While you were focused on the midterm elections, the Kavanaugh hearings, and other media firestorms, a coalition of left-wing activist groups, including some that actively attack conservatives, has moved forward with efforts to get big tech companies to censor online speech.

The problem of big tech companies acting as speech gatekeepers has been a focus here for a long time. What starts with calls to censor “Nazis”and “White Supremacists” inevitably morphs into broader attempts to censor anyone who is right of center or deemed to have expressed politically incorrect views.

The focus on internet gatekeepers is a way around First Amendment protections, which only limit what the government can do.

Big tech, however, controls the means of access to the most important speech forum, the internet. By creating content chokepoints operated by private entities, leftist groups believe they have found a way of limiting speech without implicating government conduct. Yet the censorship can be just as effective when done by Google or Facebook or Cloudfare or other gatekeepers as when done by authoritarian and totalitarian governments (which happens frequently abroad).

I wrote about this problem in August 2017, Charlottesville is being exploited to attack freedom of speech and internet freedom:

This was a really bad week for freedom of speech and internet freedom.

As documented in my post Gathering Storms And Threats to Liberty, corporations that operate the gateways to the internet, such as domain registrars and services such as Cloudfare, have come under pressure and have capitulated to drive the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer from the internet. That pressure is now moving to other organizations based on biased and politicized “hate” lists from groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League.

I pointed out the danger to internet freedom:

Attempts to induce corporations to silence conservatives are nothing new. We have seen years of pressure tactics from groups such as Media Matters to shut down voices such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity by pressuring and harassing advertisers. Campaigns are currently underway to force advertisers away from websites such as Breitbart and Gateway Pundit….

That tactic now has gone to a completely different level with attempts to intimidate internet hosting companies and companies that provide internet infrastructure to cut off access to the internet. So far, the effort has been focused on the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. People might not care that The Daily Stormer is taken down, but the history of leftist tactics show that the target universe will expand dramatically and it will not be long before efforts are directed, as they are now for advertisers, at mainstream conservative and right-of-center websites….

Companies like Cloudfare and others who provide internet infrastrucure will come under increasing pressure, and it won’t be limited to the Storm Fronts of the world. We know from history that the “hate” label is broadly applied for political purposes, and will be used only against right-of-center websites.

Being cut off from domain registrars and other aspects of the internet backbone is something we expect from totalitarian governments. Now that power is in the control of almost-uniformly left-wing corporate managers.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been at the center of these efforts through it’s “hatewatch” and “extremist” lists. Those lists are then used to try to keep speakers off campus, and off the internet. The Center for American Progress is a Democrat-operative group that operates, among other things, Think Progress, a website that regularly attacks conservatives. Color of Change also has engaged in such efforts.

So it should come as no surprise that SPLC, CAP and Color of Change are included in a group of leftist activist demanding internet censorship by big tech. NBC News reports on the effort, misleadingly referring to them as “civil rights” groups, Civil rights groups call for tech firms to crack down on hate groups:

Six organizations that push for civil rights are asking the tech industry to take a harder line against hate groups that use their services.

The organizations said in a report on Thursday that they want companies across the tech sector — from social media networks and retailers to online payment processors and website hosts — to prohibit “hateful activities” in their terms of service and to put more resources toward enforcement.

They said they plan to release a report card next year on the extent to which tech companies follow their recommendations. The report came from the Center for American Progress, Color of Change, Free Press, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the National Hispanic Media Coalition and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

https://www.changetheterms.org/

It doesn’t stop with these six groups. They are just leading the charge, but the report titled Change the Terms indicates dozens of other activist groups in their coalition:

https://www.changetheterms.org/coalition

The definition of “hateful activity” used by these groups is sufficiently broad as to be abused for political purposes:

Change the Terms uses the term “hateful activities” to mean activities that incite or engage in violence, intimidation, harassment, threats, or defamation targeting an individual or group based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.

We know this definition will be abused because such concepts already are abused by SPLC, which at one time had Rand Paul and Ben Carson on its list of extremists, and targets Christian groups. Under this definition, SPLC arguably should be censored due to its anti-Christian bias. But that’s not how these lists work, it’s unidirectional.

There is every reason to believe that this is not an effort to address narrow and potentially violent activities online, or stalking and other activities that are illegal. Rather, given the coalition members, it’s clearly an attempt to give left-wing groups de facto control of who gets to speak online by controlling the big tech gatekeepers.