Former US President’s Donald Trump’s plan to launch his own social network ‘Truth’ has been met with ridicule and at times outright disgust. And perhaps, rightly so, the former US President is famous for using social media networks, especially Twitter to fan discontent and at times spread reported lies through his Twitter accounts.
The height of this was the Capital riots where the former President was accused of using his account to fan the flames by denying election outcomes. The result was the eventual banning of both his Twitter and Facebook accounts.
It is after this that Trump decided to launch his own social network ‘Truth’.
“We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favourite American President has been silenced,” wrote Mr Trump.
“Everyone asks me why doesn’t someone stand up to Big Tech? Well, we will be soon!” he added.
Now whether you agree or disagree with Mr Trump and his politics are not important. But Trump has clearly touched on the issue of censorship here.
It is no secret that big tech increasingly favours the left. And while this is not a problem in itself, it does raise the question as to whether tech companies, especially those in social media, should let politics influence their decision making.
As the battle between left and right rages on, especially in the West, one fault laid at the feet of left-leaning tech companies has been what has been come to be known as ‘cancel culture.’
Cancel culture is defined on dictionary.com as “the popular practice of withdrawing support for public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.”
But, is ‘cancelling’ wrong? This is the central question of this argument.
While some statements might be false and appear to incite violence, we still have to acknowledge every person’s constitutional right to ‘free speech and free expression. This is guaranteed in the constitution no matter what political side you belong to.
It is, after all, this freedom that has directly or indirectly inspired the innovations that we enjoy today.
Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are the central tenets of democracy. Without the freedom to say and do what we want (albeit within the law) society slides into autocracy.
This brings us to the role big tech plays in all of this.
Should platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have any role to play in politics? Evidently, they do and more worryingly if any of these platforms lean to one side the political divide, they stifle debate and healthy political discourse, a key element of the democratic process.
The truth is democracy is difficult to implement but worth the effort. Political discourse and elections might be difficult and sometimes even emotionally painful, they are however the only substitute we have for outright violence or dictatorship.
And this is exactly why no individual or group should have the power to steer public discourse. It would be no different from a dictatorship.
Today social media networks like Facebook and Twitter have the power to completely alter public opinion, even control it. While allowing everybody access, they do retain the power to delete posts or completely de-platform individuals for posting what they deem as ‘harmful’ content.
And if recent events are anything to go by, ‘harmful’ content might range from words that might incite violence to someone simply disagreeing with a popular point of view.
Stifling dissent even on social media is a slow slide to autocracy. The uniqueness of each individual guarantees a wide range of opinions on virtually every subject. In fact, it should be cause for concern when there are no differing opinions on a particular opinion. This is what we see on social media, a propping up of a particular viewpoint while stifling any opposing view. It is akin to outright autocracy and is dangerous.
The control of public opinion by a few co-operations goes against the central concept of democracy; the rule of the majority.
The level of power wielded by platforms like Twitter and Facebook should be cause for concern for both sides of the political divide. Big tech antitrust should then also focus on reigning in this power to protect freedom.