As the political establishment and Silicon Valley become increasingly emboldened in efforts to silence online speech that defies political correctness or the “official story”, it’s time for free speech advocates and innovators to create online media spaces where the 1st Amendment reigns supreme.
All the talk of eliminating “fake news” from the internet following Donald Trump’s unexpected electoral victory isn’t likely to stop any time soon. But what the left really means when it says “fake news” is, “information we would rather ignore or that we disagree with.”
In fact, this certainly isn’t a new tactic for the left. For years, any speech that doesn’t fit neatly within the increasingly tight confides of political correctness has been labeled as racist, misogynistic or simply hate speech.
Many of the tech giants that grew out of the progressive stronghold of Silicon Valley are more than happy to oblige enemies of free speech with policies that err heavily on the side of limiting speech to protect liberal sensibilities.
That became extremely evident in recent months as YouTube adopted a new moderation scheme that encourages social justice warriors to tattle on creators of controversial content and the decision to eliminate monetization for videos containing politically charged content. And over at Twitter, hundreds of so called alt right activists had their accounts suspended for tweets criticizing or defying aspects of political correctness.
But some social media users who value free speech over mushy gushy feel good protectionism are pushing back.
As Fast Company reported, innovators are creating new platforms aimed at allowing users to address more controversial topics:
For those alt-right individuals and other social media refugees who feel that their views are suppressed, there’s a new social network that promises a digital space for completely free and unfettered communications. Gab, a platform that looks and feels like a combination of Twitter and Reddit, is meant to “put people first and promote people first,” as it was described to me by its founder. And this week, it’s been attracting thousands of users, many of them alt-righters exiled from Facebook and Twitter, though its founder insists that it aims to expand beyond that community and build a more diverse audience. Even Richard Spencer, who leads the far-right National Policy Institute think tank and is widely credited with inventing the term “alt-right” had his Twitter account suspended on Tuesday and soon increased the frequency of his posts on Gab.
Gab is the brainchild of Andrew Torba, an adtech startup founder who now lives in Austin after a stint in Silicon Valley. He found the politically progressive atmosphere of the Bay Area to be stifling, making him uncomfortable about expressing his views, and he moved to Texas to help build his fledgling social network. He was once a member of Y Combinator (he was recently ousted), and has now taken on the mission of fixing what he sees as the censorship that plagues online spaces. The tipping point that pushed him to leave the tech bubble and start Gab came earlier this year, when he read that several Facebook employees had come forward to divulge that the network’s trending topics section was actively suppressing conservative news. “I knew I had to take action,” Torba says.
As more online outlets clamp down on free speech, Americans with contrarian political viewpoints will increasingly find the need to locate alternative social sharing platforms.
With any luck, maybe a conservative version of Silicon Valley will emerge as an incubator for such outlets.