, we will take a look at the broader context and impact, and if their behavior is egregious and harms the broader community, we may take action.” https://youtube.googleblog.com/2019/06/taking-harder-look-at-harassment.html

        • Stephanie says

          They way YouTube demonitizes creators costs them huge sums of money, in a way that can put someone out of business. Being demonetized is not trivial, and as explained clearly in the article the nature of social media prevents alternatives with the same premise from springing up. There must be a clear and hard standard that is evenly applied and in accordance with law.

          PewDiePie has had all of his Dr. Phil videos demonetized (costing him $100 000s) because the copyright holder claims them, even though PewDiePie’s videos clearly fall under the “fair use” clause of the DMCA. This amounts to fraud on YouTube’s part, and somehow it seems to happen disproportionately to creators YouTube doesn’t like for political reasons.

          The CEO of YouTube has openly stated in a video-recorded interview that she would ban Ben Shapiro if she could (since her son has discovered him and become a fan). We should be very afraid of what a Democratic President and Congress will let these media companies do next time they are in power. It is not appropriate to downplay the trend towards the elimination of independent public figures from the only methods of mass communication, particularly with the acute likelihood the government will be condoning that within a few years.

          • Joe Van Steenbergen says

            Stephanie: I honestly believe that people like Ben Shapiro are in serious danger of being banned; SM companies are simply waiting for the right moment (right gaff) to take him, and others like him, down. I believe there is a concerted effort, mostly out of sight, to purge as many conservative, dissident, non-mainstream (i.e., non-progressive) voices as possible from the entire internet before the 2020 elections. This is not over by a long shot, IMO.

    • MMS says

      @John – Well Said!

      I find what big Tech is doing to be pathetic and sad as it goes against the spirit of freedom however, as a private company they should be generally able to do as they will (outside of truly illegal activity) . I wish there was more competition and more selection so people could vote with their feet…

      • John says

        MMS,

        If there was another platform that mirrored Youtube content by giving creators another popular place to upload their content, I’d be there.

    • DNY says

      A simple solution would be to limit Section 230 protections to platforms that mirror the First Amendment’s commitment to free speech. If you act as an editor or censor, you become responsible for what appears on your platform. If you host whatever is put up, you’re not responsible for the content and cannot be held liable. The ISP or content host can mirror the limits on free speech placed by applicable law — posts containing child pornography, calling for riots or insurrection, or meeting the definition of a true threat (under the definition applied by the appeals court circuit in which the corporate headquarters or perhaps server farm is located) could be reported to authorities (and the target of the threat) and deleted — but going beyond that would strip them of their Section 230 protections.

      • Scott says

        Well said DNY. While I understand (and sympathize with) the notion of forcing any private actor to ‘speak’ against their will, there is a simple solution to this….if they are a platform, they are shielded from liability, etc. (Section 230 protection, and yes, I know I am oversimplifying it), if they are a publisher (they edit or censor) they cannot claim such protection.

        Let them choose, and then I will respect their choice.

    • @John, perhaps your lack of options to deal with Google’s behavior is a sign to reconsider your libertarianism.

      “Let my markets go!” — the siren call of the libertarian god. I have believed it too. I have also been a recovering libertarian for about 15 years now.

      The reason libertarianism doesn’t have the answer you seek is because lib ethics begin by assuming that man is a rational, utility maximizing, property owning, animal. It turns out that:

      1) Man isn’t particularly rational, he does all kind of things and incurs real costs that don’t make logical sense.

      2) Most people aren’t actually trying to maximize their money (utility). They value family, community, charity, culture, faith… none of which are economic. Homo economus is a myth,

      3) Man isn’t an animal. Jews would say he is made by G*d. Christians would say he is made in God’s image. Buddhists would say he can attain enlightenment. Even atheists acknowledge that the law of the jungle is inappropriate to man. That’s why they spend so much ink devising non-divine moral codes.

      I really do want to encourage you to look outside libertarianism. The lib lens of the world is very comfortable: “consensual exchange always good; coerced exchange always bad”. The real world is so much larger and more nuanced though.

      You’re discomfort with Google’s actions and the realization that you lack the tools to address what you see as an obvious injustice is a sign that you need a larger toolbox. Larger tools do carry a greater risk of misuse, but sometimes, they are needed to get the job done.

  7. derek says

    These social media platforms have the right to drive themselves out of business.

    So let’s describe what happened. Crowder and Carlos Maza are having a dispute. Insults are thrown back and forth. They are both either owners or employees of businesses, and these disputes are between and mediated via the businesses. There are contracts and revenues involved.

    Maza uses the influence of Vox to game the complaint system that Youtube uses to control it’s content, Google demonetizes. Vox uses their influence to use third party businesses, advertisers, to influence Youtube. The net result is what it is. There are financial losses.

    It would be fascinating to see all the correspondence that happened between all these parties. This is a classic libel situation, and there are legal remedies available. Vox as media has lots of protection, but this isn’t simply writing that Crowder is homophobic, this is actively conspiring with multiple business entities to cause financial damage.

    And there are numerous deep pockets involved. Sounds like a perfect situation for an enterprising lawyer to take on spec. Publicizing the communication chains would be great fun. There is a serious possibility that one of these cases would change the libel legal standards as well.

    The next half decade of social media will be redefined by these legal battles.

    The results of the catholic kid that was libelled by media personalities will open the floodgates.

    • Respek Wahmen says

      “So let’s describe what happened. Crowder and Carlos Maza are having a dispute.”

      Maza was formerly with media matters, with the express purpose of going after fox news. He claims that Tucker Carlson is a white supremacist… in his twitter bio. His main reason for living and purpose at vox is to deplatform conservatives. He also repeatedly calls for conservatives to be physically assaulted.

      So it’s not about crowder and maza having a dispute, or even really about crowder specifically. It’s a political strategy to eliminate any commentator who isn’t a regressive NPC.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Vox is going broke. This could be a last gasp effort to make themselves relevant again.

  8. Hutch says

    YouTube is not a municipal utility nor does anyone have a right to access / host content on its platform (unless specifically contractually agreed beforehand). It’s a company that can pick and choose according to freedom of association.

    It is not internet censorship to kick one person or a whole group of people off of a private online platform. If somehow Crowder was banned from ever posting his content on the internet (impossible) through other peoples or his own host then it would be censorship.
    People complaining that their business and livelihoods are effected by being removed from online platforms are effectively poor business people. If you establish a business using other people’s hardware and resources for free (even if you make them money) and they eject you from the platform, well that risk was always there. A busker getting kicked out of bar he attracts patrons to is pretty much the sum of it.

    YouTube doesn’t have to justify any decision it makes to remove content to anyone but itself and shareholders.

    The massive benefit of exposure YouTube as a platform can deliver is not owed to anyone. Read the Terms of use (it’s a one sided affair).

    The purpose of YouTube is to make profit. That’s it. It’s their decision how they achieve that goal.
    The political bias of YouTube is clear for all to see. I don’t like it, but asking for government intervention qualifies you as having the donkey brains.

    There are people out there who, if they had a platform like YouTube, would remove leftist content. That right, whichever way it cuts, is worth protecting.

    • Geary Johansen says

      @ Hutch

      I agree with you to a certain extent, especially when it comes to the ability to make money. However, the reason why YouTube and other social media monopolies should be treated differently, is because are they have become public squares and YouTube is, in effect, allowing Carlos Maza to erect a private stock in said public square. The legal implications are tangled for all three parties, especially when one considers that they may have provided contractual terms to original content to providers such as Steven Crowder, in order to drive traffic on their platform. If you are an insurer, you are legally entitled to raise or lower premiums to a reasonable degree to cover some costs, but you are not allowed to substantively alter the original terms of the contract, regardless of how many times the policy is renewed- otherwise every long-term cancer sufferer would find themselves excluded, upon annual renewal. The tech companies are probably relying on their ability to spend extortionate amounts of money on lawyers, for user agreements that are unenforceable. They may be on safer ground, when providing free services, where no commercial interest existed.

