Freedom of Speech in the Era of Tech Monopolies

Alex Jones is a nut-head, ignorant, bigoted, conspiracy theorist; but it should not be some monopoly-owning, self-centred hipster with a messianic complex who decides whether he should have a voice or not. Tech Giants should not be allowed to establish a monopoly over the truth, but they need to be regulated in accordance to the socio-economic behemoths they have grown into.

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Alex Jones, a right-wing media figure, mostly known for pushing biased talking points and spreading fake news has just had several of his social media accounts banned. As I disagree with most of his views I should be rejoicing, instead I am actually worried!

As I apprehended the news, memories from my University entrance examinations cropped up into my mind. During a certain oral exam, back in 2003, I ended debating with the professor interviewing me about the war in Iraq. I was trying to explain to him that democracy is a value which needs to sprout naturally within a culture for it to embrace it; that democracy needs to be nurtured, and cannot just be exported as if it were a can of peas.

I wonder if back then there had been a Facebook page, or a YouTube channel claiming that the accusations levied against Iraq for possessing weapons of mass destruction were at best ill-sourced, or even outright fraudulent; would have been considered a “conspiracy theory”. What if such social media outlet hypothesised that the “evidence” backing such claims was unclear, or outright forged? Would it have been labelled as fake news?

How about challenging the allegation with regards to Saddam Hussein’s alliance with Al Qaeda? Today we know that the Hussein regime used to hang Al Qaeda activists to street lamp posts as an admonishment to anyone who dared considering joining his ideologically antagonistic fiercest nemesis.

My dissatisfaction with “mainstream journalism” has prompted me to start Malta Unrepentant. While traditional outlets kept peddling out the tale that corruption is increasing, I counter-argued that academic literature and economic performance prove that corruption in Malta is actually decreasing. Should an individual have the right to label my “contrarian” view as inadmissible?

On my other website Forbidden Economics I highlighted various Geo-political and economic interests surrounding the natural gas resources in the middle East, and how these could be intertwined with the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. While I did not outright claim that these were the main cause of these conflicts, implicitly I lent credence to the hypothesis that they weight on them much heavier than concerns about “democracy” and “human rights”.

While that professor clung adamantly to his view that such a cruel dictator like Saddam Hussein should be deposed; he did not ban the diverging opinion, and I was allowed to go through with my education. As strong as our belief in our convictions might be, we should refrain from dogmatically attempting to impose them on others. Instead we should strive to empathise with, and understand our interlocutor’s case; in order to enrich our own views, and be able to explain them better.

Oh but these are private companies – They have the right to decide what is published on their platforms!

Sure… just like a restaurant should be allowed to not serve a patron based on their political opinion, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation. Of course a private establishment has the right to “ask” particularly rude or disrespectful customers to leave. However this needs to be done within the parameters established by the Country’s law.

Google, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter are all monopolies! Yes they are monopolies – there’s no argument about that! They have managed to carve themselves such a central role in contemporary society, that they should be subjected to the same scrutiny Utility companies are. Oh and let’s not start about how they’re all just built on publicly funded research, or how they avoid paying their taxes.

Posts by your friends and pages you liked are routinely buried, or not even shown in your feed, in favour of paid advertising. Additionally, as long as they pay, these companies do not seem to worry too much if sponsored posts are biased hogwash, fake news, or outright scams. Facebook’s and YouTube’s algorithms are designed to trap people in their echo-chambers rather than delivering information, as this does a better job at glueing their users’ eyes to their proprietary advertising space.

I do acknowledge that these companies need to be able to stop people from abusing their platform to harass others, spread hate, or instigate violence. I would even argue that they have a duty to do so. However, they should not be granted a monopoly over deciding what constitutes the truth. Instead they should be regulated in accordance to their gargantuan market power.

Sure! Alex Jones is a nut-head, ignorant, bigoted, conspiracy theorist; but it should not be some monopoly-owning, self-centred hipster with a messianic complex who decides whether he should have a voice or not.

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