As the technological realm becomes more pervasive, whom can we trust? Each week, Liberty Nation brings new insight into the fraudulent use of personal data, breaches of privacy, and attempts to filter our perception.
Big Tech Breaks Its Lobbying Records in 2018
A recent report revealed that Silicon Valley giants are setting records by investing huge amounts of money in Washington, D.C. lobbying. Drawing from federal disclosures, Bloomberg put the figures for 2018 at:
- Google: $21 million. This exceeded the company’s 2017 record of $18 million.
- Amazon: $14.2 million, beating its 2017 record of $12.8 million.
- Facebook: Nearly $13 million, over its 2017 record of $11.5 million.
- Microsoft: $6.6 million.
- Apple: $6.6 million.
All this makes up a total of $48 million from the top five Silicon Valley spenders for 2018, up 13% from the previous year. The spending comes at a time when Silicon Valley corporations are under increased scrutiny from lawmakers and the public – but how much can we rely on regulators who are receiving immense sums from the very companies they are supposed to be holding to account?
According to Politico, Google has sunk much of its lobbying time into building connections at the Federal Trade Commission – the same agency that investigated the company in 2013 but closed the case with barely a slap on the wrist. With recent rumors that the Department of Justice has taken over FTC antitrust inquiries into Google, some are now wondering if the company will be able to recoup its investment. Although Luther Lowe, vice president of public policy at Google competitor Yelp, alleges that the company’s friends are everywhere in the Swamp: “Throw a rock in any direction in Washington, D.C., and you’re likely to hit somebody on Google’s payroll. No doubt they’re going to mobilize those individuals now.”
Free-market advocates suggest that regulating the breakup of these corporations is poor economics, but with corporations able to unofficially influence government decisions in ways that indirectly benefit the conditions for them to operate at the expense of others, surely the market is no longer truly “free.” On the other hand, it is hard to believe that lawmakers can be trusted to execute any regulation of the internet in a manner that will benefit the public. Thus, it seems the American people, and internet users across the world, are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Silicon Valley influence.
Social Media Control – “Side Effects” of Censorship
Social media sites from Facebook to Twitter and YouTube have been building a record of banning or disincentivizing content they dislike or are pressured to remove. Perhaps the real damage, though, is not in the exclusion of a few controversial figures, but the effects it has on those caught in the slipstream. Not only does censorship create an atmosphere of general fear and restricted expression, but it can directly affect those merely trying to distribute educational content.
Right-wing YouTube host Steven Crowder and left-wing Vox producer Carlos Maza have been exchanging barbs in a public feud detailed recently by LN’s Jeff Charles. In short, Maza complained that Crowder had made homophobic slurs against him and urged his Twitter followers to complain to YouTube in an effort to have Crowder banned from the video platform. In the end, Crowder’s channel was demonetized, and YouTube tightened up its enforcement of anti-hate speech rules. Unsurprisingly, other channels were caught in the crossfire for merely seeking to educate the public on controversial or hateful movements.
Scott Allsop, who, according to his website, is a history teacher and academic, claimed on Twitter that his own YouTube channel had been affected: “YouTube have banned me for ‘hate speech’, I think due to clips on Nazi policy featuring propaganda speeches by Nazi leaders. I’m devastated to have this claim levelled against me, and frustrated 15yrs of materials for #HistoryTeacher community have ended so abruptly.”
His account was later reinstated.
Journalist Ford Fischer also had his account demonetized for extremist content – except, Fischer does not condone “hate speech.” Co-founder of website News2Share, he documents activist groups he deems to be extremist and shares the footage for the edification of the public. His coverage primarily revolves around white supremacist rallies and their counter-protests. He said on Twitter:
“Within minutes of @YouTube’s announcement of a new purge it appears they caught my outlet, which documents activism and extremism, in the crossfire. I was just notified my entire channel has been demonetized. I am a journalist whose work there is used in dozens of documentaries.”
He added that two videos were removed from the site:
“Youtube sent me only two specific videos that they’ve taken down. 1st is a video of @JasonRCharter and other #Antifa activists confronting a Holocaust denier. While it’s true that the Holocaust denier says Holocaust-denier-stuff, this is raw vid documenting him being shut down.
The only other one flagged was raw video of a speech given by Mike Peinovich “Enoch.” While unpleasant, this documentation is essential research for history. Indeed, this exact footage was used in a PBS documentary I associate produced, which MLKIII presented at the premiere.”
While Fischer urged his followers not to blame Maza for his misfortune, it is hardly surprising that the move to outlaw particular material is starting to backfire against the very causes that are dear to the people asking for censorship. “Here’s an article by Vox that uses my work. Clearly, they wouldn’t have wanted YT to go after someone like me,” Fischer tweeted. Maza added: “What’s happening to Ford is f**king awful. He’s a good journalist doing important work. I don’t understand how @YouTube is still so bad at this. How can they not differentiate between white supremacist content and good faith reporting on white supremacy?”
One self-described “rogue journalist,” Caitlyn Johnstone, was less than sympathetic to Maza’s complaint. Calling him an “infantile narcissist,” she wrote:
“Think about it. How narcissistic do you have to be to assume that a vast corporation is going to use your exact personal perceptual filters while determining who should and should not be censored for oafish behavior? How incapable of understanding the existence of other points of view must you be to believe it’s reasonable to expect that a giant, sweeping censorship campaign will exercise surgical precision which aligns perfectly with your own exact personal values system? How arrogant and self-centered must you be to demand pro-censorship reforms throughout an enormous Google-owned platform, then whine that they’re not implementing your censorship desires correctly?”
Well, it’s hard to dispute her arguments. Johnstone also points out that YouTube may be gearing up to crack down on the questioning of “well-documented” narratives, with its new enforcement policy.
Youtube's new censorship escalation could easily see them removing videos which question the legitimacy of possible legit false flags, like the Douma incident in Syria, or any other attempt to manufacture consent for military interventionism.https://t.co/KrvscxKiS4 pic.twitter.com/EzDPfnSO8A
— Caitlin Johnstone ⏳ (@caitoz) June 5, 2019
Ultimately, if the public is not informed on the realities of genuine prejudice and violence, it will be more willing to accept the official – and changing – definitions supplied by the “authorities.” Once an individual advocates the restriction of one person’s rights, they effectively curtail their own. As free-speech advocates have long argued, either the right to unfettered expression is offered to everybody, or nobody will truly have it.
That’s all for this week from You’re Not Alone. Check back in next Monday to find out what’s happening in the digital realm and how it impacts you.
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