Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Patreon, PayPal and other companies have repeatedly advertised that they are politically-neutral open platforms. All are welcome. They’re for everybody.
Then they ban, moderate, demonetize and censor people, and bias search algorithms, for a variety of biased reasons, including especially to persecute right wing political ideas. I’ll call this general issue “deplatforming”. It’s about not letting certain non-favored persons/ideas use the platforms in the standard, (allegedly) publicly-available way.
For those unfamiliar with or doubtful of the relevant facts, I’ve included an information section below.
The public debate over this issue has two main sides.
First, most of the left is cheering as their enemies are attacked.
Second, most of the right, along with some people on the left with greater integrity, say that free speech is important, tech companies are an important part of modern life, and we need government regulations to make things fair.
A third, smaller group are free market advocates who say private companies should be able to do whatever they want, even if it’s politically biased, and the government should leave them alone. They often say this despite having right wing ideas themselves. They say it despite being part of the oppressed group.
What’s missing is a pro-free-market, anti-deplatforming group. That’s my position. It’s important that the free market is compatible with solving the deplatforming problem. This isn’t a failure of capitalism. Anyone who cares about freedom and classical liberalism should be interested in how it can address a problem like this without assuming it’s inadequate.
As a free market advocate, many people expect me to say that private companies can do whatever they want and the government should stay out of it. I think deplatforming is a horrible problem, but don’t my principles require me to accept it?
I find most free market people insufficiently regretful regarding their support of deplatforming. They don’t say how horrible it is, and they wish there was anything to be done about it, but their hands are tied. They don’t seem to mind much. I think many have some partial leftist sympathies.
There’s a better way to view the issue. There’s something bad going on. I dislike it. And most of the proposed solutions are statist. So then what? Give up? No! The first thing to do is consider free-market-compatible solutions. Classical liberalism is a sophisticated, nuanced political philosophy which should be able to deal with problems like this. Can it? No one seems to have checked.
In the free market, the initiation of force is prohibited. This includes threat of force and includes fraud. False advertising is fraud. Advertising being a neutral platform, while not being one, is fraud. These companies should be sued. We don’t need new regulations. We need the most basic legal protections that would also exist in a minarchist society (minimal government society, aka nightwatchman state).
These companies don’t follow the rules in their own Terms of Service. That’s fraud. They are telling the public the rules are one way, but acting a different way.
Why are companies flagrantly violating the law and no one seems to notice and they aren’t losing all their profits to lawsuits? Because they have special government privileges. They’re being protected from being accountable under the law. They aren’t fully private companies. They hire tons of political staffers and lobbyists. They have friends in high places. They have political pull and receive favors. They aren’t operating in a free market context.
People tell right wingers to make their own competing sites. If you don’t like these companies, beat them in the free market. There are a few problems with this. First, having a larger user base is a huge advantage in social media. People want to be on the sites their friends are on. And why do these companies have such a head start? Because they fraudulently lied about their political neutrality so people didn’t see the need to compete with them earlier on. Second, they are still lying today which reduces the interest in alternative sites. If they openly said they’re biased against Trump voters, more people would recognize the bias and switch to a new competitor. But they still lie to their users. And third, there’s the banking problem.
The worst problem related to deplatforming is not access to social media platforms for sharing ideas. It’s access to the financial system. You can make your own blog or other website to speak your mind (deplatforming by domain registrars, webhosts, etc., has begun but isn’t very bad yet). But what if you’re being prevented from selling your work online? What if your fans can’t donate money to support you? What if you can’t sell merch? How can you compete in the free market if you don’t have the ability to participate in the market online?
The banks and credit card companies are highly government regulated. And they have pressured sites like Patreon and PayPal to deplatform right wingers. And when Gab tried to build a Twitter competitor, they found it very difficult to get any banking partners. Patreon competitors have also had huge difficulties getting banking access to enable their users to send money online to fund content creators. For most types of business, getting banking is easy. Banks and payment processors compete for your business. They want to be widely used. But right wing people online are being treated differently by financial companies which are considerably more government-controlled or government-influenced than Facebook or Google is.
My position is that I wish we had a free market. A free market would solve this problem because there would be serious consequences for fraud. We aren’t even close to a free market. Free market advocates tend to recognize this fact in general. They recognize e.g. that the U.S. healthcare market (including before Obamacare) is not even close to free market, capitalist healthcare. They recognize how involved the government is in the universities. But with deplatforming, the government’s role seems to be widely overlooked.
The main takeaway here is simple but widely ignored. Given the facts about the situation (which most people don’t know much about), Google, YouTube, Twitter and so on are guilty of blatant, massive and ongoing fraud. We don’t need new laws or regulations, we need to enforce the most basic and capitalism-compatible laws.
