Information Darkness Is Coming (Unless…)

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Just over six years ago, I attended Google’s Political Innovation Summit in New York City. Over the course of the day, it dawned on me that, in the not-too-distant future, Google and other social media companies like Facebook and Twitter would have the power to control and manipulate information flow in unforeseen and dramatic ways. That power would give the tech giants the ability to manipulate elections and policy debates and even to re-define what free speech actually means.

That future has arrived.

In the last week alone we’ve seen Google attempt to make a co-founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, “disappear.” Why? Moore is an unrepentant skeptic of man-made global warming. He’s been extraordinarily critical not only of the radical greens that have taken over the environmental movement in general but also specifically critical of Greenpeace.

Someone must have complained to the overlords at Google, because Moore recently was scrubbed from the search results for “founder of Greenpeace.” Google claims its search results are the products of an unbiased algorithm, but clearly the company’s biases are showing.

Now we also discover that a vice president of Google personally helped block a Christian channel from running ads on a video regarding same sex marriage. Why? Because Google employees were offended by the video’s message and believed it didn’t represent “Google’s values.”

But Google isn’t alone in its digital censorship. Twitter just confirmed it shadowbanned some tweets of The Federalist‘s co-founder, Sean Davis. His tweets regarding the transcripts of Lisa Page’s testimony in front of Congress disappeared to everyone in his feed but Davis himself, giving the appearance that those tweets were still being seen by others when in fact only Davis could see them.

Twitter officials finally admitted to Davis this week that they did shadowban the tweets about Page “to keep people safe.” Safe from what? Public information? The truth? These tweets were simply screenshots of the Page transcripts with some commentary by Davis.

I’m sick of it. Every single decision of these tech companies seems to cut the same way—against a conservative worldview, against religious communities, against anything that doesn’t fit comfortably within their little Silicon Valley bubble.

Many of Big Tech’s defenders on the Right cry a familiar refrain: “Oh, let the free market work!” Great. Except this isn’t a free market.

It’s time regulators and the American people wake up and reject the illusion that Facebook, Google, and Twitter are still “neutral” technology platforms; they have become publishers and telecom companies with explicit biases and massive consequences for their actions.

Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the like are functionally monopolies. Google dominates as the de facto search engine of the planet. In many countries, Facebook is synonymous with the internet. Politicians across the country now use social media as their primary form of communication with their constituents.

People telling you there is no bias and that these companies aren’t monopolies—the ones insisting that the tech companies shouldn’t be broken up or face any regulatory scrutiny—turn out, typically, to be the kinds of people who have wads of tech company cash falling out of their back pockets.

Fact is today the internet is a modern day Forum, the Agora, the marketplace for the free exchange of ideas. It might be a shock to the systems of its progenitors ensconced in their Silicon Valley safe spaces, but our republic thrives on that free exchange of ideas, even ideas that make people uncomfortable.

If the election of Donald Trump taught our coastal elites anything, it’s that a huge segment of our country is unheard and unfamiliar to them. It turns out that vast numbers of people have a different view of the world and a different kind of moral compass than those of the coastal elites. They are minimally represented in the halls of Congress, the mass media in New York, or the entertainment giants on the West Coast. We don’t see or hear from them unless they’re being mocked or pitied. Enough is enough.

To err in any direction but toward the free flow of information is to sow the seeds of our eventual demise. The Washington Post intones that “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” And for once, the paper is right: democracy does die in the darkness when unaccountable techo-elites manipulate the free flow of information, hide their malfeasance from public accountability, and throttle ideas they find inconvenient.

Many conservatives and lawmakers of all stripes and party affiliations are still asleep in the light. It’s time to wake up: the information darkness is coming if we don’t do anything about it.

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Photo Credit: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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About Ned Ryun

Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority. You can find him on Twitter @nedryun.