The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights affirms that all people have a right to freedom of speech. This means that the government cannot suppress or ban someone for their political ideology or their belief. However, a private organization could do such a thing; for example, a church or private school can ban profanity on their grounds. There is a free speech gray area relating to what public/private partnerships can and should do about it; this is a problem with our crony capitalist system.
Big Tech Bias and Suppression of speech
Recent documents have revealed that Google blacklists right-wing sites. Google covers this up by saying that it is trying to reduce “hate speech” and “fake news”. But their definitions are vague and unproductive, allowing too much leeway to remove sites.
For example, one employee named James Damore wrote about how the under-representation of women in tech was about personality differences, rather than sexism or discrimination. He further stated that this was not true in every situation but a reasonably accurate general point. He never advocated against women, but still, Damore received unnecessary hate for his comments. Ultimately, many people labeled him a sexist and Google fired him.
Google’s right to fire Damore, in this case, isn’t relevant, as it doesn’t make the action right. It suggests that the biggest tech company in the world has a political bias.
Moreover, when Ireland was voting on repealing its anti-abortion laws, Google suppressed pro-life ads on their search engines and Google-owned Youtube. Again, this strongly suggests political motives present within the spread of information online.
Some may think that while Google, Facebook, Youtube, etc are suppressing other ideologies, it is their right as private organizations. This would be true if these companies were one hundred percent private. However, America is not a free market; we live in a cronyist system where the state and corporations make frequent deals to aid each other.
Google is not an exception to this. They have received billions in taxpayer subsidies and lobbies in the government. Furthermore, employees from Google had joined the Obama administration and former government employees went to Google.
President Obama even claimed that Google would not exist without government funding for the research into it. Google then was able to use the government and monopolize on this research. Clearly, there is enough room for a grey area to start a debate on the issue.
Given that the government is involved in these corporations, it is not unreasonable to want to apply the First Amendment where the government is involved. Crony capitalism, not the market, created these companies. Many great libertarian thinkers have strongly criticized companies who receive bailouts and meddle with the government. Government and monopolized corporations working together and suppressing free speech is nothing any liberty lover should support.
This does not mean we need the government to control the internet, but the people need to be more militant about this issue, perhaps even suing companies in civil courts.
DuckDuckGo is an alternative search engine many people use to protest Google. Spreading the word about this could also help the cause.
There has been further talk of an “Internet Bill of Rights” that would protect free speech and privacy. Many variations of the idea exist, and it is a discussion that we should certainly have. We as a society must begin having the conversation of whether tech companies that receive government aid should be able to censor online; the practice could be very dangerous in our future.
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