Big Tech's assault on free speech

Big Tech's assault on free speech
© Getty Images/Madeline Monroe

For years, there have been whispers about Big Tech’s tendency to muffle those who dare to challenge mainstream liberal orthodoxy. In 2018, the Pew Research Center found, “72% of the public thinks it likely that social media platforms actively censor political views that those companies find objectionable.” By a four-to-one margin, respondents were more likely to say Big Tech supports the views of liberals over conservatives than vice versa.

As the 2020 elections approach, Big Tech has upped the ante in its limiting of free speech. This is a dangerous development that undermines the fundamental principles upon which the United States was founded. If left unchecked, it could lead to an Orwellian nightmare and, ultimately, to the end of the republic as we know it.

In the past few years, there have been countless cases of social media giants – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube – muzzling conservatives and libertarians, for apparent political motives. For example, it is well documented that Twitter uses “shadow bans” to prevent users from sharing their posts to the hundreds of millions of Twitter users.

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Somehow, shadow bans overwhelmingly have been applied to those on the right end of the political spectrum. Coincidence? I think not.

Although those on the left claim this is exaggerated, it happens all the time. And it seems that Twitter and others are clamping down more and more on prominent users who have the audacity to question the so-called consensus on a variety of issues.

Recently, Twitter has come under increased scrutiny because it has targeted conservatives such as Donald Trump Jr. who have posted material that question mainstream narrative about protests, coronavirus treatments, the wisdom of lockdowns and several other pressing issues. 

The Trump Jr. case is particularly spine-chilling because all the president’s son did was post a video from a group of doctors who presented a case for using hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. According to Twitter, “Tweets with the video are in violation of our Covid-19 misinformation policy. We are taking action in line with our policy here.”

Shortly after, Facebook and YouTube also scrubbed the video. Although this may seem like no big deal, it certainly is.

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In 2020, most Americans receive their news via social media. The sheer power held by these companies concerning the flow of information is mind-boggling. And they can use their power to shift public opinion, as demonstrated in the 2010 election when Facebook launched a get-out-the-vote campaign that it claims resulted in 343,000 more voters going to the polls.

If Facebook and other social media giants can nudge Americans to vote, how long before they also shift public opinion in the direction they desire? It seems as if this Rubicon may have already been crossed.

In some ways, Google has more power over information than the social media companies because Google completely dominates internet searches. Over the past year, Google’s market share of worldwide internet searches has hovered around 92 percent.

According to a recent study titled “An analysis of political bias in search engine results,” Google’s “top search results were almost 40% more likely to contain pages with a ‘Left’ or ‘Far Left’ slant than they were pages from the right. Moreover, 16% of political keywords contained no right-leaning pages at all within the first page of results.”

In other words, according to that study, Google’s algorithm is politically biased to favor the left over the right. Maybe that explains why Google and other Big Tech companies contribute so much money to the Democratic Party compared to the Republican Party.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 70 percent of donations by Facebook and its employees in the 2020 campaign cycle have gone to Democrats. Eighty-one percent of Google’s political contributions have gone to Democrats. The same trend applies to Amazon (74 percent) and Apple (91 percent).

Fortunately, Big Tech’s bias is becoming more and more apparent. Most Americans are well aware that in general, Big Tech favors leftwing causes, politicians and opinions.

Since it seems that Congress is unwilling to do anything about this in the near future, the question is, what can and should “we the people” do about it?

Chris Talgo (ctalgo@heartland.org) is an editor at The Heartland Institute.