    • boomTown says

      I like your comments, @Hutch. I think it summarizes the flip side of the coin well.

      However I will point out that not all regulated electricity companies are “municipal utilities”. My local utility is “investor owned” (private). Therefore, YouTube can be restrained by the government to provide equal access without taking on the title of a “municipal” anything, because of the reasons outlined by the author.

    • Stephanie says

      Hutch, difference of course being, as explained in the article, buskers have the choice of lots of bars, while the nature of social media means that a more apt analogy would be having the busker’s power cut with no feasible replacement available.

      • Hutch says

        The notion that You Tube and Facebook are such vital “public squares” that need government intervene to regulate access is the real question here.

        I agree that Facebook and You Tube are the goliaths in the industry. Their reach and scope presently unrivaled.

        The fact that people will constantly flock to these platforms despite being repeatedly abused by same is the most troubling problem.

        The costs of running You Tube are insane. The sheer amount of bandwidth and hardware required is mind bending. As its stands these are privately paid.

        Alternatives to the platforms exist and the reasons why they aren’t getting any boost in traffic when You Tube cuts off people like Crowder is simple. Crowder is not a substantial draw, not advertiser friendly and pretty much a self-serving interest. One baby shark video on bit chute is going to help a lot more than 20 Crowder’s (in fact more than one Crowder would properly be a bad idea).

        Competition is what’s needed. Cracking the market now with the current stage is not impossible but more likely financially unfeasible without huge investment (especially if you think right leaning content will somehow prop it up).

        It’s more of steam vs epic marketplace scenario.

        Asking the government to decide what content a private platform can remove is an impossible task. The only intervention I want to see is to ensure google can’t stifle any up and coming hosting sites. If no one steps up to the plate and challenges You Tube, or fails to succeed in an open market, well, that means You Tube wins.

        You Tube may actually be unsustainable in the coming years. A competitor that uses a Netflix subscription model with no adds, pays content creators based on different metrics and has open hosting isn’t the worst idea. The question is, will someone pony up and try.

        If you have the idea that no alternatives exist (or could possibly exist) to You Tube, it stems from naivety. You Tube has succeeded in its task.

        If you could pay Pewdiepie and the more rebellious (but wildly successful) content creators to get on your platform, you may have the start you need.

  9. This argument essentially proposes that social media are akin to public utilities. My libertarian sensibilities tell me we should use extreme caution in deploying arguments like that. After all, public utilities are heavily regulated, and I don’t believe that regulation of social media platforms will be a move toward more free speech.

    The censorious treatment of right-leaning social media pundits by social media platforms is not worth getting upset about, because the sheer size of these pundits’ audiences proves that their message is economically sustainable without having to rely on one platform or another. It may be vexing to have to seek out second-best solutions, but that’s how creative destruction in the marketplace happens. Rather than crying foul, these pundits should be building their own platforms. Yes, the competition will be steep. The marketplace is not always an easy place to make a buck.

  10. Bob Morris says

    I think a lot of people are missing a bigger issue that’s driving the conversation regarding technology companies dominating the industry and the ability of one to express viewpoints.

    It would be summed thusly: We have free market principles in conflict with free speech principles.

    To be clear, “principles” does not equal “laws.” I am well aware of the laws that are in place, but I’m focusing on principles here.

    And while products developed and sold through the free market might impact public policy, the overwhelming majority don’t impact the principles that led to the First Amendment.

    Automobiles have affected public policy to a degree, but they didn’t impact the First Amendment. You don’t have to own a car to speak your mind.

    Fast food restaurants have led to debates about how they impact the public’s health, but you don’t have to eat Chick-Fil-A, Burger King or any other fast food in order to voice your opinion on public policy.

    But technology? In some cases, it’s happening. And given that certain technology platforms are dominating the market, and said platforms are becoming a key element in how we discuss public policy, we have a conflict with free speech principles.

    I can understand what the author of this piece was trying to discuss when he made the analogy with electric companies, because he was trying to utilize a method of free speech that everyone can see (the Trump sign in the yard).

    But the comparison used more often is telephone services, and I could imagine most people here wouldn’t favor restricting somebody’s phone usage simply because they had frequent conversations about Trump — even if they used language that Crowder used — because somebody monitoring the conversation decided they didn’t like it.

    Granted, the phone conversation is supposed to be private, whereas social media discussions are more in the public eye. But we regulate phone service for a reason: It’s become an important means of conducting a lot of aspects of our lives.

    The same is becoming true with social media. The overwhelming majority of businesses, start-ups and public discussion points are dependent on it, because in today’s environment, without social media, you don’t have the audience.

    Because of that, social media platforms are driving conversations about public policy more and more. Consequently, the greater the influence they have in public debate, the more free speech principles come into play, until it reaches the point that something has to give with either those principles or the free market principles.

    That doesn’t mean we need to go full-bore socialism. But when the decision came to regulate telephone service as a public utility, because of the role it played in society, it didn’t lead to full-bore socialism in the United States.

    So it goes with social media — we have to ask a legitimate question: Should we not treat social media the way we treat phone service, as a public utility? And if we should, does not that mean we have a situation in which free speech principles need to prevail over free market principles?

    Believe me: If you don’t seriously consider whether the free market should really prevail here, chances are the market will go in a direction you don’t like, especially when the ones who develop the product tend to listen to the loudest voices. And in this case, the loudest voices would fit the description “social justice warrior” and we all know the problems they’re causing, even if one argues they don’t represent the majority.

    • Geary Johansen says

      @ Bob Morris

      Great comments. However, there is also the principle of limited government. In this, limited government supersedes any and amendments to the constitution, it cannot be changed because it lies at the very heart of the constitution itself. It’s original intent even outweighs the governments duty to protect it’s citizens, as the one thing you need the most protection from is government itself.

      I do think though that because Carlos Maza is an employee of Vox, and Vox is owned NBC, YouTube and Google could well end up owning NBC if their reputation and revenue are substantially harmed. What journalists in the modern context, seem to forget is the reason why the principle of minimising harm was built into journalism in the first place, was for the purposes of reducing the publishers legal liability.

      Because, whether or not his characterisation of what Crowder has said is factually accurate is somewhat irrelevant, if it can be demonstrated that his intent was to harm, and he has only ‘presented’ the truth in a manner to cause maximum damage, then he and NBC may be liable for Steven Crowder’s, and by extension Google’s losses. Obviously, this sort of argument would not cover anyone remotely connected to government.

      • Geary Johansen says

        The latter part might only hold water, if Steven was claiming Maza was attempting to restrict his ability to exercise free speech as a part of the free press. For some reason Jerry Falwell and pornography springs to mind…

      • Stephanie says

        Geary, the principle of limited government is what necessitates that internet censorship of political opinions be made illegal. As is, a leftist government with tyrannical aspirations can easily take advantage of the leftist inclinations of all SM leaders to root out political dissent, as described in the article. Look at China. A free society today requires a free internet, and we are dangerously close to losing that.

        Censorship on Patreon (Sargon of Akkad), Facebook (Paul Joseph Watson), and now this manufactured issue on YouTube with Crowder is occurring with a Republican President and Senate: there’s no telling how bold SM companies will be when Democrats take charge again, particularly now that the centre of power in that party is shifting towards the hard left.

