Deplatforming, freedom-of-speech and tech monopolies

monopolisation
deplatforming
freedom-of-speech

#1

Note: This topic is about the concept of Deplatforming and its implications, and NOT about politics and religion! Discussions about specific examples of deplatforming are undesirable and will be moderated.

An important article was recently written on the blog of EasyDNS, about a phenomenon you hear more and more about these days: Deplatforming

Deplatforming is the concept where certain individual or groups of people are thrown off a platform, or otherwise censored, because their opinions and ideas are too much on the fringe, extreme, or unpalatable and therefore deemed outside the norms of what should be allowed on the platform.

If you believe in those norms, then you fully agree with these actions, and when you are in the fringe group, you feel your rights to freedom of speech is severely violated.

I will not try to explain the ins and outs and the dangers that come with deplatforming, but rather point you to the article first, which I highly recommend you read first, before reading on:

Article: A Heretics Guide to Deplatforming

Heretics Guide to Deplatforming

Quoting the author Mark E. Jeftovic :

The phenomenon of deplatforming in the internet age, which includes the component of publicly expressed outrage that impels companies to act to remove objectionable content, provides ample fodder for getting all kinds of things wrong against the backdrop of people wanting to put things right.

To that end I see three distinct themes around it:

  1. We run the risk that the act of deplatforming can become as extreme as the hate speech it seeks to banish.
  2. While it’s within the purview of every private (and by that I mean non-governmental) company to do it, those who do typically undermine their own long term interests. And,
  3. On our present course, we’re headed for a balkanized social media landscape

[…]

The problem with deplatforming is nobody can give you an objective, rule-of-thumb based guideline that can answer the question:

“Where does it stop?”

[…]

The traditional argument “if you’re doing nothing wrong don’t worry” doesn’t hold.

Maybe today, that means “if you are a social justice minded progressive you have nothing to worry about”. But people forget that pendulums swing, history has certain cycles of mean reversion and then overshoot. […]

What happens when everybody on the “safe” side of the narrative today is no longer considered acceptable tomorrow?

Personally I think it’s more pernicious than a mechanical back-and-forth struggle over control of the narrative. Left-vs-right is a false dichotomy. The real battle, the important one, is between those who would seek to decide what is acceptable for other people to think vs those who would rather think for themselves. It is centralization and consolidation vs decentralization and diversity. (emphasis mine)

And there will be a counter-reaction. The censored fringes will go underground:

The next wave of disruption will not look like the last wave, the incumbent [tech] giants are not impervious to assault. […]

The truly fringe discourse, the stuff nobody normal condones will all go underground, where it will be harder to find and monitor and where it will revel in it’s inscrutability

So, some truly important things to think about. Deplatforming - as applied now - may not be a Humane Tech practice, even though it may seem that it is. The Deplatforming itself may lead to something desirable: the break-up of tech monopolies that have become too dominant, and the rise of a more decentralized and free internet again. But the topic itself is a can of worms.

On Hacker News there is a great discussion on the topic, and some more important things brought up. Here is the discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18365851

One of these points is this: Platform owners are private companies that are in theory free to decide what they allow on their platform and what not. But with our tech monopolies or oligopolies, the policies of deplatforming and censoring are an immensely powerful tool, that rivals the power of governments to steer public opinion into what is acceptable and what not. It all depends on the people leading these platforms.

Food for thought.


#2

Thanks for pointing out this article. I have seen a lot of deplatforming on Twitter, Patreon and many other places.
It is a HUGE problem because when sites become well established, and even though they may set up Terms of Use claiming the right to deplatform for any number of vague reasons, when sites start to deplatform to enforce a political agenda it needs to be stopped. I don’t like the idea of gov’t intervention/regulation… but that is where it is headed.