Big Tech censors
What happens when corporations cancel speech?
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When you last worried—if, indeed, you are such a worrier—about the loss of basic freedoms in our nation and culture, were you concerned most about outside forces bringing that about (China, Russia, radical Islam, etc.) or forces within (socialism in government or public schools, leftism in the media, etc.)?
There is a third possibility. More and more dominant in the news in recent years has been the bullying role of “corporate America.” Some of that perhaps predictably involves the strong-arm actions of giant corporate newcomers like Amazon, Facebook, or Apple. More ominously, it includes historic companies like Coca-Cola, Bank of America, and Delta Airlines.
The irony in all this, of course, is that these huge corporate entities—both old and new—owe their birth, their growth, and their robust history to our core freedoms. Our Bill of Rights has liberated the entrepreneurial spirit throughout our history and throughout the nation.
But that same Bill of Rights is now being gnawed away by the leaders and executives of many of the megacorporations that have benefited from its freedoms. By censoring their opponents’ products and boycotting their rivals’ services, they “cancel” their enemies where marketplace competition used to prevail.
Just a theory? Some observers say so. They charge that those who have been “canceled” are simply paranoid.
But Carl Trueman, Ryan Anderson, and Joshua Holdenried are all serious scholars who have firsthand experience with what some folks are calling professional “snuffing.” Under the sponsorship of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the three got together in late August to discuss and document their thoughts.
Starting with Trueman, a faculty member at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, here are some extracts of their conversations:
“Early this month I was lecturing on the topic of my book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, over at a conference in California, hosted by a Baptist church. During, I think it was, the first session, the livestream by YouTube was pulled—because of ‘copyright violation.’ … The organizers had been playing some music in the background that violated copyright. So the organizers sorted that issue out and started the livestream again.”
But then, he said, “the livestream was canceled the second time, this time for ‘content violation.’” And Trueman sees little chance the twin interruption was coincidence. Such skepticism comes in part from his experience in an incident this past May when he was giving the very same set of lectures at a Christian high school in the South. Prior to his visit, the lectures had enjoyed good publicity on the school’s Instagram account. Then, though, that Instagram account was totally suspended, with a requirement that all references to Trueman and his lecture be dropped before the account could be reinstated.
There’s no ambiguity, however, in the case of Ryan Anderson, who since February of this year has been president of the host EPPC. He gained national publicity this past spring when Amazon suddenly removed his book, When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, from its list of available titles.
After weighing several possible motivations on Amazon’s part, Anderson told the EPPC group that “even in the way they did this, they’re supposed to contact the author and the publisher first to notify them, to try to work it out. They didn’t follow any of their own procedures. This strikes me much more like an abuse of market dominance to try to control public speech, in particular, on a matter of huge public import.”
Finally, for this brief report, Joshua Holdenried came to the discussion from his role as vice president of the Napa Legal organization in California. Napa’s special role just now is to help faith-based nonprofits navigate the “public square”—with special emphasis on the “public square” as a “digital square.”
“We started to notice as early as last fall that several faith-based voices, faith-based organizations, were being censored, de-platformed,” he said. “So we started to take notice, and we started doing some preliminary research. … We actually found that for several months Big Tech companies have actually been silencing, de-platforming, or censoring faith-based organizations or faith-based voices at a rate of at least once a week.”
If you want to hear more, a full transcript of the EPPC discussion is available from wng.org/BigTechCensorship.
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