Slowly but surely, the Internet is becoming less free as companies like Facebook and Google look for new ways to combat what they consider to be “hate speech” or “fake news,” even if the actual content is none of those things. Truth be told, the end goal is to suppress conservative voices that do not subscribe to the progressive ideology, and in order to accomplish that, companies must first surrender their dedication and respect for the First Amendment.
Last week, Wired published a story talking about how support for the freedom of speech in Silicon Valley is starting to become nonexistent. “As the CEO of a service with 700 million users, Systrom recognizes that he’s something like the benevolent dictator of a country more than twice the size of the U.S.” the Wired piece said in reference to Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom. “The choices he makes affect the lives of all his users – some of whom are insecure teens, some of whom are well-adjusted adults….”
The Wired article went on to explain how respect for the freedom of speech was beginning to diminish in Silicon Valley, and how support for regulation and control was rising in its place: “And so the notion of free speech is shifting at the companies that run the Internet. Facebook had a reckoning after false stories on its News Feed – free speech, in a sense – may have helped elect Donald Trump.”
“To Systrom, it’s pretty simple: Freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to shitpost,” Wired ultimately concluded. “His network isn’t a public square; it’s a platform people can choose to use or not.”
Indeed, the evidence that Internet-based companies are beginning to lose respect for the freedom of speech is overwhelming to say the least. Just last year, for example, the social media website Facebook found itself at the center of a nationwide controversy regarding the censorship of conservatives news on their platform. Several former Facebook employees allegedly told the tech site Gizmodo.com that the social network routinely modifies its algorithms to suppress news that would be of interest to right-leaning individuals. (Related: Portland mayor wants to label all opinions he doesn't agree with as "hate speech".)
Google has also hopped on the anti-free speech bandwagon in recent months, even going so far as to create an AI system that is capable of detecting and potentially burying what it considers to be “toxic” comments, which of course could mean just about anything that is not necessarily politically correct or left of center. The Google-owned video sharing website YouTube has also established similar regulatory systems.
If you know history and understand the thought process that went into the creation of this country, then you understand that not just the freedom of speech, but really every right listed in the Constitution, was included to protect the people from the threat of tyranny. Free speech is not just some words written on a dated document; it is a gift that is unique to the western world, and a safeguard against the rise of an authoritarian regime. Needless to say, that is not something that any of us should ever take for granted.