The greatest threat to democracy is not individuals, but corporations who control the flow of information between individuals.
Alarmingly, many people have the mistaken idea that private internet companies like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple and Google should be allowed to censor anyone they like based on political differences of ideologies between app developers, the userbases of the apps, and other individuals — even elected officials. The reasoning is because they believe these services belong wholly to private corporations, who can do whatever they like with their property.
The problem with this line of thinking is that these businesses are not made of magic. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc all rely upon the millions of miles of cables that exist in the real world as well as transmission over air waves that likewise are public utilities. Due to bad legislation in the USA not updating for the present state of telecommunications technology, internet companies don’t get restricted as a public utility for communication by the FCC the same way telephone companies, radio stations and TV stations are treated; the latter of which are restricted by laws precisely designed to prevent the obstruction of freedom of speech.
Politicians understood decades ago when the telephone and radio stations gained a monopoly on communication that the private owners could abuse this monopoly to censor ideas, so laws were enacted to prevent this from happening. These laws unfortunately have not yet been applied to internet based companies even though they use the exact same methods to transmit data.
All of these social media companies rely 100% on publicly owned utilities to reach customers and they are NOT stand alone technologies. The same way that you need to have a driver’s license and abide by the laws to operate a car on public roads, you should have to follow the laws when using publicly owned utilities to transmit data to and from customers. Consequently all of these companies they should be subject to the laws designed to prevent private corporations from censoring the public.
The world is not like it was when these laws were first designed, or even last updated in 1996. Back then almost everyone had access to a telephone, which was the predominant form of communication between individuals in the USA, the secondary being the mail where magazines, letters and news zines were how groups communicated together over long distances. And while many people still do have phone services, telephones are no longer the primary means of communication between private individuals and groups. Likewise almost nobody uses the mail to send letters anymore, and print magazines, newspapers and zines are a dead medium. All of these things are now virtualized and distributed via the internet, and primarily hosted on servers belonging to multi-million dollar corporations who control the access.
There are some who believe that these older technologies are not comparable, because the average person could not broadcast television shows or radio programs. However, it is factually incorrect to believe the public did not have access to broadcasting their ideas using these mediums; giving the public the ability to do these things was the entire point of public radio and public access TV, which laws governing radio and cable television operators forced them to to provide allowance for.
The fact of the matter is that these social media companies today could not exist unless they used publicly owned utilities to reach their users.
The land upon which the telephone poles sit, that hold up the cable lines they distribute data across, belong to the public.
The air waves they use to distribute internet signals across also belong to the public, too.
This means these companies consequently should be bound by these laws designed to prevent censorship of the public.
Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon and many other multi-million dollar corporations are profiting enormously off public utilities which their business absolutely could not exist without, and it is an gross oversight that politicians have not forced them to be treated as public utilities themselves when they rely so heavily on this infrastructure they did not build and have exploited.
Do you remember it was not so long ago that these companies feigned themselves as champions of free speech when it suited them, asking their userbases to pressure politicians into protecting “network neutrality” and prevent them from being treated as public utilities? It is now clear this was done for the sole purpose of allowing them to be be able to censor the public, elected officials and engage in monopolistic practices to prevent any competitors from rising up to provide alternatives to their draconian ways.
What we are experiencing right now is a consequence of our politicians on both sides of the aisles selling the American public out to private interests lobbyists. We’re living in an Orwellian dystopian novel now due to their greed and failure to protect the common good and interests of the public. These types of stories were written to be cautionary tales, warning people to prevent this very kind of thing from happening and showing what the consequences of such a world where private companies can censor results in. The politicians did not listen, and greedy corporations are exploiting this.
In this current generation of Americans many people are fearful of the government more so than they are of corporations, as these corporations have been effective at using press relations to steer the conversation about treating them as a public utility toward alarmist fear-mongering about how no one can use the internet freely anymore. They claimed there was a free market, that people can just use different apps and sites if they don’t like one. Yet we see in Amazon banding together with Google and Apple to ban alternatives like Gab and Parler that this isn’t the case. We have seen numerous times that even Mastercard and Visa have involved themselves, refusing to process payments using their protocols to force competitors out of the market if they refuse to serve their agenda. The corporations have become too powerful and we do not have a free internet because they have abused the power they have. It is ONLY the government which can check the power of corporations and it is the government that has the sole power to protect consumers when corporations exploit the public.
