Photo by Justin Hsieh.
Fountain Valley High School

Opinion: Time to stop big tech’s censorship

You have the right to support Black Lives Matter on your Instagram story. You have the right to go out and protest, as long as it’s peaceful, with others. You have the right to ask questions and engage in discussion.

Whether or not you concur with them, Tucker Carlson and Chris Cuomo have the right to speak on Fox News and CNN. Whether you think President Trump’s tweets are delirious or gratifying, he has the right to exercise his thumbs.

Everyone in the United States is entitled to their own opinion and is free to express it as long as it does not incite violence and other “well-defined and narrowly limited” exceptions. Despite this fundamental right, our free speech has been increasingly under attack and limited by big tech corporations that have the power to silence anyone they disagree with. We all need to stand against big tech censorship infringing on our rights.

Google has a gargantuan monopoly in the tech world. We use Google every day, from binging shows to working on our most important projects. We don’t even have a second thought of how this single company virtually controls all the information we receive.

Google controls a dominating share of the online ad market, meaning it can influence many websites by threatening to cut off their main source of revenue. In fact, Google’s monopoly is so extensive that the U.S. Department of Justice has even considered prosecuting the company under antitrust laws.

We know the impact that monopolies have and that the public needs to keep them in check in case they overreach. Remember how fast many were to complain about College Board (which has a monopoly on education) during the 2020 AP exam?

What happened with students’ comments toward the College Board also highlights another issue regarding Google’s control over the Internet. Even if you didn’t take AP tests, you can check out College Board’s Instagram page, where their posts have thousands of sarcastic comments from outraged students followed by fairy and nail emojis.

Instagram is not the only platform where students are expressing their outrage about the College Board’s misguided attempts. A slew of other media platforms have comment sections filled with inappropriate messages.

If an inappropriate comment was made on a YouTube video, the video would instantly get demonetized. But it would be ludicrous to suggest that a content creator on YouTube be penalized for the actions of the people in the comments; the content creator bears no responsibility for the actions of others and we would regard this as common sense.

Unfortunately, Google has done exactly that.

They collaborated with a left-wing group in Europe, taking a report from NBC and threatening to demonetize financial blog Zero Hedge and right-wing news site The Federalist for unmoderated comment sections. Ironically, Google is exempt from any responsibility for what passes its servers because Congress decided it fell under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Let’s not be fooled by this, though; this is a blatant attack on the basic principle of our nation — freedom of thought and expression. If Google really did care about unmoderated comment sections, they would hold YouTube (which they own) accountable and not make it as accessible as it is for minors to view adult content.

Speaking of Section 230, President Trump called for an executive order in May to remove Twitter’s liability protection after they marked his tweet criticizing mail-in voting as misleading. Trump accused Twitter of political activism, claiming that the platform interfered with the 2020 election by acting as a publisher instead of a neutral platform. While Twitter is supposed to engage in unbiased activity, the head of their fact-checking team has called the President a “racist tangerine” and his administration “Nazis.”

When Twitter was questioned as to why they wouldn’t apply the same labels to recent clips manipulated to falsely suggest that the President was calling coronavirus a hoax, they refused to answer.

“This is indisputable evidence that Twitter has one rule for the Trump campaign and another rule for Democrats,” Trump’s campaign spokesman Matt Wolking told Fox News.

Trump campaign rapid response director Andrew Clark had similar remarks.

“Twitter shouldn’t be an enforcement arm of Joe Biden’s campaign strategy, but if they choose to police every video clip they must hold his own campaign to the same standard,” he told Fox News.

Twitter also fails to make it clear that Joe Biden is incorrect when Biden says that Trump has never condemned white supremacists. It is clear Twitter has taken a side in the 2020 election. Many fed up with Twitter and other biased platforms have moved to Parler, which promises to be unbiased and has reached No. 1 on the Apple App Store.

But why is this so important? Who cares if a platform decides to censor the President?

This censorship is paramount because these big tech companies, which control massive amounts of the information the public receives, can engage in political activism without any liability. They are completely immune to all lawsuits, damages and other accountability for what passes through their servers.

No company should be able to consider themselves a neutral public platform that gains liability protection all while pushing their own political agenda. Americans can see that these big tech companies are selectively choosing who to censor and are therefore infringing upon free speech. Instead of letting people debate and have varying opinions, which has always been the American tradition, they are manipulating information and censoring those they don’t agree with.

The necessity of the free and open discourse is humble but truer than ever. Free speech is the bedrock for civil society and communication to dispute conflicts. It’s time we wake up and realize what’s happening. If we let this sort of behavior carry on without any opposition, the power will then be concentrated in the hands of a few and not the people. This will inevitably lead to corruption and we will lose our voices.

The truth of the matter is we as Americans should be aware of and uphold our constitutional rights. Freedom of expression is something very much worth fighting for and is at the root of our success. Especially in a time with such a social and political divide within our country and an upcoming presidential election, whatever your opinion is, know it’s your birthright to exercise free speech and let America hear you scream.