I’ve seen some pretty fascinating posts about freedom of speech, big tech, and out-of-context scriptural reasons to shut up.
Here are my thoughts.
Yeah, free speech is protected and should be protected, but FB, IG, YT, Twitter, etc are private organizations. They can choose who they allow to use their platforms and what their users can and cannot say, right? That’s an understandable thought and an innocent one at that. But did you know that big tech is given the legal benefit of functioning as a utility? Like your water, electricity, or phone provider. ATT and Verizon are private, but they do not get any say on who you text and what you say to them. And if they started censoring your texts or phone calls, all hell would break loose. Big tech has become arguably far more integral to the very structure of society than even your water or phone service. These corporations also aren’t held liable for what you do on their platforms— just like your phone provider. If you use a Verizon phone to talk with a friend and plan a crime that you then commit, Verizon is NOT liable. Big tech receives these same legal protections as your phone provider but then chooses to function as a private company instead of a public service. Essentially, they want to have their cake and eat it too. Research section 230 for more details on how this all works.
Couldn’t someone just start an alternative to these social giants that isn’t censored? Like Parler? Oh, wait, Parler was just shut down by Google play AND momentarily by Apple for refusing to enact a set of “community standards” that are straight out of Orwell’s 1984. There are no alternative ways to create an app without going through one of these gatekeepers. Even our web servers are essentially all owned by google or amazon.
This is why antitrust laws exist. We have a monopoly (or a few) that has become more powerful than any government on earth because they control the flow of ideas. And now they have decided who they will legitimize and who they will not. And we buy in hook, line, and sinker with no question of the potential ulterior motives that exist in who gets through the gates and who doesn’t. When big tech tells us that someone’s ideas or rhetoric are dangerous, we thank them for “protecting” us. This has created an echo chamber of big tech approved language and ideas. But you don’t see the censoring if your ideas aren’t the ones being censored. This inadvertently creates a confirmation bias towards a certain narrative of the world and causes you to feel that the “fringe” group who thinks outside of this narrow rhetoric is a minority extremist group. This narrative is not innocently created but is used to control and manipulate you.
We must have a neutral place for ideas to be shared. People must be allowed to think for themselves, to choose what they believe, and to pursue truth. Adults do not need someone else to think for them. We don’t need the government or big tech telling us what is fact or not. The internet should be a place for the free exchange of ideas— where we are given information that we can then make determinations from. This internet censorship only differs from the burning of books in that it is even more covert and able to shape false realities in an even more damaging way. The big takeaway here: any time a conversation around a certain topic is shut down, this is a red flag to question the surrounding narrative. Truth stands the test of time, question, and reason. This is the scientific process and we can’t lose sight of it now.
Recently, lawmakers introduced a bill that would help ensure that free speech is protected on online platforms and would hold big tech accountable for discrimination and censorship. Fear-mongering interest groups did not hold back in their efforts to prevent this legislation from being enacted. Unfortunately, these interest groups were ultimately successful and thus we see the conserva-purge happening across all social media platforms yesterday and presumably continuing on in the days ahead. Big-tech said that these voices were “inciting violence”. Meanwhile, they continue to allow radical terrorist organizations to communicate on their platforms. Additionally, there have been countless times just in 2020 that prominent political figures on the left have called for ACTUAL violence against those on the right, yet they were never de-platformed or even temporarily suspended.
It is clear that online social platforms are a vital element of free speech in the modern world. These platforms have become an extension of the human voice and to limit people on them is to limit the human. Big tech companies must choose to function as a utility that simply facilitates the free exchange of ideas, or the monopoly must be broken up.
If you think that Christianity is an argument against what I’ve stated so far, you have gravely underestimated the role that tech plays in this world and in sharing the gospel. These platforms are shaping people’s realities. It is no longer a question if our seated president actually incited violence at the capitol because the gods of social media have ruled against him. Now millions of Americans believe it is fact that he called for violence, but by permanently banning him, they give him no way to rebut and you no way to personally fact check. If you don’t find this level of control over the minds of 321 million to be relevant in your religious freedom, let alone the desire to spread the Gospel of Jesus, then you are living in denial. Reality is being shaped through social media and Christianity (and other religions) will be excluded from this reality if we don’t stop them now.
I’m tired of hearing Romans quoted as means to shut Christians down in their pursuit and spread of the truth. Romans talks about submitting to the governing authority. In the United States, at least at present, our governing authority is the Constitution AND the people. We are a government by the people and for the people. When our government workers cease to fulfill their duty to honor and uphold the constitution, it is our duty as Americans and Christians to follow the constitution and NOT the whims of the workers who were hired to uphold and protect it.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Restore 7