Fears of the monopolistic power of Big Tech became realized this week when Democrat-oriented giants Amazon, Google, and Apple to crush emerging competitor Parler, and after the political purge of Twitter and Facebook who deplatformed the President of the United States, along with hundreds of thousands of his supports by deleting their social media accounts.
Surprisingly, even the traditionally partisan leftwing nonprofit, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has found the courage to speak up against the Silicon Valley cartel’s crackdown on free speech, as well as their organized racketeering to put Parler, a major competitor in the social media space – out of business and off the global internet.
Justin Vallejo from the UK’s Independent reports…
The American Civil Liberties Union has warned the “unchecked power” of big tech companies to de-platform a US president could be turned against anyone to discriminate against political speech on social media.
The warning comes amid calls for a racketeering investigation as Donald Trump and his supporters become de-personed from Twitter and Facebook, while competing platform Parler was booted from Amazon, Apple and Google.
While the ACLU called for the impeachment of Mr Trump in part for using the platforms to seed doubt about the results of the election, its senior legislative counsel Kate Ruane said in a statement that the implications of big tech using its power to remove political speech is a concern for all Americans.
“We understand the desire to permanently suspend him now, but it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions – especially when political realities make those decisions easier,” Ms Ruane said in the statement.
“President Trump can turn his press team or Fox News to communicate with the public, but others – like many Black, Brown, and LGTBQ activists who have been censored by social media companies – will not have that luxury. It is our hope that these companies will apply their rules transparently to everyone.”
Whether the moves from big tech violate First Amendment rights of free speech either in law or in spirit are an open question, as publicly elected representatives conducting official government duties on private platforms creates an uncharted constitutional question currently being challenged in the counts.
The Supreme Court could decide as early as Monday whether to hear a case against Mr Trump violating the First Amendment by blocking users from his Twitter account.
The Court of Appeals ruled in 2019 that the president’s account was a public forum and since he used his account in his role as a government official, he was subject to the First Amendment, which prohibits discrimination based on viewpoints.
The case was first brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which said Twitter’s decision to ban the president made the Justice Department’s petition to the Supreme Court to review the ruling effectively moot.
“The core holding of Knight Institute v Trump is that public officials who use their social media accounts as extensions of their offices cannot constitutionally block people from those accounts on the basis of viewpoint,” said senior staff attorney Katie Fallow.
“This holding protects dissent, ensures that public officials aren’t insulated from the views of their constituents, and prevents digital forums that are increasingly important to our democracy from becoming echo chambers.”
Jameel Jaffer, executive director at the Knight First Institute, added that platforms owe it to the public to leave political leaders’ speech up, especially when it is wrong or offensive, to hold them accountable.
“But there are limits to this principle. A political leader who uses his account to incite violence is causing harms that can’t be countered by speech and can’t be undone by a future election,” Mr Jaffer said.
“To take an account down in these circumstances is not an affront to free speech, as some have suggested. To the contrary, it’s the responsible exercise of a First Amendment right,” he added.
Gregory P Magarian, a law professor at Washington University, told The New York Times that private power over public speech should be a concern even though there is no obligation under the law for companies to publish anyone’s speech.
“I want a wide range of ideas, even those I loathe, to be heard, and I think Twitter especially holds a concerning degree of power over public discourse,” he said.
“Any suggestion that people like Trump and [Senator Josh] Hawley, and the viewpoints they espouse, will ever lack meaningful access to public attention is ludicrous. We should worry about private power over speech, but presidents and senators are the last speakers we need to worry about.”
Simon & Schuster cancelled publication of Mr Hawley’s upcoming book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech”, over the senator’s support for Mr Trump.
The ranking member of House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Devin Nunes, called for a racketeering investigation after Amazon, Apple and Google after they suspended Parler, a direct competitor to Twitter and Facebook, for what he claimed was “clearly a violation” of antitrust, civil rights, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
“The effect of this is that there is no longer a free, and open social media company or site for any American to get on any longer because these big companies, Apple, Amazon, Google, they have just destroyed what was likely a billion-dollar company, poof it’s gone,” Mr Nunes said during an interview on “Sunday Morning Futures” .
“There should be a racketeering investigation on all the people who coordinated this attack.”
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