We recently reported how anti-Jihad websites were the subject of attempts to deprive them of funding and internet access as a result of appearing on “hate” lists from the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League.
PayPal cut them off after outreach from ProPublica, as discussed in our post, Charlottesville is being exploited to attack freedom of speech and internet freedom.
This is part of a broader threat to free speech and internet freedom. As documented in my post Gathering Storms And Threats to Liberty, even internet gatekeepers, such as domain registrars, are being pressured to remove “hate” groups from the internet.
The problem, of course, it that “hate” group is a subjective standard, and at least as far as the SPLC and ADL lists are concerned, includes non-violent political opponents of the liberal creators of the lists. For my prior reporting on the SPLC lists, see my post Southern Poverty Law Center “extremist” lists used “to silence speech and speakers”.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation sounded the alarm about this trend:
Even for free speech advocates, this situation is deeply fraught with emotional, logistical, and legal twists and turns. All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country. But we must also recognize that on the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with. Those on the left face calls to characterize the Black Lives Matter movement as a hate group. In the Civil Rights Era cases that formed the basis of today’s protections of freedom of speech, the NAACP’s voice was the one attacked.
Protecting free speech is not something we do because we agree with all of the speech that gets protected. We do it because we believe that no one—not the government and not private commercial enterprises—should decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t.
I can now report that two anti-Jihad websites that were cut off by PayPal have been restored, Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch and Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative.
Spencer writes, Victory: PayPal removes ban on Jihad Watch:
Congratulations, lovers of freedom: your messages to PayPal and your cancellations of your account worked: PayPal has restored the Jihad Watch account….
The Left, seeing a golden opportunity when a Nazi psychopath plowed his car into a crowd of Leftists in Charlottesville, tried to use the moment as its Reichstag Fire, and crush all dissent from the hard-Left line. And there is no doubt that initiative will continue. But in banning Jihad Watch, PayPal overreached, and encountered a crowd of free citizens.
I have no intention of restoring the PayPal buttons on Jihad Watch. I know where they stand now, and do not intend to place myself at their mercy again. But nonetheless, this is a victory. Free people still exist in the United States, and the fascists who call themselves anti-fascists will not prevail.
Geller writes, EXCELSIOR! PAYPAL RESTORES AFDI:
Paypal has restored AFDI’s account. Thank YOU for calling and writing. YOU made the difference. YOU made it happen. These leftists must be exposed and held accountable.
Thousands of retweets, I don’t know how many phone calls and emails – but an hour after I posted the suspension, they reversed themselves. Excelsior!
We will use multiple payment providers so they never have us on the ropes again.
ProPublica and the authors of the ProPublica article about Jihad Watch did not respond to a request for comment.
This “victory” is not about Jihad Watch or AFDI – it’s about the weaponization of internet companies to restrict online freedom under pressure from left-wing groups.
Long before Jihad Watch and AFDI were targeted, groups like Media Matters targeted advertisers for conservative media personalities like Glenn Beck, Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh. Current campaigns are underway to drive advertisers away from Breitbart, Gateway Pundit and Canada’s Rebel Media. Whether offline or online, the goal is the same: to silence opposing voices.
The targeting of anti-Jihad websites is very strategic, as Ben Weingarten writes at PJ Media, Tech Blacklisting of Counterjihadists Is What Muslim Brotherhood Seeks: Sabotage by Our Hands:
When one thinks of the embodiment of “hate,” modern-day jihadists are perhaps without equal….
But when today’s sophist Left thinks of “hate,” it focuses its sights not on jihadists, but on those who forthrightly discuss the jihadist threat, among other advocates of non-leftist views.
That is the sad reality in light of the emerging story of the blacklisting of such individuals and organizations by major technology platforms.
While there may be isolated “victories,” the growing censorship of the internet by tech giants goes on. Aaron Renn writes in The NY Post How Apple and Google are censoring the mobile Web:
Google and Apple, with a combined 98 percent market share in mobile-phone operating systems, have banned Gab, an upstart Twitter competitor with a free-speech policy quaintly modeled on the First Amendment itself, from their app stores. Google cited “hate speech” as its reason for exclusion; Gab doesn’t censor….
It’s difficult to credit Gab as a white-supremacist site when its cofounder is a Turkish Kurd and Muslim. Büyükkaya, who says “I’ve never supported Trump for a minute in my entire life,” is concerned about speech repression in his part of the world — for good reason, as Turkey is infamous for its violations of free speech and for locking up journalists. Gab spokesman Sanduja is a South Asian Hindu from Canada.
The reality is that Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and a handful of other tech giants are so dominant, and so dominated by the left, that there is a de facto chill on speech, but only speech that is hostile to progressive talking points. Can anyone name a group on the far left that has been banned, had its domains shut down, or had its advertisers come under sustained attack? If there are such examples, they are isolated in comparison.
Building alternatives makes sense, but it’s easier said than done. The Washington Post reports:
… the actions are also heightening concerns over how tech companies are becoming the arbiters of free speech in America. And in response, right-wing technologists are building parallel digital services that cater to their own movement.
Gab.ai, a social network for promoting free speech, was founded in August 2016 by Silicon Valley engineers alienated by the region’s liberalism. Other conservatives have founded Infogalactic, a Wikipedia for the alt-right, as well as crowdfunding tools Hatreon and WeSearchr. The latter was used to raise money for James Damore, a white engineer who was fired after criticizing Google’s diversity policy.
“If there needs to be two versions of the Internet so be it,” Gab.ai tweeted Wednesday morning. The company’s spokesman, Utsav Sanduja, later warned of a “revolt” in Silicon Valley against the way tech companies are trying to control the national debate.
“There will be another type of Internet who is run by people politically incorrect, populist, and conservative,” Sanduja said.
The concerns come not only from the right. In addition to the Electronic Frontier Foundation quoted above, Jillian York at Buzzfeed writes of the tech social media giants:
The truth is companies get these decisions wrong a lot of the time. And because they’re not transparent about how their rules are enforced or about how much content is taken down, we only hear about the bad decisions when they make headlines. That is happening increasingly often these days, as those in media circles take more interest in the issue….
I’m not so worried about companies censoring Nazis, but I am worried about the implications it has for everyone else. I’m worried about the unelected bros of Silicon Valley being the judge and jury, and thinking that mere censorship solves the problem. I’m worried that, just like Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince woke up one morning and decided he’d had enough of the Daily Stormer, some other CEO might wake up and do the same for Black Lives Matter or antifa….
At some point there will be a sufficient backlash against Silicon Valley’s stranglehold on and strangling of free speech, to make a difference. But “hopefully” does not offer much protection right now.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.