        If the shoe were on the other foot and it was a censorious right that owned SM, we would already have regulations mandating freedom of speech. Libertarian instincts and faith in the free market (which I am sympathetic to and share) renders the right hesitant to address this issue even though it is a direct threat to many of the most important thought leaders on our side. If the left were composed of real liberals they would be dragging us along on this, but the other side is now dominated by leftists who will not only not defend our right to speak, but have expressed the desire to collude with SM to ban “hateful” speech.

        I’ve come to think we on the right must hold our nose and introduce some basic, minimal regulation now to prevent a tyrannical government later.

  11. Pingback: This Too, Shall Pass

  12. Lydia says

    Take away their protection as a carrier. what if the phone company as a carrier had decided that because of our views we couldn’t make calls or people could not call us. We would not have stood for it. Social media tycoons like to be thought of as carriers but they are not because of HOW they censor. Make it easier to sue them by taking away their protection.

    • Peter G says

      I agree, except for the “subscribed blocklist” part. We’ve seen that already. Those lists depend on the curator being competent, and in practice they end up blocking innocent people because they follow accounts the curator doesn’t like

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Lydia

      That’s the best analogy: SM are now defacto phone companies and the rules should be about the same. If someone I don’t like phones me I’m under no obligation to answer. If someone doesn’t like my SM content, then don’t look at it.

  13. Ray Andrews says

    This is an excellent essay. It explains how, tho capitalism has some huge benefits, it tends toward monopoly. The game ‘Monopoly’ is quite educational in that: the winner eventually owns everything. Prudent interventions are often needed, but they should be quick, surgical and well thought out.

  14. Princess Underlove says

    Stephen Crowder is not a conservative commentator, he is a conspiracy nutter with proven links to white nationalist groups who repeatedly orchestrated harassment campaigns against Carlos Maza because Carlos usually debunks Stephen’s bullshit claims.

    If this is the bar conservatives have set for themselves, it’s no wonder y’all have such a terrible reputation.

    YouTube is a private company and has no obligation to give a platform to hate speech or dangerous conspiracy theories like the crap Crowder peddles.

    Relevant XKCD for all the conservative snowflakes whining about muh censorship:

    https://xkcd.com/1357/

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Princess Underlove

      “because Carlos usually debunks Stephen’s bullshit claims.”

      Yes, that’s the way it should be done. Let these people throw shit at each other. I’m not interested so I’ll never get caught in the splatter.

    • Prince Underpants says

      That garbage xkcd has done untold damage to the fight for freedom of speech, if you absolutely need stick figures to lecture you on your rights, use this fixed version instead:

      https://magaimg.net/img/5yri.png

  15. Justin says

    If we take the “marketplace of ideas” metaphor seriously, what they are engaging in is a classic anti-competitive practice.

  16. MKC says

    Boo hoo. Private entities are not subject to free speech protections PERIOD FULL STOP. They are not “utilities”. No one is going to freeze to death or have their food rot because they get banned from youtube (or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram). Private entities are judge, jury and executioner when it comes to their TOS and violations thereof. Or do you want the government to take over? lol! (Seems like that one is everyone’s last resort!) Even if producing youtube videos is their job, they can always work elsewhere if their talents are actually valued by the broader marketplace of ideas. If not, they can always grab a plastic milk crate and head down to their local park and see how that goes (iow, host their own site). Really, I don’t care.

    • neoteny says

      I second the motion; govt. takeover is the worst possible outcome.

      The economy is about discrimination: consumers-buyers are continuously discriminate between goods, and between buying any particular good or not. The eradication of private discrimination — even if it were possible, which it isn’t — would kill the marketplace; it would butcher commerce.

      How come Quillette was created and survived (so far)? Considering every kind of ‘barriers to entry’ it shouldn’t have happened. Yet here we are, having lively debate over a variety of issues.

  17. Zac Chave-Cox says

    While I do agree with the sentiment, the type of people that have been getting removed from Youtube tend not to be just “conservative commentators”, but people who actively and very consistently lie and deliberately misrepresent data in order to push an agenda – Crowder, Alex Jones etc. We really don’t know what effect it will have in the long term for humans to be exposed to the overwhelming amount of information that the internet provides us access to. Belief in provably false things that are politically relevant is alarmingly high, and we need some way to tackle that, to filter the information on big social media sites, unless we want policy decisions to become more and more out of step with facts. The problem is who is to be in charge of that filtration. It can’t be individual corporations like Youtube which are far too politically motivated, and states having that power is obviously even more worrying. Perhaps the right solution is to have an independent body of experts that decide when someone is to be de-platformed from major sites. Even that is potentially Orwellian though. I really don’t know a way out of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, and I’m not sure anyone does. We need to be extremely careful about how we handle this – it’s not quite as simple as just opposing censorship to me.

  18. Geary Johansen says

    @ Zac

    Crowder was, in part, singled out because he was debunking Carlos Maza’s provably false narratives.

    • warforthewest says

      Simply untrue. Carlos Targeted Crowder’s bigoted humor, which always made him vulnerable. As nasty as Carlos is, he only calls all conservatives garbage nonstop, he doesn’t do so based on immutable qualities. Fyi, I hate Carlos but facts matter.

      Why do so many on the right (who I’m likely far more conservative than) fail to see this simple distinction? And don’t conflate this with other bans etc – I’m just talking about Crowder. I was shocked that he was still on YouTube.

      • Stephanie says

        It is clearly fine to call Carlos queer when he calls himself that on Twitter. Are we to believe any of the letters in LGBTQ stands for something you’re not supposed to say?

        Crowder is a comedian, who, like many, does a lot of political content. He is not controversial and certainly not a conspiracy theorist. Maybe you don’t like his sometimes-derogatory humour, but that doesn’t mean YouTube can arbitrarily and retroactively change their Terms of Service to try to handicap his company.

        • warforthewest says

          I actually like bigoted humor, the nastier the better. Go watch Eddie Murphy Raw to see my tastes. But of course – that’s not my point. My point, which you ignored, is that he was making bigoted slurs, not just IDing Carlos as queer. You deceptively misrpresent that, and then assume this is my personal tastes when I said nothing of the sort.

          I’ll make it really clear for you. If you create reasonable terms of service on a web sites, such a no bigoted comments (not something i’d put on a site I run, fyi) and then enforce it, there is no problem with the 1A or free speech.

          Have I slowed it down enough for you to understand? It’s basic.

          Crowder is simply not getting any advertising as advertisers don’t want to pop ads on a channel that makes racial/ethnic/religious etc jokes and insults. Why you can’t process that is something for you to look at.

          • Stephanie says

            Warforthewest, advertisers didn’t say they didn’t want to put their ads on his videos, YouTube, after a few contradictory statements over the course of 24 hours, said they would not put ads on his videos.

            The slurs in question are old, and did not cause a problem when they came out. Carlos just kicked up a fuss for attention and YouTube felt the need to react despite admitting that Crowder did not in fact break any Terms of Service. Carlos’s entire career has been about shutting down conservative viewpoints using these tactics.

            Of course there is far worse content still up on YouTube, including worse slurs used by left-wing or apolitical creators, so this has absolutely nothing to do with enforcing Terms of Service and everything to do with avoiding the negative media attention that comes from Carlos’ hissy fit. YouTube admits as much in the statement announcing Crowder’s demonetization.

            Is that clear enough, sassypants?

  19. Glenn Donovan says

    I’m not sure why so many people get confused by this issue. Let me break it down slowly….

