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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.


Joel Belz

Joel is WORLD’s founder. He contributes regular commentary for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Radio. Joel has served as editor, publisher, and CEO over three decades at WORLD and is the author of Consider These Things. Joel resides with his wife, Carol, near Asheville, N.C.

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mrbobmac

I am not a pessimist, nor daunted by the challenges we face. The reminder that those opposed to slavery fought for a multi-centuries' long victory is encouragement not to give up too soon (or at all). Nevertheless, Prov. 22:3 says, "The prudent sees danger and hides himself...". That is, it's helpful to consider that things could get worse instead of better.

With that in mind, and again not to come across like "the sky is falling", I offer these two hypotheticals:

1. When Thomas Paine wrote and printed "Common Sense", he was going against the establishment, the status quo. And he did it with a PRINTED document. We cannot control the digital gatekeepers, who (as noted above) can censor with impunity and without even an explanation. I can foresee a time when we return to locally-grown and distributed paper media to communicate the message. BUT (my main point #1), I can also see a time when the U.S. Postal Service is forced to become a censoring gatekeeper, and unacceptable speech like those in this article are blocked from mailing. Likely? Who knows?! But given the USPS's digital footprint, they now can track every letter from start to finish; it's not hard to foresee a time when they are coerced into blocking anything the gatekeepers want blocked. After all, they would be a government agency delivering religiously subversive speech!

2. In Revelation 13, the prophecy is made about the mark of the beast, and those without the mark cannot "buy or sell". What if that mark is a actually igital? For example, as cash drifts away, what if I can be blacklisted (for my lack of compliance to the gatekeepers' whims), and then my digital wallet is turned off "for the public good"? What if the mark of the beast is not an implant in my wrist... but my iWatch that has my bank account link? Or the retinal scanner like the airport is now using? (wrist and forehead) If the gatekeepers can turn off my ability to buy food, pay my bills, earn income, etc., then the prophecy in Rev. 13 is actually not so far-fetched. Are we there now? Not *yet*. But think about it: The same corporation that blocked Dr. Anderson's book (Amazon) is also the nation's #1 web hosting service for companies big and small. How long before Amazon starts pressuring beyond the sales front?

Again, NOT trying to be a conspiracy theorist by any means! But both of these are currently possible; it is only lack of wherewithal that prevents them from being implemented.

SJS

Good information and update. But we must remember that this is only the latest edition of our human intrigue. As fallen creatures we seem to prefer to silence those who oppose us, or we don't like. I'm reminded, maybe not the best example, but certainly a powerful one, of the Alien and Seditions Acts and their specific impact on those who criticized the government aka President Adams as well as the repercussions throughout or country.