Civics: From Big Tech to Big Brother

Daniel Oliver:

All the News That’s Fit to Click

Above all, though, we have to factor in the enormous social cost of leaving our entire public discourse in the hands of a censorious few. There may be tremendous social advantages provided by, e.g., Amazon: with the click of a button, a shopper can satisfy almost any want. But is this social wealth enough to offset every other drawback? Who says? If what you want is a conservative book, a click on Amazon may not bring satisfaction. In February, Ryan T. Anderson’s empathetic and well-researched book on transgenderism, When Harry Became Sally (2018), was stripped from the online shelves. And last October, Amazon Prime rejected Shelby Steele’s documentary on race relations in America, What Killed Michael Brown? (2020). Anderson is president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center; Steele is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution; neither is a bigot. You can look them both up on Google—before Google stuffs them, too, down the memory hole.

The same discriminatory behavior, mutatis mutandis, exists at Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Last June, under massive pressure from both advertisers and employees, Facebook majority stockholder Mark Zuckerberg formed a committee to decide what is acceptable for publication. According to the New York Post, there may be at least half a dozen Chinese nationals at Facebook working in this “Hate-Speech Engineering” group. You can’t make this stuff up—unless you’re George Orwell. So Facebook users will read only the truth…as Facebook understands it. Or perhaps, as they want you to understand it. But truth, most notably scientific truth, has proved elusive recently. At first, the World Health Organization said the Chinese flu could not be transmitted from person to person. At first, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against wearing face masks—until they were for it. Now there is, again, serious doubt about the efficacy of masks. Throughout, Facebook has decided which studies are licit and which must be suppressed. How does the public benefit from such diktats?

Many taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts use Google and Facebook / Instagram services, including Madison.