    Public utilities are unique in that the public infrastructure required to deliver power, water etc are currently best only done once (maybe tech will change that?). I mean, we do not want multiple sewage systems, water pipes, electric lines etc run through our communities. So, for this reason, we grant the builders of this infrastructure a monopoly in exchange for the benefits. The pricing and other aspects are tightly regulated. Fyi, this is incredibly inefficient so we should only do so in very narrow circumstances. There is nothing about Google or Facebook or any other social media site that has the same characteristics. The utilities have what is called a “natural monopoly” but that’s not the case with the tech companies.
    All social media platforms, and really any kind of digital community, work best when there is just one of them, but they do not force this to happen via a natural monopoly. What’s at work with these platforms are the network effects and virality possible with people in a common network rather than many disparate networks. But crucially different from natural monopolies, there is no barrier to entry for competitors. Calling this an “externality” is to treat it as an economic thing when it’s nothing of the sort. It’s just an inherent network effect which increases in value geometrically with scale. Such scaling benefits are open to all who build such a platform, consumption of such network effects is “nonrivalrous”. Tyler Cowen is simply wrong, as economists are in many matters.
    Competition – Part of the issue is that numerous new entry, competitor social media companies have sold off to big tech companies, Instagram and WhataApp being two great examples. But notice how they, and Snapchat all built massive businesses in competition with Facebook. Or consider how Facebook displaced MySpace. A view on this issue based on facts and reality shows that in fact competitors can and do displace big players.

    As an aside, can you imagine a replacement for LinkedIn? It has such an awful user experience and if you need the premium versions, they cost a mint, up to 1,000 usd per year. That market is crying for a new solution, in fact. I have a great idea how to do so, in fact…

    Business 101 – Scale gives a company the ability to make big R&D investments and capital investments and serve large markets. But they eventually calcify and become vulnerable to competition. We saw this phenomenon with IBM in the ’70s and the suits and court supervision and antitrust and regulations were all unnecessary, destructive and not effective at all. Upstarts will always be more agile, more able to capitalize on a new opportunity, get products to market quicker etc. Size naturally begets less efficiency often as well, and smaller, leaner competitors can compete on price at times as well. So get rid of the idea that big companies never go out of business. In fact, many of the world’s largest companies from 50 years ago don’t exist at all, including many tech companies. Ever heard for Burroughs, Sperry, Univac, Digital Equipment? All massive computer companies in the ’60s. Poof gone as are most large companies from 50 years ago. Why assume Google and FB are unbeatable?

    5.Data protection – One of the problems with this debate is that the abuse and use of user data gets conflated but it’s a separate problem from the monopoly. The data issue can be addressed by a Digital Bill of Rights that mandates control and ownership of user data by users and the ability to give a limited right to use it – but not own it. I won’t go into it all here but this would solve many problems.

    Okay, so now we can finally talk about Crowder. YouTube has advertisers. When they pop ads up on Crowder’s show and he’s making fun of the gay latino Vox writer with a lisp for being gay, that is considered insulting and degrading by many people. It’s not just criticism or humor, it’s bigoted humor.

    Me? I love bigoted humor, bring it on. I love to laugh at older white guys like me too – no problem. But many people don’t. And guess what? If you advertise on YouTube and you find out that your ads appear on a channel that uses all kinds of racial, religious and sexual humor and insults that are considered bigoted you will probably want YouTube to stop doing that. Period. IT’S THAT EFFING SIMPLE. Hence why Crowder was demonetized.

    The broader issues of repressing just conservative speech are quite different – this is an issue of actually offensive speech. Not insulting political statements. There is a huge difference.

    But even then, we can create a new right for citizens instead of regulating Facebook or Google. We can either pass a law that prevents “ViewPoint Discrimination” on platforms (vs publishers) or we can create a “Digital Public Accommodation” law which prevents all kinds of discrimination in sites that open themselves up to the public on the internet, just as we do with a store that opens on a public street. It can’t refuse service based on viewpoint or race or sex etc.

    I don’t understand why we can’t have clear, productive conversations on this issue. I’m so weary of article like this that presume there is no competition available. It’s just silly to do so.

  20. warforthewest says

    One more thought. How many of you would ban Alex Jones from your business? Me, I’d do it in a second and not think twice about it – and I’m a gun carrying, hard core conservative who believes revolution is coming. Why on earth should Google be forced to host the rantings of Alex Jones?

    We need less whining and more winning.

    • Sean Leith says

      Your comment made me angry and don’t get angry easily. You and people like you are the very reason we have the First Amendment.

      • dave says

        It is his 1A right to be able to deny Alex Jones and his ilk.

      • warforthewest says

        Because you are an adult-child incapable of processing facts and information that doesn’t jive with your biases. Guess what that makes you, bunky? Lol. But please, do hold on to that anger, it’s clearly working for you.

        There are ZERO first amendment issues here, you moron.

  21. dave says

    While I agree that social media deplatforming and other such forms of censorship are bad, I do not think it is right to force any private entity to do business with folks they despise. You suggest that someone banned by the electric company would have no other options for energy, however, energy is not exclusively generated by the electric company. There are many viable ways for individual households to get energy. There are generators, solar panels, and a growing plethora of new technologies that can provide energy, with many more yet to come. Also, because of the regulations imposed on energy companies, it is hard for competition to emerge, yet the infrastructure is largely interconnected across the nation. If housholds were not relegated to one provider in their area, they could contract with any other provider that is connected to the national grid even though the power is likely coming from the provider nearest their home.

    You say that smaller social media platforms are not competitive, yet, somehow I am able to find conservative content with ease on platforms that have already deplatformed these folks. Crowder’s show is on other platforms and while those platforms do not have the same reach as youtube, nobody can really stop his message because there are so many alternative ways for him to deliver it. I suspect we are about to see social media split into political camps where Facebook services mostly liberals and other sites service conservatives.

    Forcing youtube or facebook to be neutral is ACTUAL censorship. I think it is stupid for any business to effectively alienate millions of customers this way, but that is their first amendment right. Bakers should not be forced to sell cakes for gay weddings. Youtube should not be forced to accept content they disagree with. The electric company should not be forced to serve everyone, and individuals should not be restricted to using just one or two service providers.

    • Stephanie says

      Dave, you are confusing fundamentally different issues.

      The Christian baker wasn’t refusing to serve gay customers: he was refusing to artistically express an opinion that he disagrees with. Compelled speech is against the 1A and all precedent in English Common Law.

      Facebook and YouTube are regulated as platforms, which means they are not legally liable for the content on their sites. This protection is inappropriate if they start curating their content towards an editorial position. Since they seem intent to go down that route, they should now be regulated as publishers, which means they can be prosecuted for every child porn photo, beheading video, ISIS advertisement, and call to violence that appears on their sites. SM is desperate for this not to happen, so they should be faced with a choice: go back to being a platform or accept the responsibilities that come with being a publisher.

      • dave says

        I understand the principles involved with the cakeshop case, however, I still think it SHOULD be any proprietors right to not serve anyone for any reason no matter how dumb that reason is.

        I disagree with the idea that Facebook etc… should be treated as a publisher simply because they occasionally remove content they hate. The fact is that a publisher has absolute control over what is published so if say the New York Times has child porn on their website, it is because some idiot at the NYT made an AFFIRMATIVE decision to put it there, or else they got hacked, which is a seperate situation worthy of a different legal consideration. Facebook and Twitter have BILLIONS of users posting content at an incredible rate. While algorithms and human content watchers might be able to catch some bad stuff, they are not likely to catch it all. Furthermore, Facebook is not making an affirmative decision to publish this bad stuff, one of their billions of users are. The fact is, you cannot have such a highly expressive and free medium without having to bad users doing bad things, it is just going to happen whether you like it or not. And also note that these platforms do respond by taking down illegal content when it is found.

        Do I want Facebook taking down legal content they hate? No. I think it is a terrible thing for them to do, but they have the right to do it. It is their First Ammendment right in fact to make these political expressions, so, I am happy living withit until they go out of business over it.

