Lucky me, I downloaded Parler to see what it was all about, and it disappeared. It seems they violated the terms of service of the “Big Tech” companies it relied on for its business. Apple, Google, and Amazon claimed Parler allowed violent content on its platform. Without the ability to acquire new users and web services, it was simply out of business.
On the surface, this seems to be well within private businesses’ right to run their firms as they feel fit. As one with libertarian tendencies, I would generally agree they don’t have to give the free-speech protections of the first amendment to employees or those who do business. Still, it seemed the prohibitions almost always adversely affected those on the right. Similar content on the left never gets the same reaction. The measures inflicted by the Big Tech companies align with the goals of the Democrats. It just doesn’t seem right.
It turns out all this might not be legal. Vivek Ramaswamy & Jed Rubinfeld, in a recent Wall Street Journal OP-ED, pointed out, the government can’t induce or conspire with a private entity to do something Constitutionally prohibited from doing itself. I’m not a constitutional lawyer, but reading through the cases they cited, I wouldn’t want to defend big tech in front of a supreme court with six conservatives. Some of those Justices went through various degrees of “cancelling” by the Democrats. They might match Democratic control of the Presidency and both Congress houses with Big Tech’s lopsided actions in their favor. These actions are occurring while leading Democrats are proposing anti-trust measures. This picture looks terrible.
Big Tech has put forth the argument if people don’t like what they’re doing, they should go to a competitor. Apple, Goggle, and Amazon’s actions effectively putting Parler out of business expose this defense’s falsity. The rapidly growing Twitter competitor found itself almost overnight banned from the two major App stores and without access to Amazon’s cloud services they had contracted. The Big Tech companies claimed Parler violated their terms of service by allowing certain content on the platform. This content allegedly contributed to the storming of the Capitol Building.
It seems odd to single out Parler when similar questionable content appeared on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. In their New York Times article, “How Facebook Incubated the Insurrection,” Stuart a. Thompson and Charlie Warzel pointed to Facebook and YouTube as online staging areas for the 1/6 rally. Nothing has happened to those platforms. Stranger still, law enforcement entities say they’re following dangerous chatter on the internet concerning Inauguration Day. They don’t see or hear it on the shutdown Parler. The authorities are seeing it on other social media platforms. The crushing of Parler looks like singling out the fast-growing upstart. Did Jeff Bezos’ Amazon close down a competitor to favor its much more valuable customer Twitter? Bezos owns the left-wing, Democratic friendly Washington Post newspaper. Parler appealed to those right of center. Did politics play into this?
“The statute in Section 230(c)(2) further provides “Good Samaritan” protection from civil liability for operators of interactive computer services in the removal or moderation of third-party material they deem obscene or offensive, even of constitutionally protected speech, as long as it is done in good faith.” If a Big Tech company censors one for something without expunging another for the same thing, is it acting in good faith?” While this section of the communications act has protected Social Media Platforms in the past, those big tech companies and their allies may find this umbrella is leaky.
Parler had the most workable solution. Avoiding censoring anything leaves the choice squarely up to the user. How is a single company to know what is right? What is objectionable to one is talking to someone else. If some content appears to foster something illegal, the right thing to do is report it to the proper authorities. Parler reported violent content to law enforcement. They might want the content left up so they can track and match it. Law enforcement is doing this to protect Inauguration Day. Driving criminal behavior underground can be counterproductive. Once the appropriate authorities are made aware, let them make the decisions they’re empowered to make. Anything else is vigilantism.
Even apparent falsehoods are best in the open, where they can be accessed and countered. The idea a single company can distinguish between a legitimate debate and myth is ridiculous. “Follow the science” is foolish when what we know changes from moment to moment. We do best when ideas are aired and debated in the open. It’s the American way.
To many, the idea of a Governing Party allied with labor unions would get together with big business to rule is farfetched. Yet, “a government body that brings together federations of workers and employers syndicates to regulate production holistically,” is the definition of Fascism. Maybe the courts won’t be so naive. Arbitrary and capricious comes to mind.