For those who haven’t been following the public information about deplatforming much, here are some examples:
"Twitter stands for freedom of expression," Dorsey declared. "Twitter stands for speaking truth to power." Dorsey is CEO and co-founder of Twitter. Just from accounts I was following, Twitter deplatformed Heartiste, Real Peer Review and American Renaissance.
"I'm almost a free-speech absolutist." said Prince, the CEO of Cloudflare, an internet infrastructure company that deplatformed the Daily Stormer for political reasons.
Kudos to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for defending free speech at a tough moment. There are many articles attacking Zuckerberg for being too favorable to free speech. Meanwhile Facebook deletes, censors and deprioritizes (lowering the traffic they get) right wing groups and ideas.
There is some non-political, largely-unexplained deplatforming too, contrary to publicly claimed policies. E.g. Facebook deleted without warning or explanation the Banting7DayMealPlan user group. The group has 1.65 million users who post testimonials and other information regarding the efficacy of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet.
Google "Machine Learning Fairness" Whistleblower Goes Public, says: "burden lifted off of my soul”, from Project Veritas, which I found as the 15th search result on YouTube for project veritas google whistleblower. It’s so low due to search algorithm bias, which ironically is one of the topics of the video.
Twitter banned a psychiatry expert for sharing his professional research conclusions (for political reasons).
Jared Taylor was the first victim of a new YouTube deplatforming campaign.
Domain registrars promised that I could “own” my little corner of the web with a domain name, and now my domains can be seized by a faceless bureaucracy. Google told me to create the best content I could to be ranked highly in their search engine, but then they manipulated their algorithms to lift dull corporate propaganda above my own. Twitter promised that I could share any thought that came to mind, and after I spent years doing so, they changed their mind and will now ban me if I make fun of an obese feminist. YouTube said I could upload engaging videos that viewers love, and even make money doing so, but then they demonetized most of my videos, put others in “limited state,” and banned me from live streaming for three months because I asked if women who wear chokers want to be treated subserviently. Disqus offered me a service to allow the community at Return Of Kings to discuss what was on their mind, but they banned the site because they didn’t want us to discuss certain things. Amazon said I could publish books on their platform and even make a living as a writer, but then they banned the paperbook and ebook editions of nine of my books with no explanation why. Paypal said it would be easy to add payment processing to my site, and then later showed how easy it is to ban me for political reasons.
I’ve covered deplatforming in newsletters, e.g. after Charlottesville and re Twitter censoring Canary Mission and Gab and about the banking/financial forces behind deplatforming (sadly and ironically, the Nick Monroe Twitter thread in the newsletter is no longer readable because Twitter deplatformed him. And the Thread Reader App archive of it is hidden by Twitter in the replies behind a warning saying “Show additional replies, including those that may contain offensive content” and then the content is deleted from their site anyway. But it’s still on the wayback machine.).
Some more examples from the open politics discussion on Curiosity (this website):
- Roosh’s private account banned from Instagram.
- Heartiste deleted from WordPress.
- Michelle Malkin post deleted on Facebook.
- An Objectivist defended deplatforming.
- David Horowitz restricted on Twitter.
- Borderless video had delayed processing, then was taken down, on YouTube.
- Facebook deleted a Paul Joseph Watson post consisting of the single word “honk” because it referenced a right wing political meme.
- Koch Brothers Team Up With George Soros, Patreon and Airbnb to Fight Online Extremism (fighting online extremism is code for deplatforming).
- Pinterest whistleblower told Project Veritas about their political bias. Then YouTube deleted the video after it had a million views. One consequence is that the link to the video in my email newsletter archives, which can’t be edited, is now broken.
- Vdare article with non-classical-liberal tech censorship response.
- I answer Alan Forrester’s question about what fraud Facebook has committed (part 2).
- Apple threated to kick Parler (a Twitter competitor) off their app store unless Parler banned some people. Apple also blocks some channels on Telegram.
- Reddit quarantined the The Donald subreddit and suspended Veritas’ account.
- YouTube officially fraudulently lied that we apply our policies fairly and without political bias.
- I commented on fraud and deplatforming on the House of Sunny podcast.
- Wikipedia has biased editing, e.g. an example related to Jeffrey Epstein.
- A gaming channel got banned at a million followers on YouTube and had to start over.
- Links to collections of examples of Google and Facebook censorship.
- Cloudflare deplatformed 8chan.
- Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell got suspended from Twitter for sharing a video showing people making violent threats against him
- Owen Benjamin has been deplatformed by YouTube and others.
- Games Done Quick speedrun marathon deplatforms people for MAGA hats.
This is just a small sampling of deplatforming info. There’s far more. Post more in the comments below. I’ve posted, as the first comment, a list of deplatforming related links that Justin Mallone gathered earlier this year.