        • Stephanie says

          Dave, perhaps it should be the right of any business owner to reject anyone for any reason, but until that is the case for all other industries, it should not be the case for this one. Social media is simply too important for mass communication: it is far more important that they cannot arbitrarily ban or demonetize people than it is for bakeries to not be able to discriminate.

          If SM cannot be expected to prevent the posting of illegal content on their websites, it is not appropriate for them to be curating an editorial position. That’s having your cake and eating it too.

          You’ll be waiting a long time for an alternative to come up, particularly one that the larger outlets can’t buy. We have a “too big to fail” situation here, and if anything we should be looking at what it means for anti-trust laws.

          • dave says

            First of all, while social networks like facebook and twitter benefit from large networks, they are not alone. There are many other social media sites out there that cater to a wide variety of people and political views. While I still have a FB account, I rarely check it or post to it and frankly, I’m not sure I even know the password. I find information everywhere on the internet. I find Crowder’s content. I find all sorts of content from “banned” users. Facebook is just not the information monolith you think it is. Google isnt even a monolithic web search site. I use duckduckgo and get equally fine search results. Many younger people hardly care about Facebook, they use other more personal and ephemeral social media platforms like snapchat. Yeah, there are some dumb people out there who will believe any dumb post regardless of how obviously inaccurate it is, that cannot be fixed by punishing facebook for allowing them. We are right now communcating our political views well outside of facebook. Again facebook “curating” content by censoring a relatively small group of people is not necessarily the same as publishing, but lets say for the sake of argument it is. Would any government agency be able to force facebook to keep otherwise legal content on its site? Do you really want some retarded government bureaucracy to have the power to compell anyone to serve content they disagree with? If the administration changes, will the bureaucracy follow the enforcement whims of an administration that is hostile to your point of view and compell facebook to delete content? Content does not need to reach all facebook users to be effective, many people learn just from reading content on Quillette.

  22. John Lee says

    Publisher (censorius but subject to libel and liability for content) or Platform (phone company, but must treat all customers without favor or bias)? Youtube/Facebook/Google need to pick a lane. Are you the NYT or AT&T under the law? then we can START the conversation….

    • warforthewest says

      But of course the phone company/elec/water etc aren’t “publishers”. They are utilities and are managed under those laws.

  23. Marc Domash says

    The author states:

    The reason we shouldn’t mind if Burger King bans you is because this ban would not stop you from getting a close substitute to what Burger King sells.

    It needs to be pointed out that we do have laws against this type of behavior by Burger King–they are the usual anti-discrimination laws (race, creed, color, and a whole host of new categories). The question for society is whether personal/political opinions should be included. At the moment one can be banned from Youtube for anti-Semitic remarks but not for railing against “whitey” or more likely, white supremacy. However, once conservatives realize that they can use this type of pressure, videos for Black Lives Matter won’t be long for this world (this can already be seen in efforts to declare opposition to Israel as anti-Semitic, something being played out in academia and government right now).

    This was the conclusion of the first round of speech codes and laws criminalizing hate speech (in the early 90’s) . Black motorist who were being pulled over were giving the arrested officer a piece of their mind were being charged. However, the impulse to regulate speech is very strong and I predict it will succeed. What one will likely see is two or more different platforms (youtube versus godtube, or some such), just like the West and China seem to be moving towards two separate internets.

  24. Chad says

    So for consistency, I suppose the conservatives advocating against censorship were similarly against the baker refusing service the the gay couple. If the private business owner should not get to refuse service to someone they find offensive, than we need to be consistent.

    • asdf says

      The common sense behind outlawing Jim Crow was that there were no effective alternatives for blacks to receive basic human services. That’s also the common sense at play with the big media titans (there are few of them, they control all the avenue of communications that matter, and they are all on one ideological side).

      Tracking down some random Christian baker to politely tells you that “there is one particular service they won’t provide but here is a list a 20 other people within 5 miles that will provide it so good luck and I hope to see you if you want any other service but this from me” isn’t remotely similar. It’s a witch hunt of the powerful against the powerless who are trying to cause trouble where there need not be any trouble.

      • Chad says

        So your argument is that if there are comparable services available than refusal of service based on ideology is ok? Well, one social media platform is certainly not the only option in terms of communication – thus for twitter or YouTube to politely tell Crowder he’s not welcome is well within your standards, as there are numerous other options for him to get his message out.

  25. asdf says

    Assume the other side is playing to win by any means necessary.

    Assume that if they win they will not respect your rights.

    Further, assume whoever controls the content of the main avenues of opinion formation will basically win most societal conflicts.

    These seem like decent assumptions.

    Given these, you are a fucking chump if you let the other side control these mediums as they see fit.

    • warforthewest says

      Does Crowder possess a legal “right” to monetization on YouTube? I’m sorry, I must have missed that section of the constitution. Fyi, I’m likely more hard core conservative than anyone on this thread.

  26. What bugs me the most in this particular situation is that it seems to happen for the wrong reasons. Maza is the worst kind of bully, the kind that ask others to do the bullying for him. Crowder’s humour is tasteless but i have a feeling that he mocks Maza’s gayness because Maza uses it as a free pass to become a professional victim.

    Somehow I have a feeling that Crowder gets a lot of hate mail from queer folk and he is fine with it as it comes with the territory. If Maza is offended by a t-shirt that Crowder is selling why doesn’t fight fire with fire by putting one out that mocks conservatives with Crowder’s face on it, I am sure he would make a bundle.

    Maza is on record saying that demonetization is not enough, he wants Crowder to be deplatformed and the Vox organization is behind that sentiment, this is not going to stop here. On top of that, a legion of professional victims now know that if you whine long and hard enough you will get what you want. Youtube just opened a Pandora’s box and I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a while, we look back on this day as the day that started something.

  27. Not just social media: I read that Chase Bank abruptly closed the accounts of Laura Loomer and at least three other conservatives. I have some money with them so I wrote and asked if they were going to close the accounts of conservatives. The answer was “We know this is concerning for you . . .” I wrote back and said that I would take that as a yes and got no response. I closed my account but the whole interaction still puzzles me.

  28. Ayn Random says

    An excellent argument against the popular yet silly idea that laissez-faire capitalism necessarily moves society in the direction of moral or civic improvement.

  29. Sambu says

    There are a concerning amount of “principled” stances in this comments section which I fear fail to grasp the significance of what is happening.

    We live in a world where social media websites have become nexuses for the transfer of information, and therefore gatekeepers for the ideas which are able to reach the general public. If you’re not on these websites or covered by the mainstream media, you’re not a relevant actor in the grand scheme of things. When word of mouth traveled by mouth things were different, but that world is gone, and no matter how much you may dream of it coming back (and here I reference the posts criticising social media itself, which I sympathise with), it is simply not on the horizon.

    Either society is going to be set up so that our ideas have a realistic chance of being accessed by the general public or it is not, and we are presently struggling to survive as a significant voice against a collaborative effort to cast us into irrelevance by the largest corporations and the mainstream media.

    We have to start by acknowledging that there is a problem in urgent need of a solution, rather than clinging to our “principles” as the ship carrying them is sunk. And then we have to find the solution which is most consistent with them, whether it be the opposition to monopoly power presented in this article or the platform/publisher distinction. There is even a worker’s rights case to be made against large organisations instantly cutting off the income of their content producers with a nebulous rationale.

    Corporations are against us and so is the mainstream media. We have only government and the law courts to turn to for now, but it is unclear how long this will last, and the extent to which it is even the case in the present.

