Big Tech Flunks

Beginning now, the Media Research Center’s Free Speech America operation (in which my organization is one of more than 50 participants) will evaluate Big Tech platforms, on a quarterly basis, for free speech, bias, user transparency and more. It will come as no surprise that in the first quarter of 2021, Big Tech flunked:

By almost any measure, the first three months of 2021 were the worst ever for online freedom. Amazon, Twitter, Apple, Google, Facebook, YouTube and others proved to the world that the Big Tech censorship of conservatives is a reality. And they did so in disturbing, authoritarian ways that highlight their unchecked power over information and our political process.

At least 10 separate tech platforms silenced then-sitting President of the United States Donald Trump over the speech he gave in Washington, D.C. the day of the Capitol riot.

A speech that had, in my view, nothing wrong with it.

This quarter, Big Tech earned a collective “F.” Every one of the Big Tech companies reviewed got an “F” in free speech. That’s simply appalling.

This is the MRC’s scorecard for the first quarter:

There is lots of detail at the link. Here are a few excerpts, with copious links omitted:

TWITTER

Overall Grade: F

Twitter has consistently been one of the worst platforms for censorship, constituting the majority of entries in the Media Research Center’s CensorTrack.org database. In fact, its roughly 250 entries in the first quarter more than doubled the next closest platform. This excessively terrible showing in the Free Speech category brought its overall grade down to a resounding “F.” Twitter was among at least nine other platforms that dumped the president’s account. …
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This quarter, Twitter banned then-President Donald Trump, and said it would not reverse the decision. It censored Steven Crowder on at least three occasions this quarter. It permanently removed the Project Veritas account and censored its founder James O’Keefe at least three times. Twitter also censored conservative radio host Dan Bongino, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R – TN), Catholic World Report and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) in this quarter as well.

FACEBOOK

Overall Grade: D

Facebook was one of at least 10 platforms that removed Trump, setting the tone for a terrible quarter. Even its heavily leftist Oversight Board overturned Facebook’s censorship in four of the first five cases it ruled on. That’s a sign of how skewed the site’s content restrictions have been. Facebook censored at least 20 high profile accounts, including the late Rush Limbaugh. Facebook Spokesman Andy Stone apologized profusely for a singular case of high profile censorship of a leftist. Facebook’s fact-checking apparatus is anything but unbiased, and has produced horrible results. Facebook itself has admitted that posts with fact-checks on them receive 95 percent less engagement, regardless of the veracity or even relevance of the fact-check applied.

Some conservatives defend Big Tech companies on the ground that they are private corporations, and therefore beyond regulation or, seemingly, beyond criticism. I think this is a rather clueless attitude. The social media platforms and other tech companies like Amazon and Apple dominate public discourse today. They are the principal means through which people express opinions on politics and current events. The situation we now face is much as though, 100 years ago, someone had bought up all of the printing presses in the country and dictated that they would be allowed to print campaign literature for only one party, and that news stories printed on America’s presses would consistently favor one party.

There is another element of corruption, too. The major social media and tech platforms are all monopolies within the Sherman Act definition of that term. They have much to fear from federal enforcement of the antitrust laws. In fact, the Trump administration brought such an action against Facebook that challenged its acquisition of Instagram and sought divestiture. Watch for that lawsuit to be quietly dismissed or settled for little or nothing, as the Democrats’ payback for Facebook’s support. If I were running a Big Tech company, I would suck up to the Democrats like crazy in hopes of forestalling antitrust scrutiny and thereby continuing to print money.

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