Social media is often abuzz with politics—from immigration and gun control to infrastructure and tariffs. Rarely is the social media itself the topic of discussion. But now is long past time for that discussion.
It is certainly no secret that social media companies are overwhelmingly left-wing, fueling the fake “Russia” conspiracy theory, and endlessly bashing President Donald Trump. But now, the social media giants of the Internet—Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (one of the main subsidiaries Alphabet, which is the corporate parent of Google)—have been preparing their next big, heinous move: an attempt to ban right-wing voices outright from their platforms.
It started small, with random small-scale conservative accounts being banned from Twitter in small batches. Since December of 2017, a handful of fringe figures have also been banned from Twitter, including white nationalist Jared Taylor, alt-Right Internet personality Anthime Gionet (also known as “Baked Alaska”), and anti-Semitic congressional candidate Paul Nehlen. But this wasn’t the extent of it. While this period saw the banning of mostly fringe figures, a handful of larger voices were also no-platformed, including paleoconservative YouTuber James Allsup and longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone.
Then in late February, Twitter went all-out and banned more than 2,000 right-leaning accounts at once. These attacks were dismissed by the Left, who wrote off all of these accounts as either Russian bots or Nazis, without any evidence to support their claims.
Also keep in mind that prior to this, an alternative website to Twitter finally emerged and threatened its stranglehold on the “microblogging platform” portion of the Internet: Gab, a website dedicated to completely free expression in short posts. When Gab showed signs of growing prominence, all the major social media websites teamed up against it: Google, Apple, and Twitter all engaged in a well-coordinated “blitz-smear”, writing off Gab as a website full of “hate speech,” and with Apple and Google removing Gab from their respective app stores.
Similarly, another major potential alternative, Minds, which is more of a social networking site like Facebook, with some video-sharing capabilities similar to YouTube was denied a platform when Google banned it from their advertising platform, thus essentially removing the website from Google’s search results.
Facebook also has been engaged in similar actions. At first it was mere virtue-signaling over the alleged “Russia” conspiracy, with founder Mark Zuckerberg volunteering to cooperate with the investigation by handing over “evidence” of Russian-financed ads. But then, very recently, it was reported that Facebook made a serious change in its news feed algorithm, allegedly designed to emphasize posts from family and friends rather than businesses and media. This algorithm change resulted in a 45 percent drop in engagement with President Trump’s official Facebook page.
Then, as if that was not enough, the censoring spread to Google’s largest subsidiary website, YouTube. Just as Twitter completely dominates the micro-blogging portion of the Internet, YouTube has a complete monopoly on video-sharing websites, as it far outranks any potential competitors by lightyears.
YouTube recently was censoring and removing videos critical of David Hogg, the student-turned-gun-control-advocate in the wake of the Parkland shooting, even after one such video became the #1 trending video on the site for a brief period of time. To this end, YouTube has been zeroing in on the official channel for Alex Jones’ website InfoWars, which has more than 2.2 million subscribers and has amassed over 1.5 billion total video views. Emphasizing Jones’ past history of insane and baseless conspiracy theories, and his recent coverage of the major push for gun control after Parkland, YouTube has given his channel two “strikes,” putting him one more strike away from a permanent ban.
But just as with Twitter, this censoring is not limited to far-right and fringe figures. A couple days after InfoWars’ second strike, Google and YouTube essentially outright banned another prominent user: Carl Benjamin, also known as “Sargon of Akkad.” Benjamin, who has more than 760,000 subscribers and over 200 million video views, describes himself as a classical liberal, and is often called a “centrist” or a “skeptic.” Although his videos primarily focus on criticizing the far-left, he has also occasionally clashed with the alt-Right, including a recent five-hour live stream where he debated white nationalist Richard Spencer. On March 1, Benjamin used his Facebook page to post a screenshot of an email from Google, informing him that he has been locked out of his Google account, effectively banning him from YouTube even though his channel had zero strikes. He ended the caption with a blunt and ominous warning: “The purge is here.”
All of this is happening because the Left and the Right can agree on one thing about the 2016 presidential election: Social media played a massive, historic role in Donald Trump’s victory. There’s a reason Trump named his 2016 social media director, Brad Parscale, as his 2020 campaign manager.
Some have already taken legal action against the social media giants in question; Jared Taylor and Roger Stone both have sued Twitter over their respective bans, while the conservative publication Prager University (also known as “PragerU”) has sued Google and YouTube over the censoring of more than 40 of its videos.
What about starting up alternatives to YouTube, Facebook, Google, and Twitter? That would be a massive undertaking. Although Gab and Minds both paid a high price for taking that bold step, they still have achieved impressive results in their respective Alexa rankings: Minds is ranked in the top 13,000 websites in the world (despite a significant decline since July), and Gab has continued to rise, seeing a massive increase since August that has placed it among the top 14,000.
There is no question that the overwhelmingly left-leaning social media giants and their bosses would love to see Trump lose in 2020, and they will do whatever they can to make that happen. They will change entire website algorithms, ban thousands of users, and remove scores of viral videos to get their way. Now, more than ever, the fight over the Internet is crucial as 2020 slowly approaches, and indeed, it could set the tone for all future presidential elections.