    There is no need to abandon our principles entirely, but appreciating the risk to their very survival is vital if we wish for them to remain in the sphere of public discourse at all. If they matter for the health of society, then we must make sacrifices in order to preserve their existence in society, for they will make no difference in the isolated minds of a faithful few who try and withstand the zeitgeist as their community is stripped away.

  30. Serenity says

    James D. Miller: “We desperately need laws against internet censorship before we get a president in league with Silicon Valley.”

    Totally agree.

    If it is not possible to avoid a monopoly, the company’s market power should be regulated to prevent abuse of dominance.

  31. Geary Johansen says

    Setting the law aside, I think that it’s fair to say that Carlos Maza has done more to elect Donald Trump for a second term, than any journalist other than Rachel Maddow or Don Lemon. What all three fail to realise is that the content that they provide, whilst popular amongst lunatic left progressives, deeply antagonises the vast majority of the American public.

    If you are an Average American, then look at the facts. Crazy things have been happening on college campuses, with students going batshit crazy over halloween costumes, and noted intellectuals deplatformed for no good reason. Now I know that many of these ‘white liberals’ earn $100k or more, but that isn’t going to last very long when their employers realise that there is no market for their ideas. Now they are broadening their attack on free speech, by going after journalists they disagree with (Tucker Carlson) and comedians (Steven Crowder). If you are an Average American, fed on the principles of free speech and a free press since birth, then this is deeply worrying.

    Like many, I was deeply moved by the documentary 13th. I wanted to do something about it. I watched Tricia Rose on several YouTube videos. Police Brutality videos were a regular feature on my YouTube. But there was a niggling doubt at the back of my mind, driven by another excellent documentary I had watched on Channel Four, Trevor Philips ‘Things We Won’t Say About Race (That Are True). I did my standard trick of adding debunk to whatever I has been watching, and came up with Heather Mac Donald.

    Now, my natural scepticism has led me to a more nuanced view. By researching how Glasgow reduced its knife crime epidemic (by proactive policing and the Gary Slutkin model of community resourcing), I was able to see that if the preferred policy is the same in the absence of race, then racism, however emotive, is not the root cause. In fact you could argue that the British government is actually being racist now, by failing to provide the resources that have worked in the past, for a community that was 99% ethnically white. There’s the real disparity.

    My point is this. In the past, the liberal media has always been able to manufacture consent for the purposes of social progress. But now, the veil has well and truly slipped. It’s like we’ve all been invited behind the curtain, on the Wizard of Oz. News viewership in the States has shifted drastically from MSNBC and CNN to Fox. My thanks to Tim Pool at Timcast for that one. The problem is that because Carlos Maza works for Vox, and Vox is owned by NBC, it could be argued that his particular brand of activism (I won’t call it journalism), is aimed at damaging YouTube as a platform, rather than Steven Crowder in particular. I vaguely remember a media story, where someone had been successfully sued for providing an accurate review to a review site…

    This whole can of worms has the potential to inflict real damage to America and the West in general. Whether some people are poorly served by nurture, is irrelevant when it comes to meritocracy. Your employer doesn’t care whether your upbringing failed to provide the 10 -15 bump to IQ osmosed by a great environment, a host of valuable skills, and the of dark, mystic knowledge that only comes from having a network of successful family friends and acquaintances- nor should they. It’s the same reason why, in the corporate world, those who move around diagonally, always outperform those who attempt to climb vertically- because they always want to see how companies in unrelated sectors are saving or making money. It’s about value.

    A part of Jonathan Haidt’s book, ‘The Righteous Mind’ that I found really valuable, were all those observations about things like muscular bonding- because ultimately it’s all about trust. At the most basic level it’s about trust in competence- can I trust you to turn up on time, act in a reasonably professional manner and follow increasingly complex instructions? Can you trust your coworker to co-operate with you, whilst also competing fairly, without badmouthing you behind your back? Can I trust my subordinates to argue over business strategy, allowing the best ideas to come to the fore through conflict, without taking it personally or holding grudges, when the dust is settled? At the board level, you only have to lie once, to never be believed again. This is the really insidious thing about intersectional feminism- it’s ultimately divisive, designed to set group against group and sow distrust. All in the cause of defeating some imaginary white, male patriarchy. It has the potential to cause huge amounts of commercial damage throughout the Anglosphere and the West.

    Of course politics is the exception that proves the rule. You don’t necessary trust the person or party you vote for, but you do vote for whomever you distrust least. And, in this, all the evidence is stacking up against the left. Whether it’s public figures like Jordan Peterson or Roger Scruton being vilely misrepresented, comedians being attacked for daring to be non-PC, activists going after the opposition media, or ordinary people attacking other ordinary for something as banal as wearing a MAGA hat, then it is clear that the left is having a harmful effect on our culture (a part of me suspects that all of this is happening because they have run out of things to complain about- or realise that the remaining disparities would be too difficult for them to fix). What progressives seem unable to recognise is that whilst liberals may look to the past in terms of social issues (and see a MAGA hat as a clan hood), most Americans see the past in economic terms, when they had a secure job that kept the bill collectors at bay. That’s why Trump has been so successful at courting the blue-collar vote (politically they may have been left, but psychologically they never were).

    This feeds into a broader point- that conservatives can understand liberals, but liberals can’t understand conservatives. They honestly think that conservatives have won previous elections by being mean, and so they seek to emulate them. This is untrue. Conservatives win by refining their message to a relatively small number of simple arguments, repeated over and over again. It’s about message discipline. Government is bad. We’ll keep your taxes low. The only one of which that has seriously been discredited is trickledown economics.

    What they need to do is find similar messages. We need to make housing affordable by cutting regulation, and taxing the carpetbaggers that buy and sell land to make it unaffordable. We need to get the foot of corporate monopolies off the neck of small businesses. Our government is smaller than every other major economy is the Western world, we just need to cut bureaucracy, and shift workers from services that you resent to services that you value. We need to get retired generals and NCO’s to work behind closed doors and veto military spending that we don’t need. Ultimately, liberals should acknowledge that there is a limited pot of funds available of spending, that when taxes go up revenue goes down and promise to spend more efficiently on services that everyone wants. But of course they’ll never do it…

  32. Russians did it says

    No word of Common carrier laws of Communications Decency Act? There are laws in place, but politicians are not willing to enforce them…yet.

  33. Dallas says

    This whole thing is way more important than commentators being put out of their revenue streams. This is about the fact that Social media and Google currently have the ability to decisively choose the outcome of close elections at will. In the US most elections are close elections. There are, at minimum, millions of voters who could be swayed, at will, by a targeted censorship/promotion campaign lasting only a day or two before an election. Sure you can say that the company would suffer or people would be punished and so on, but the election would be over already. Plenty of people are ideological enough to do that and bear whatever consequences while taking comfort that they were “on the right side of history” as they say. They don’t just have money or influence, they have real power. Just because they use it (relatively) sparingly now doesn’t mean they won’t choose the winners and losers tomorrow or next year, because they 100% have that ability currently.

  34. “We desperately need laws against internet censorship before we get a president in league with Silicon Valley.” This is the worst possible idea. Legislating against internet censorship is putting the president in league with Silicon Valley, whose lobbyists would work to craft something the president would sign. And the government cannot simply ban all internet censorship. Rather, they’d have to define what can and cannot be censored, thus requiring them to strictly define harassment, incitement, and a host of other crimes involving expression. If you think Jack Dorsey’s arbitrary terms of service are more onerous than that, you’re fooling yourself, badly.

    Also, the analogies this author makes to other businesses (power companies, burger chains) are DOA. YouTube is totally different. First, because it’s interactive, it’s more of an activity than ordering a burger. Even in the absence of censorship as you or I might define it, the activity (speech, essentially) still must be subject to rules formulated by someone, which is inevitably going to be censorship in someone’s eyes.