It is important to remember that ‘press relations’ is merely the politically correct term for propaganda, which is the original word to describe this form of communication and ultimately still is what these corporations do to manipulate the views and opinions of the public toward supporting causes that serve the interest of the corporations’ owners, and not necessarily the public. You need to let go of the ‘network neutrality’ propaganda that these corporations fed you and realize they had no intentions of protecting free speech, and that the only entity which can force monopolies to serve the interests of the public is the government.
These services are monopolies. People often having little choice but to use them if they wish to stay in contact with others. Services like Facebook and Facebook Messenger have largely replaced the role of the telephone as a means of direct communication between individuals. The only people who call me on the phone these days are my parents and spam callers. Almost none of my friends even use SMS texting anymore. The communication is now primarily done over Facebook, which has replaced almost all other forms of communication between individuals and groups. Many internet forums are ghost towns because everyone moved to similar topic Facebook groups. So to suggest that people have a “choice” in using them is as mistaken as saying that people had a choice in whether to own a telephone. Especially with so many states having these lockdowns due to covid-19 restrictions, the primary means of communication right now IS Facebook, for individuals and for businesses as well since other means of reaching customers like events are banned.
If you don’t have access to Facebook you effectively can no longer communicate with 99% of the people you want to communicate with. And again, Facebook and these other services rely entirely on publicly owned utilities and are not bound by the laws designed to prevent abuses. That is a mistake, since they have decided they can remove people based on ideological differences.
When people try to use alternative apps like Gab and Parler, Facebook and other corporations operate as a cartel to get the competitors shut down. Facebook pressures small startups and bullies them, and is currently facing lawsuits from 40 states and the FCC for such anti trust violations, engaging in illegal monopolization practices to drive any would be competitors out of business.
If you ask me Twitter, Facebook and Amazon have violated antitrust laws by conspiring to mass ban individuals and remove rival communication services. When businesses who are supposed to be competitors cooperate together to obstruct the business interest and access to services of others, they violate antitrust laws. That is as evil as it gets in a democracy and free market system.
These laws meant to restrict companies that operate public utilities exist for a reason specifically because we are supposed to be a democracy and the owners of these private companies are not supposed to be able to use their monopolies to run other people out of business or silence their free speech. Companies only exist because they have been authorized with the permission of the federal government and state governments and they are therefore bound by laws. And in my opinion they are violating not only the spirit of telecommunications laws but they are also violating antitrust laws, too. Again, 40 states are suing Facebook right now who believe the exact same thing. This is not a radical opinion; it is the mainstream legal opinion of nearly every district attorney in the United States.
When you violate antitrust laws you cannot be considered to be a good company serving the public interest. Antitrust laws were specifically created to protect the public. The Sherman Act is most likely being violated by these companies since you are not supposed to be allowed to collude with your competitors to drive other people out of the market.
It’s frightening that so many people seem to think that it’s okay for them to violate antitrust laws and engaging in organized censorship just because it aligns with their political viewpoints. That’s literally what tyranny is. Democracy is the exact opposite and above all else you’re supposed to have allegiance to a democratic process when you are a citizen in a democracy.
In history the only entities who engaged in this kind of collusion are the ones seeking to overthrow a democracy. A notable example is the Enabling Act of 1933 in Germany. A minor fire was started at the Reichtstag by a protestor and the Nazis used it to convince everyone it was the first of a large scale communist uprising, so they suspended freedom of the press and civil rights, declaring martial law. The Enabling Act was then passed and they used their authority to silence their primary political opponents which was the Communist Party (tragically, Germany was being fought over between two political parties that intended to subvert the democratic process and introduce tyranny to it, the Nazis just happened to have outmaneuvered the Communists first).
What is happening today is frighteningly similar to what happened in Nazi Germany back then;
- The Nazis gained prominence and influence by blaming their primary political opponents for all the problems of Germany and they also blamed one particular ethnic group. Today the Democrats are blaming all the problems on the Republicans and “white people”.
- The Nazis engaged in historical revisionism and so are the Democrats with the sjw nonsense and critical race theory.
- The Nazis colluded to censor anyone who could oppose their political viewpoints. The Democrats are doing the same thing with the assistance of their supporters in Big Tech.
- The Nazis also organized violent mobs to “protest” by attacking people in the streets and burn down businesses of those who disagreed. The Democratic Party has been sympathetic and allowed antifa to do the exact same thing.
- The Nazis used a relatively small incident to invoke powers of martial law and sequester people into their homes. The Democrats have done the same thing using the covid-19 crisis, far more effectively actually and people are now completely out of jobs unemployed and losing entire businesses that took them years to make. So the economic conditions that allowed the Nazis to rise in power in the first place have been recreated by the Democratic Party based on their response to the covid-19 situation.
