Technocensorship: When Corporations Serve As a Front for Government Censors

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by John W. Whitehead, Rutherford Institute:

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear. We must, therefore, be on our guard against extremists who urge us to adopt police state measures. Such persons advocate breaking down the guarantees of the Bill of Rights in order to get at the communists. They forget that if the Bill of Rights were to be broken down, all groups, even the most conservative, would be in danger from the arbitrary power of government.”—Harry S. Truman, Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States (August 8, 1950)

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Nothing good can come from allowing the government to sidestep the Constitution.

Unfortunately, the government has become an expert at disregarding constitutional roadblocks intended to protect the rights of the citizenry.

When these end-runs don’t suffice, the government hides behind the covert, clandestine, classified language of national security; or obfuscates, complicates, stymies, and bamboozles; or creates manufactured diversions to keep the citizenry in the dark; or works through private third parties not traditionally bound by the Constitution.

This last tactic is increasingly how the government gets away with butchering our freedoms, by having its corporate partners serve as a front for its nefarious deeds.

This is how the police state has managed to carry out an illegal secret dragnet surveillance program on the American people over the course of multiple presidential administrations.

Relying on a set of privacy loopholes, the White House (under Presidents Obama, Trump and now Biden) has been sidestepping the Fourth Amendment by paying AT&T to allow federal, state, and local law enforcement to access—without a warrant—the phone records of Americans who are not suspected of a crime.

The government used a similar playbook to get around the First Amendment, packaged as an effort to control the spread of speculative or false information in the name of national security.

As the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government revealed, the Biden administration worked in tandem with social media companies to censor content related to COVID-19, including humorous jokes, credible information and so-called disinformation.

Likening the government’s heavy-handed attempts to pressure social media companies to suppress content critical of COVID vaccines or the election to “an almost dystopian scenario,” Judge Terry Doughty warned that “the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’

Restricting access to social media has become a popular means of internet censorship.

Dare to voice politically incorrect views in anything louder than a whisper on social media and you might find yourself suspended on Twitter, shut out of Facebook, and banned across various social media platforms. This authoritarian intolerance masquerading as tolerance, civility and love is what comedian George Carlin referred to as “fascism pretending to be manners.”

Social media censorship runs the gamut from content blocking, throttling, and filtering to lockouts, shutdowns, shadow banning and de-platforming.

In fact, these tactics are at the heart of several critical cases before the U.S. Supreme Court over who gets to control, regulate or remove what content is shared on the internet: the individual, corporate censors or the government.

Yet what those who typically champion the right of corporations to be free from government meddling get wrong about these cases is that there can be no free speech when corporations such as Facebook, Google or YouTube become a front for—or extensions of—government censors.

This is the very definition of technocensorship.

On paper—under the First Amendment, at least—we are technically free to speak.

In reality, however, we are now only as free to speak as a government official—or corporate entities such as Facebook, Google or YouTube—may allow.

Clothed in tyrannical self-righteousness, technocensorship is powered by technological behemoths (both corporate and governmental) working in tandem to achieve a common goal: to muzzle, silence and altogether eradicate any speech that runs afoul of the government’s own approved narrative.

This is political correctness taken to its most chilling and oppressive extreme.

This authoritarian impulse to censor and silence “dangerous” speech masquerading as tolerance, civility and a concern for safety (what comedian George Carlin referred to as “fascism pretending to be manners”) is the end result of a politically correct culture that has become radicalized, institutionalized and tyrannical.

You see, the government is not protecting us from “dangerous” disinformation campaigns. It is laying the groundwork to insulate us from “dangerous” ideas that might cause us to think for ourselves and, in so doing, challenge the power elite’s stranglehold over our lives.

Thus far, the tech giants have been able to sidestep the First Amendment by virtue of their non-governmental status, but it’s a dubious distinction at best when they are marching in lockstep with the government’s dictates.

As Philip Hamburger and Jenin Younes write for The Wall Street Journal: “The First Amendment prohibits the government from ‘abridging the freedom of speech.’ Supreme Court doctrine makes clear that government can’t constitutionally evade the amendment by working through private companies.”

It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court can see itself clear to recognizing that censorship by social media companies acting at the behest of the government runs afoul of the First Amendment.

Bottom line: either we believe in free speech or we don’t.

The answer to the political, legal and moral challenges of our day should always be more speech, not less.

Any individual or group—prominent or not—who is censored, silenced and made to disappear from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram for voicing ideas that are deemed politically incorrect, hateful, dangerous or conspiratorial should be cause for alarm across the entire political spectrum.

To ignore the long-term ramifications of such censorship is dangerously naïve, because whatever powers the government and its corporate operatives are allowed to claim now will eventually be used against the populace at large.

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