    Second, because YouTubers are the product. If I upload a video to YouTube, that is now YouTube’s product. All YouTube consists of is other people’s material. Some kind of gatekeeping role is going to be filled by someone. At least YouTube can be swayed by public pressure. Once legislation goes through that dictates how the company is to perform that function, you’re looking at getting tangled up in the courts over any major dispute. And then if you don’t like the outcome, you can’t just hop n over to Bitchute, because much of the same law is going to govern how that platform regulates its users.

    Government protection is a faustian bargain, and the simple fact is that no fundamental right is being violated by big tech censorship. If anything, these platforms massively amplify users’ messages in ways that would otherwise be unimaginable.

  35. PaulNu says

    I believe that companies should have the right to discriminate for any reason they want. The only exception I would make would be for essential goods and services that aren’t readily available elsewhere. However, I would require that companies post their intent to discriminate along with a list of who they will discriminate against. Just as they should have the right to discriminate, we should have the right to decide if we want to do business with discriminators.

    I don’t mind that Google discriminates against conservatives. What bothers me is that they aren’t up front about their intent.

  36. Klaus C. says

    “being excluded from the most popular networks potentially imposes a huge cost on you.”

    Since putting videos on YouTube is a personal indulgence, not some essential service needed to power your home, the analogies here are rather laughable.

    If you say to YouTube: “Using your platform helps me reach lots more people than other platforms” they can reply: “Thank you, we’re glad you’re satisfied, and trust that you will ensure your content meets our standards of acceptability.”

    If far-right “shock jocks” are allegedly so popular, they can surely find a way to reach their chosen audience, either by staying within the guidelines (avoid hate speech, is that really so hard?) or moving elsewhere.

    “Given long-term leftist control of most of the media”

    On what planet? Most of the media is big business, run by big business. Big business is rarely “leftist”. It generally tends to be politically conservative (and in the US, that means supportive of either of the main parties, or both). When big business engages in “progressive” signalling, it’s usually because it sees that as advantageous in its chosen market.

    But there was a time, not so long ago, when blocking hate speech and refusing to provide a platform for neo-Nazis and other extremists was considered a responsible duty of conservatives, not just “progressives”. That this perception has now changed (at least in places like Quillette) shows how casually acceptable right wing extremism has now become.

    • Geary Johansen says

      Are you mad?

      CNN, MSNBC, PBS, the BBC and Channel Four, all have pronounced left wing biases- although in the UK whilst they are as guilty of selection bias and liberal bias as the US, they do at least make the effort to diligently question leftists.

      Watch Andrew Neal demolish a leftist!
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2Rb0QLt3fA -hope this works first time I’ve tried it

    • Aerth says

      ““Thank you, we’re glad you’re satisfied, and trust that you will ensure your content meets our standards of acceptability.”

      Yes, except those “standards of acceptability” can change overnight.

      “(avoid hate speech, is that really so hard?”

      Yes, for the same reason as above. “Hate speech” is not something unchangeble, set in stone and cemented for all eternity. It is very fluid, what is considered fine today, may become “hate speech” tomorrow. All it takes is a minority group claiming something is “harmful” to them and make big enough fuss about it. Or for trigger happy mod to push red button. Yesterday several streamers were banned from Twitch because they were talking about Nagas in World of Warcraft. Spanish speaking players in Rainbow Six: Siege have been autokicked from game because word “negro” was on offensive words list and it didn’t matter that it is Spanish word for black (colour) and there were weapon skins with this exact word in name.

      Also, for current progressives “neo-Nazi” is pretty much everyone diagreeying with them over anything.

  37. johno says

    The social media outlets have become a far more influential part of a lot of people’s lives than previously foreseen.

    One of the less desirable aspects of this new social revolution is: the current stewards of social media didn’t really earn their position via apprenticeship, the way more traditional media giants have. In fact, the current ‘leaders’ in electronic social media have almost no background in the publishing industry, or geopolitics, or philosophy, or anything other than software design. Software development (which I’ve done most of my life) tends to appeal to less social types, as they find the absolutes of technology preferable to the unpredictable nature of social discourse.

    In the previous information revolution, the leaders did not interfere in people’s personal lives, or attempt to influence people’s thoughts. Whether this is by altruism or lack of opportunity is a matter of opinion, but people like Gates or Jobs more or less left people alone… as long as they bought the products. In his later years, Gates has abandoned the hardcore plutocrat persona, and has become a philanthropist. Jobs made a point to push for paid online music sales, partially because he felt that stealing from music artists was wrong. That, and he got a percentage of the sales, but at least he vocalized the rather wise view that ‘it’s best not to mess with karma’.

    The same can’t be said of Page, Zuckerberg, or Dorsey. And these are the people who are in a position to decide what you can and cannot read or view. Unlike the previous software revolution, the current stewards are delving into political influence. And they’ve done nothing to demonstrate that they have the requisite wisdom to handle that sort of power. In fact, their background in technology tends to indicate that they will be terrible at influencing the thoughts of millions of people.

    Unlike the previous tech revolution, this one is funded indirectly. Gates and Jobs made their fortunes selling software and hardware. You paid your money, and it was yours. Page, Zuckerberg, and Dorsey became wealthy by giving their product away, and selling the personal details of the people using their platforms, or accepting payment to alter what the people using their platforms would see.

    While it’s easy to say ‘it’s their company’, that’s not quite the case. Note that they didn’t start out by picking and choosing who could say what on their platform… that came only after their platform had become an indispensable part of a lot of people’s lives.

    The best analogy can be found in the late 19th century robber barons, who created the indispensable products of rail, electricity, communications (telephone) and gasoline. Once those products had become an indispensable part of a lot of people’s lives, the robber barons began turning the screws on the people… raising the prices, and manipulating supply to further their monopolies. Yes, they were doing whatever they wanted with their company, but it was now having a detrimental effect on entire nations.

    Eventually, the current tech robber barons will fail. People don’t like to be told what they can and cannot think, and eventually large numbers of people will lose faith in those platforms, and seek out others… Facebook is already headed down that path after being outed for selling their user’s personal information.

    It’s the interim that’s dangerous… until a large number of people see what’s wrong with greedy technocrats acting as de facto censors, those platforms will have the potential to influence political discourse… to advance agendas unknown.

    Hang on, people. This is going to be a rough ride.

  38. Stan Doughope says

    Most conservatives won’t be able to understand that the 1A wasn’t arbitrarily given to them by the gods. If you ask a conservative Christian why they don’t lie, steal or murder, they’ll point to jeebus. If you ask a reasonable person, maybe they’ll try to dig a little deeper, since they’ll realize that the gods and their laws were man made.

    So they’ll consider why they were created. Willy nilly theft, perjury and killing isn’t conducive to a functioning society, and the government needs a monopoly on violence/coercion to maintain law and order, for a start.

    Free speech is essential for free thought. That censorship is bad has been known for a while now, even longer than murica has existed. If it’s good enough for the constitution then it should be good enough to support generally. The founding fathers simply implemented existing ideas, based on the enlightenment. Most were deists, so they had the freedom to think.

    The principle of limited government is also important, but money’d interests own the government, and some of these now own the public square.

  39. Gogoo says

    You can’t compare electric companies with YouTube , because you HAVE to pay those companies for their services , while YouTube pays people for the content they create. They don’t force you to pay anything for their services.

    • johno says

      Perhaps… but YouTube has become far more than a software company. It has become a major media outlet that, in the absence of loud disclaimers, purports to be ‘neutral’.

