US Election 2020 is heating up, the media is saturated with coronavirus and Bernie’s red-scare. In such times it’s easy to forget we’re in prime hunting season for social media platforms to excise political dissidents from their sites, de-platform political views.
Re-education boot camp is now a common destination for many news sites, pundits and streamers that stray too far from the established narrative. They are not only denied access to the de facto-townsquare, they are robbed of their acquaintances and networks that they’ve developed and brought to the platforms with their content. All this at the behest of the most intolerant – the vocal minority of ideologues that moderate the social media platforms, and increasingly their owners / investors, and foreign governments.
FEC, If you want to look at foreign government election meddling, look at twitter’s de-platforming biases.
Recently, Zero Hedge, austere economic scholars of the news world, had the audacity to scoop other media outlets and publish publicly available information about possible sources of the coronavirus / covid-19, information that is just now being widely published. Does it matter that they were right? No, it only matters that, somehow later, the platform justify their de-platforming against accusations of bias, anticompetitiveness or censorship. Zero Hedge didn’t break any rules, but Twitter jumped on the chance to use “user reports” to remove political views, thus boosting others news sites that are more friendly to their aims.
Remember the CNN reporter outside a senior’s house, accusing her of liking tweets from Russian bots? The camera showing her street address. CNN threatening to doxx twitter accounts, requiring apologies from users or be publicly named. This is sanctioned twitter content, CNN is given a pass – this isn’t about breaking invisible guidelines, this is about twitter moderators effecting a twitter agenda to support those that want to see this speech taken offline. They will take any swing they can even plausibly justify.
Their one simple trick? To make their “rules of conduct” embody their political views. If you disagree with them, you are flouting their rules, and are banished from the square. What’s more they will disassociate you from all your followers. It’s that simple. It’s even law in some countries – Jordan Peterson incredulous at the idea that law now requires you to say words, compelled speech. Embodying their political views in law, forcing you to comply with their views.
The book recalls news stories and events from the last election cycle, how these real-world events shaped censorship, de-platforming and chilling effects of bias on social media. Definitely take a look at Unassailable if your work or influence involved social or news media, but beyond that, if you want to see how online and offline consequences unfold. After showing how the landscape is shaping up, it becomes a guide and handbook, providing simple, often free, wide-ranging and easy accessible technical solutions we can all adopt to secure our voices and nudge control away from the big platforms. It’s like a “freedom advocate cookbook”.
The fallout in 2020 won’t be limited to de-platforming on social media; you could be de-platformed from the web itself, hosting or DNS companies dropping your service, retailers, publishers and payment processors stopping contracts. Evermore, real world consequences and violence is a threat to those people who challenge establishment narratives. These fates can beset anyone with the wrong opinion. Milo Yiannopolis was banned from online financial services within minutes of applying – all for disagreeing on a movie.
Such editorialzing of content is violating 47 U.S.C. § 230 which gives protections, taxpayer-funded protections and systems to allow companies to act as neural public square hosts, as long as they are not editorializing content. You can be as biased as you want, but you forego the protections on hosting other people’s content. Until we see platforms forced to stand by what they do chose to publish, as biased publishers, they won’t be held accountable for massive, calculated censorship and shadow-banning of political voices.
Katie Hopkins has been bullied by large media corporations. Forced re-education, delete off-narrative tweets, capitulate and genuflect at the altar of allowed ideas. In the same manner, James Woods too was outraged that platforms force one to self-flagellate for the crimes they’ve already convicted you of, forcing removal of views to be allowed back onto their platform and gain access to your followers.
This is why in 2020 and beyond we have to expand outward, to take ownership of our own audiences and content to allow a true freedom of association and ideas. In this respect we have to applaud David Rubin who took a stand against Patreon and pulled the plug on his Patreon account.
That took more than just courage to stand up – David Rubin had his own infrastructure and ways of connecting with his audience, was already aggressively using social media to bring new members into his fold, a move right out of Jelkovic’s book.Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris also made this move, along with others.
If this seems like something that won’t affect your work, even if it affects the voices you can find, it’s not exclusive to the political realm, remember:
First they came for the political pundits, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a pundit
Then they came for people teaching their dog stupid tricks, and I did not speak out— Because I don’t have a dog
Then they came for the chans, and I did not speak out— Because I get all my opinions from reddit
Then they came for the news sites, and I did not speak out— Because I get all my news on drudge
Feels good man
The 1984 glimpse of the future again belongs to Apple, but in a decidedly different light. Apple is taking broad political aim at games developers. Games have been banned for containing references to the popular Pepe meme. Pepe is a simple frog that loves freedom and wants everyone to be free, because it “feels good man”. Apple and Tim Cook, loyal, subservient supporters of the Chinese state’s reeducation of minorities using iOS tracking and iCloud codes, have banned the very symbol that Hong Kong’s protesters are using in defiance against an encroaching dictatorship.
Pepe is an interesting case, a symbol of freedom and free speech, it was widely defamed in a successful media operation, claimed to be exclusively a symbol of hate-speech and then banned from iPhones altogether. The same iPhones that the Chinese state is using to track the protesters in Hong Kong that want freedom. It’s interesting to see media outlets try to reconcile these two accounts of Pepe (“Pepe means something different over there”, they say). Hong Kong people know exactly what Pepe stands for – freedom for all. No wonder Apple and the NBA are so afraid of Pepe.
(Various, Vivek Prakash AFP/Getty, AFP, AP Photo/Kin Cheung, Denis Tsang/twitter)
Pepe is a symbol of freedom and free-speech. If flat-earthers start using Pepe memes that doesn’t mean Pepe is a symbol of flat earthers, but the arbiters of public thought were able to easily pull off this distinction and poison the Pepe well. Feels bad man.
When Tim Apple decided to ban infowars, it was google, twitter and others that fell in line. They even pushed to remove their domains, hosting, DNS, payment providers, perhaps a test case in the complete destruction of an idea. Due diligence is no longer limited to infrastructure and supply chain security, it’s ensuring your ideas and message is secure in this new media world.
Recently Tim Sweeney, CEO of EpicGames (of Fortnight fame) made a very powerful statement towards the end of his keynote – Tim said that publishers, platforms, and stores should not be involved in policing politics, and the organic, genuine voices and opinions of game developers, writers and experience designers should shine through – that games can be political, but platforms should not be, nor should they silence these voices. His words were oddly divisive – the mainstream media wrote off his speech, quoting him as saying games shouldn’t be political, the opposite of his intent. Tim Sweeney brilliantly referenced To Kill a Mockingbird as a prime example of how voices and ideas need to come to the fore.
PragerU is another key example, creating short talking-head / animated videos on a wide range of historical and political topics. How is it that such an innocuous channel has been banned from advertising on Twitter, Spotify et al – 200 of their videos have been heavily restricted on Youtube, while Facebook has just taken to removing some of their videos all together. PragerU are currently appealing their case against Youtube in the partisan Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The solution is not to hope to appease people who have already written-off your opinions, views and beliefs as “against their rules”.
As long as you are not being too effective, you could be tolerated, allowed on the platform in a restricted distribution – but as soon as you become a standout success you will realise that you need to take stock of your internet footprint and make it unassailable. Whatever industry you are in, social media and the internet is a necessity, following the pragmatic advice in Unassailable will help you minimise risks to your livelihood and, every day, make the world a better place by nudging us away from censorship.
As the political and coronavirus fevers both start to peak into the summer, dominating a lot of the news, spare a thought for stories and sources you might not be hearing anymore, as they’ve been silenced.
Then they came for the meme magicians and rare Pepes—and I could not speak out as they’d banned all my Pepes.