- Much like how the Nazis solution to poverty was social welfare programs, the Democrats solution to the financial crisis their lockdowns have created is more social welfare. Not to end the crisis and foster independent business owners, but instead to crush small businesses (while enormous corporations get to remain open) and make the majority of the population dependent on government assistance. The Nazis did this, too. People often forget that Nazi party was a socialist party.
The parallels are eerily similar and it doesn’t seem to be a coincidence.
Now I’m not calling the Democrats Nazis, but I’m pointing out that the mechanisms by which one political party can subvert democracy and take control are something that is common. This happened to the Roman Republic. It happened to Italy when Mussolini took to power. The subversion of democracy has required steps, and you must pay attention to them. We’re witnessing them right now.
It is baffling to me that people don’t see how important it is for antitrust laws and for public utility laws governing telecommunications in a democracy to be followed. Just like all these other past situations where a republic was subverted, the politicians who enacted tyranny had the support of those who are sympathetic to their political agendas. They convinced people to stop thinking in a rational way and to stop pledging themselves toward democracy. To instead pledge themselves to owe their allegiance only to their own invented ideology, which they promised would solve all the problems by the eradication of “the other”.
They want you to view everybody else having a differing viewpoint as your enemy, and to hate them so much you agree with the usage of tyrannical solutions to “defeat” them. That is how a public is convinced to allow the abolishment of a democracy.
History repeats itself to those who fail to remember it
Edit: Responding to criticism on Facebook from those have claimed that telecommunications companies are not bound by any laws preventing censorship:
You apparently do not know about must carry clauses and other aspects of telecommunications laws in the USA and internationally (it varies by country) that prevent telecommunications companies in telephone, radio and broadcast television from censoring the public.
To put this into context, you can use a telephone, radio system or even television broadcast to advocate for violence and the carriers cannot drop you. Only law enforcement and the courts can determine if your speech was a violation of the law and penalize the individual, and only after becoming so convicted can they then drop you for such speech.
Relevant to this particular topic, in addition to mandatory carriage of local broadcasters in the communities they operate, the FCC requires cable operators to provide public access broadcasting to local communities they distribute through and many municipals place additional requirements on top of this, as local municipals are the ones who directly enter the contracts with telecommunications companies when they run lines through public land.
In terms of the way the distribution network is setup, there is no difference between these older communication technologies and the internet, since the internet is distributed using the exact same lines as cable and phone services, and over the same frequencies that some (now defunct) radio and television broadcasters once used. Consequently they should be subject to the same restrictions, because the entire reason the restrictions were made in the first place is because these services rely on publicly owned land and airwaves. So before you tell me I am mistaken, you need to actually be familiar with what the laws are.
Some have claimed the FCC restricts freedom of speech with copyright laws and other rules related to profanity. Bringing FCC guidelines for profanity into the conversation doesn’t help your argument however, as the FCC is a government agency that makes the decisions on whether rules are violated, not private corporations, and these fines can be challenged in the courts. Private corporations do not determine who is violating the law, and the legal authority to cancel customers from a service based on Terms of Service violations (which are contract terms, not laws) is restricted by both federal, state and municipal laws.
Lastly, when these types of cases come up in the courts, the courts tend to side against the censorship. For example in 2019 Trump was ordered by courts to stop blocking users from his Twitter account. https://www.nytimes.com/…/trump-twitter-first-amendment… Likewise I would expect the courts would not take kindly to the idea of private communications companies which rely 100% on publicly owned land and bandwidths for their distribution to be able to censor elected officials from being able to communicate with the public. It sets a dangerous precedent and many of you are are too fixated on your hatred of an individual to understand the bigger issue at hand here, and what is actually being violated and how it impacts the form of democracy we have going forward if this kind of censorship by private companies that rely on public utilities to distribute are allowed to use them to censor the public by forming a cabal to prevent an elected official from communicating to the public — which is a violation of the Sherman Act, by the way.
It is not the role of private companies utilizing publicly owned utilities to be the internet police. In the USA that role belongs to the FCC and the courts. If you disagree you have no business working in telecommunications, as your motivations are aligned against the public good and the democratic process.
The USA has been around for 243 years and it has weathered far worse conflicts. This country operates on a system of checks and balances, and private corporations do not get to interject their own checks and throw off this balance to tilt it toward their own agendas. That is not how a fair system of democracy works. That is how tyranny works.
Also, this is not the first time I have written about this kind of thing.
I spoke out against this trend toward censorship by big tech years ago.
No one listened then.
Are you listening now?