What is at stake in the Big Tech censorship game and how can it be halted?
I will speak practically rather than philosophically here. There is only one way to unlock solutions, or the political compromises that lead to solutions—and that is for the American Right to come up with more and better ideas to attack and punish Big Tech and aggressively seek to do so. If the Right actually did so, it might be taken seriously by Big Tech. And if the Right is taken seriously by Big Tech, it might sit down at the table with Big Tech and hammer out some sensible compromises on the matters of existential political and cultural concern. After all, rather than the party of Elizabeth Warren and her plans for Silicon Valley, Big Tech should want to work with the party that understands, say, why Venezuela is a failed state. But it does not at present, because it has no reason to care about the American Right, which is weak and feckless.
The problem with tech censorship goes beyond bad actors and dangerous organizations. At the highest level, the problem concerns “the discourse,” which is not a real phenomenon as much as it is a fantasy envisioned by elites who want you to buy into its existence so that they can use it to rule you online and off. This discourse-ruling class is not simply committed to an ideology but increasingly holds religious attitudes about the purity and perfection of the system of control they wish to apply to America and the world. While this ambition is extreme and ultimately anti-American, its means are the familiar and dull ones of “management”. These same sorts of elites look down with contempt on the idea of “managed democracy” when that buzzword is used by the likes of Vladimir Putin to describe regime arrangements like Russia’s. But their form of managed rule is deeply unnatural, running contrary to core natural rights ranging from free association to free speech. Their ambition is to manage communication so that their control over the virtual world makes that world more important than the real world—so much so that American politics and citizenship becomes utterly captive within the virtual world they control. This is what is at work behind tech censorship, no matter how well-intended or pragmatic it may be in certain cases.
My colleague Spencer hits the nail on the head (see below). I will add only that conservatives really and I mean really need to push for their own platforms. Platforms that will be open, of course, to everyone—but managed by people with a commitment to free speech. On the question of free speech, which is really the most American of all liberties, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg are increasingly going the way of eastern despots.
This is actually quite simple, and only the fecklessness of our leaders has kept us from seeing it: we need to subpoena Jack’s algorithm. Why haven’t we done this yet? Spare me the worries about intellectual property—these social media companies hold an ironclad monopoly on American attention, and it’s a direct threat to our national health. You censor the New York Post for weeks at a pivotal moment in a national election, sorry bub: you gotta hand over your coding to the feds. There are people competent enough in the relevant programming languages to read this stuff—if it were made public, we could prove once and for all just how bad Jack (and Zuck, for that matter) are lying when they say they don’t play favorites. Once we have that info, the rest will be a cinch.