Big tech and legacy media may be forced to do better
Last updated 4/7/2022 at 4:54pm
Interesting developments this week: Entrepreneur Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and co-founder of Neuralink, invested $3 Billion dollars recently in Twitter stock, which makes him the largest shareholder. Musk has been quite outspoken regarding social platforms censoring free speech. He also publicly rebelled against California Gov. Newsom’s lockdowns and moved his corporate headquarters from California to Texas in protest.
After the revelation of Twitter’s new stockholder went public, Twitter founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey on April 2, publicly said he regrets the role he played in making the internet more centralized.
Dorsey spent quite a bit of time after the 2020 elections defending his decision to ban a legitimate story about Hunter Biden’s laptop with incriminating evidence centered around Hunter and Joe Biden. It was written and published in one of the oldest newspapers in the country and instead of allowing people to read the story and make their own decision about the matter, Twitter shut down their Twitter site despite the New York Post confirming with a team of attorneys and IT people that the laptop was legitimate. Twitter just couldn’t let “their guy” look bad. If it was President Trump, it would have been fair game for sure, or if one of his kids had pictures on the laptop with a crack pipe hanging out of their mouth and pictures of minors dressed like prostitutes or emails and wire transfers proving money being paid from corrupt individuals in Russia, Ukraine, China, Kazikstan, and more.
Dorsey lamented the transition away from simpler times and technologies that formed the early days of the internet – like Internet Relay Chat instant messaging and the peer-to-peer framework of Usenet – into one dominated by a few giants like Google, Facebook, and even Twitter. “Centralising discovery and identity into corporations really damaged the internet. I realise I’m partially to blame and I regret it.”
That was interesting to me. I wonder if he regrets his contribution to our country or the world in its present state? I don’t think the centralization is a problem quite as much as the leadership and management of that technology, which people depend on. There have been calls to break up the big tech companies, likening them to a time decades ago when the Bell telephone companies were broken up. Many believe the tech companies have become too big and powerful and they certainly haven’t done a good job being unbiased.
The tech companies have protections under Section 230 of Title 47 of the US Communications Decency Act that provides immunity for website platforms with respect to third-party content. So it protects them from liability because they aren’t really “publishers,” they are just displaying what other people write. Problem is, they do act as publishers when they control the content to the degree that they do. It’s not as much a free speech issue, because they are a private company, but the question is, “Are they publishers?” and are they colluding with government agencies and each other.
Publishers like Village News and Valley News edit their product. They pick and choose what they will publish. The tech companies have said they don’t do any of that, but they do. They censor content they don’t agree with or weigh more heavily on ideologies or candidates they agree with over others in the search.
During a White House press conference last year, I watched Jen Psaki tell the press corp that the White House was working very closely with the tech giants to manage the messaging and “disinformation” regarding COVID. What? Big tech is colluding with the federal government on messaging? Shock and awe!
Now there’s a new CEO of Twitter. His name is Parag Agrawal. Will free speech get better under Agrawal? I doubt it.
Regarding the free speech issue, Agrawal outlined his thoughts on content moderation in an interview with the MIT Technology Review in November 2020. He said Twitter is trying to balance mitigating harm caused by false content and misinformation without becoming an arbiter of truth.
The problem is what these behemoths regard as “misinformation” or “false content.” Because, so far, they have an amazingly disastrous track record (Russia, Ukraine, Hunter’s laptop, Covington kids, Rittenhouse, COVID early treatments, to name a few)
Agrawal goes on, “Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment (Really?), but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation, and our moves are reflective of things that we believe lead to a healthier public conversation,” Agrawal said .
“The kinds of things that we do about this is: Focus less on thinking about free speech, but thinking about how the times have changed,” he added.
So, it is commendable to want to support a healthy public conversation, and they do have a responsibility to do some censoring, like pornography, or at least child porn, but when “healthy public conversation” means consistently and continuously censoring medical or political information that doesn’t support your narrative and ideology, that’s very dangerous. Or when you’re collaborating with the government and big corporations. These last two years, big tech firms have actually supported disinformation and been on the wrong end of actual truth, to the detriment of our society, culture and possibly our country as we know it.
If big tech wouldn’t have censored scientists, doctors and virologists as it pertains to COVID, lockdowns and inexpensive early treatments, it could have saved thousands of lives. They still call it misinformation, although the CDC has reversed its position on many issues. The truth is slowly leaking out.
Big tech fell for the conspiracy theory about Russia collusion. Now Hillary Clinton and the DNC are paying fines for their part in trying to frame Trump with opposition research, lies and misinformation they paid for, which the FBI knew the whole time was false, but allowed the Mueller hearings to continue.
The New York Times and the Washington Post have lost lawsuits because their coverage of the Covington boys was so defamatory and untrue. It’s likely Kyle Rittenhouse will come up behind them.
Hopefully through lawsuits to encourage truth in reporting and investments in what is now legacy tech and new tech, change will happen, truth will prevail and we will, indeed, have healthier public discourse that doesn’t shut down legitimate voices like doctors, scientists, or journalists. We can only hope, because our country, as we enjoy it now, won’t survive without free speech.