      Even such a disclaimer isn’t foolproof… Fox’s ‘fair and balanced’… but when a major media provider makes the transition from neutral platform to political ally, there is a period of time when people can mistake it for still being neutral.

      We’re in that period now with the major social media platforms.

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  41. Clive says

    This article omits a couple of critical details which severely weaken the argument.

    First: Crowder wasn’t deplatformed from Youtube. His videos were demonetized, but are still up. Obviously this has effects, but I don’t think this meets the definition of censorship.

    Second: Crowder’s political views weren’t the (stated) reason for the demonetization, it was because he was actively harassing another journalist. I think that reasonable people may disagree as to whether his conduct actually rose to the level of harassment, but, at least to my mind, it’s a strong enough case that I don’t really buy the conservative censorship argument.

    It’s not like there aren’t cases of SM companies stepping in it – Twitter, especially – but this is a very poor exemplar of that.

  42. Jesse says

    The libertarians in the comments are ignoring a crucial point: social media platforms benefit immeasurably from a special exemption carved out for them by Congress. (Technically, the exemption was made with ISPs in mind, but the SM platforms are treated the same.) They can’t be sued over user-uploaded content.

    Those calling for legally-enforced editorial neutrality are NOT confused about the distinction between public and private spaces. It is the libertarians who are confused—or, more likely, simply blind to nuance, in typical libertarian fashion.

  43. Charlie says

    As social media removes articles they dislike , they are censoring so are publishing without charging the customer, the viewer. I would suggest that anything should be on the internet accept that which advocates killing, raping and maiming people. One could report acts of killing, say reporting on a war without advocating killing. One could report that group A is killing, raping and maiming members of group B , NOT that it should be done or is good or is beneficial. The Soviets are Killing Kulaks is reporting. The Soviets are killing Kulaks and it is good thing to do is acting as an advocate and would be banned.

    How much tax payers was used in creating the internet?

    The social media make money by taking peoples data and targeting adverts at them. They manipulate data to make money. They are censors already. The basis of good government is that it does not allow one group to use it’s power to deny freedom of others, including means of earning an honest living .

  44. The author injects a fallacy into his argument “Given long-term leftist control of most of the media…” Ask any actual leftist and you’ll hear a different song. The corporate media are distinctly an often shrilly left of center on social issues. Sometimes so far to the left, they herd leftists rightward. When it comes to matters of political economy and war, they can be counted on to virulently support colonial projects like the Iraq Wars, coups in Honduras, social media fuelled rebellions in Egypt, violent rousting of Indians protesting pipelines on their treaty-guarenteed territory.
    The entire internet was a byproduct of a military project. They just farmed their indestructable telecommunications project out to the entire world. Dig into where Google’s initial funding came from. We’ve all got up to speed on Project Lifelog. It’s time to get past the idea the Washington Post and New York Times and MSNBC want a socialist utopia. No. They’re just defending the dystopia they already inhabit.

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  46. Laughing says

    It is absolutely hilarious to see right-wingers bend over backwards and give up their free market principles just because some schmuck isn’t getting his ad money on YouTube. If the political polarities were switched on this, none of you would blink an eye.

    Except for warforthewest, the only one sticking to his guns on this.

  47. Azathoth says

    There’s a thing that’s not getting a whole lot of play with this.

    In the olden times, people used to say ‘if you don’t like it, turn the channel/turn it off.’

    But we’re not IN olden times.

    No one sees Crowder or Mazza or any of these various channels by accident. You don’t come home from your job at the plant, have your spouse hand you a designer cocktail and flip on the interwebs over your Blue Apron and have Crowders face put up the way Cronkite’s did.

    You have to turn on the TV, then g to your provider, pick which service you want and then select the program you want to see.

    You can favor some creators and block others. Your viewing experience is made completely of things you DECIDE TO WATCH.

    All TV and SM providers work this way except for broadcast and cable–which get none of the creators in question save as guests.

    Viewers literally have to choose every step of the path. The same thing occurs on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and all the rest. YOU choose who and what you see..

    So why do the big SM companies think they have a right to ‘protect’ you?

    Because you stupid people aren’t choosing the right things. You’re not supposed to be choosing ANYTHING about the right. You’re not supposed to be choosing anything except approved, progressive viewpoints–but you’re always watching Pewdiepie! Or that god damned Shapiro. And Sargon–don’t get us started on Sargon.

    Why isn’t Ana Kasparian enough? What makes you switch over to Blair White? Is it Cenk?

    And Buzzfeed. That’s what The Kids are into, right?

    But Noooooo….that’s not good enough.

    You just can’t do as you’re told.

    So we’ll make you.

  48. Andrew says

    I’d really like to troll some peeps with the idea of power companies turning off the electrons for those with Trump signs. I think that would get a lot of likes on FB.

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  50. ian says

    As long as they were neutral, social media could be considered platforms and weren’t accountable for what users posted. As soon as they start banning certain people for what they consider objectionable viewpoints, they become publishers and responsible for the content. They can’t have it both ways forever.

  51. Alx says

    The business model of social media companies is monopolistic. The goal is to increase the size of their user base to the point where other options are untenable. People want to join a network with the largest number of people to network with. Their sole product is their user base.

    When the purpose is connection, communication and sharing why not have as many people as possible in the same network. Well I mean other than the corruption, hubris, avarice, mendacity of their leadership and now their self anointed power to influence politics.

    Censorship has become a primary component of the left and in turn social media companies. It doesn’t really matter whether censorship comes from the left of right. It is BAD. When opposing ideas are limited or eliminated it leads to intellectual inbreeding. Which similar to biological inbreeding leads to deformities, weakness, susceptibility to disease and so on and yes finally to fall of empire.

  52. Having read James Miller’s article last night, I woke up this morning to find that I had been successfully accused of a ‘hatespeech’ breach and that I would be banned from Facebook for three days.

    It was a comment on the redoubtable Posie Parker’s FB site, excoriating the perfidies of the transgen lobby in Britain. I enclose it for the delectation of fellow readers in this column and as a reason why I have become increasingly attached to Quillette, where I think I am going to get more reasonable treatment…..and why James’s article is so pertinent.

    The process is totally complaint driven, the assessment arbitrary, the process non transparent, there is no justification of the complaint or defence against it and the people inside FB seem to share the values of the complainants……The accusation of ‘hatespeech’ is its own justification.

    ‘Arriving at this terrible position has been a long and slippery slope that we have been sliding down now for 60–70 years. The trannies didn’t just suddenly spontaneously appear from stage left swinging by their bootstraps in the last five minutes.

    Our social culture has been systematically colonized in a way reminiscent of the hunting and colonizing operations of the jewel wasp. We are in big trouble, but the first thing that needs to be done is to understand how this has happened to us.

    Protest is not enough, because the wave that the trannies are riding is running right through our social culture. They have enormous momentum behind them that is going to be very tough to even slow down, let alone stop and put into reverse. So it is critical that we do not just react to the perceived threat. The threat is systemic.

    In some ways, the trannies are as much as anything else, just pawns in this power thrust into our culture. So what is driving it and how we assemble the tools to repel it becomes critical to developing a coherent counter strategy, which over time will start to accumulate sustainable and substantial energy and purpose…..and the development of an alternative social and economic future.

    We can no longer rely on some notion of rational ‘common sense’. It no longer exists. This is an ideological ‘open season’ and right now, it looks like we are going to be the bunnies, because they are holding all the aces right now.

    So some light reading might be in order……

    https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2180479-Transgenderspeak-The-ITVs-Butterfly

    https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2188652-Transgender-Inc-Kafkas-Children

    I can sense the laughter of Kafka’s ghost, but it sounds a bit hollow….Hatespeech crime is just so him, so prescient and yet its warnings seem only to echo in his tomb.’

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