August 7, 2018

DAVID FRENCH ON THE UNPERSONING OF ALEX JONES:

There are reasons to be deeply concerned that the tech companies banned Alex Jones. In short, the problem isn’t exactly what they did, it’s why they did it.

Rather than applying objective standards that resonate with American law and American traditions of respect for free speech and the marketplace of ideas, the companies applied subjective standards that are subject to considerable abuse. Apple said it “does not tolerate hate speech.” Facebook accused Mr. Jones of violating policies against “glorifying violence” or using “dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants.” YouTube accused Mr. Jones of violating policies against “hate speech and harassment.”

These policies sound good on first reading, but they are extraordinarily vague. We live in times when the slightest deviation from the latest and ever-changing social justice style guide is deemed bigoted and, yes, “dehumanizing.” We live in a world where the Southern Poverty Law Center, a formerly respected civil-rights organization, abuses its past trust to label a host of mainstream organizations (including my former employer, the Alliance Defending Freedom) and individuals as “hate groups,” “white nationalists” or “anti-Muslim extremists,” based sometimes on disagreements about theology or sexual morality or sometimes on outright misreadings and misrepresentations of an individual’s beliefs and views.

Exhibit A of how wrong the center has been: In June, it paid Maajid Nawaz $3.375 million for labeling him an “anti-Muslim extremist.” This is rich, considered Mr. Nawaz is a former Islamist turned Muslim reformer.

Yet Big Tech still listens to the Southern Poverty Law Center and takes action to punish its targets.

A few points: (1) This is absolutely the first stage in a coordinated plan to deplatform everyone on the right. It’s not really about Alex Jones at all. (2) Aside from its free-speech* implications, which are serious indeed, this also looks like an antitrust violation: Media companies, which compete with Jones for eyeballs, colluded to get other media companies to shut him down. Were I Jones, I’d file an antitrust suit. This is more than arguably conspiracy in restraint of trade (and possibly a conspiracy to deprive him of civil rights). (3) This is proof that we need to break up these big tech companies, which exercise way too much power via their near-monopolies. That they coordinate in the abuse of those monopolies only makes it clearer.

Related: Roger Simon: InfoWars And The Rise Of The Tech Fascists.

* Note that I say “free speech” and not “First Amendment.” The First Amendment only limits government, but “free speech” is — or at least until very recently was — a broader social value in favor of not shutting people up just because we don’t like their ideas or politics. As for the “private companies can do what they want,” well, that’s not the law, or the custom, and hasn’t been for a long time. It’s especially not true where the companies have, as these companies have, affirmatively represented to users and shareholders that they don’t discriminate based on viewpoints.