The takedown of Parler, currently in progress, is one of most chilling and ominous signs that this country is heading to a very bad place, a lot worse than we have seen.

Parler is the main alternative to Twitter for Trump supporters and conservatives, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes by force of being shut down by Twitter. Famous conservative media personalities have flocked there, and Parler apps were near or at the top of both the Google and Apple App Store downloads. That trend accelerated after Twitter permanently banned Trump.

Legal Insurrection’s Parler account has 10 times the number of followers as our Twitter account, even though we’ve only been at Parler since last summer.

Yet Google and Apple now have removed the Parler App from their stores, and in the coup de grace, Amazon Web Services, the largest corporate hosting service, gave Parler 24-hours notice that it was terminating hosting services, effectively removing Parler from the internet. That clock runs out at midnight Pacific time tonight.

But it’s worse than that. Parler’s other vendors are afraid to help the company, including Parler’s law firm. This is part of a tactic we have seen develop for years where lawyers and law firms are pressured not to represent controversial conservative causes and people — but representing al-Qaeda members at Gitmo is just fine. It’s a perversion of the legal system, and it’s happening to Parler as well, as CEO John Matze explained:

The pretext for singling out Parler is that some people have posted threats there, which is a violation of Parler policy. There is no claim that the riot at the Capitol on January 6 was coordinated through Parler — not even Apple, in its letter terminating services, made that claim. USA Today, citing other sources, gave examples of calls for violence prior to the Capitol Hill riot — on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and a single video on Parler:

Violent rhetoric including threats against elected officials and police officers flooded all social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube, not just online forums popular with extremists…..

On Facebook, pages and private and public groups urged civil war if Democrats were not arrested for election interference, alleged police officers were assisting “Antifa” and claimed “Antifa” members were impersonating “patriots” at the Capitol. A video encouraged protesters to bring pepper spray, tear gas, batons, tasers and knives.

A Facebook page called Red-State Secession shared addresses of “enemies” including members of Congress. One post urged people to prepare “to use force to defend civilization.” Facebook removed the page Wednesday.

Even the president of anti-conservative Media Matters points to Facebook as the main organizing site:

Facebook had much bigger role in creating conditions that led to as well as organizing for January 6 event. We tracked people using FB to organize attendees to bring guns to the Jan 6 event. FB did nothing.

So why aren’t Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit being deplatformed? Why are they picking on Parler?

That some people post threats in violation of policy is not at all unique to Parler. Twitter has had a longstanding and pervasive problem with threatening conduct and threats, so much so that Amnesty International calls it Toxic Twitter, and wrote reports on violent language directed at women on Twitter, and Twitter’s failure to remove death threats. Not that long ago Twitter hosted accounts for the military wing of Hamas, and related entities (I know, I used to check the accounts when something was happening in Gaza).

If you have spent any time on Twitter, and I’ve spent a lot, it is a cesspool of hate and conspiracy theories, particularly related to so-called Russia Collusion. The notion that Parler is worse is a fabrication.

Facebook has deep problems with terrorist groups organizing on its platform, so much so that it deletes millions of pieces of terrorist information a year but cannot keep up:

Facebook removed nearly 40% more content that it categorized as terrorism in the second quarter compared with the first three months of the year [2020], the company said.

Facebook removed about 8.7 million pieces of such content—which includes, according to the company’s definition, nonstate actors that engage in or advocate for violence to achieve political, religious or ideological aims—in the second quarter of this year, up from 6.3 million in the first quarter.

For “organized hate” groups, a separate category, the company said it took down four million pieces of content, down from 4.7 million in the first quarter….

Instagram removed about 388,800 pieces of terrorist content, down from 440,600 in the first quarter, but it removed more organized hate content in the second quarter—266,000 pieces versus 175,100 in the previous quarter….

White supremacist groups have been a focus for the social-media giant. Since October of last year, the company said it completed 14 network takedowns to remove 23 organizations in violation of Facebook’s policies. The majority of those takedowns, nine of the 14, targeted “hate and/or white supremacist groups,” including the KKK, the Proud Boys, Blood & Honour and Atomwaffen, the company said.

Facebook, not Parler, is the central hub for terrorists, organized hate groups, and White Supremacist groups.

So the claim that Parler represents some unique risk to safety is a lie. It’s a lie driven by politics, exploiting the justifiable national outrage at the Capitol Hill riot to purge political rivals through unprecedended collusion among the internet oligopolies, furthered by isolation tactics to cut Parler off from legal and other services.

All of this was predicable, and has been coming steadily down the road. Collapses, it’s said, happen slowly, then very suddenly. And so it has happened with the collapse of internet freedom through the domination of a handful of companies that control the flow of information and whose platforms are indispensible for political discourse.

The defense that the internet giants are not subject to the First Amendment because they are not governments is no defense — the accumulation of power in the hands of a few non-governmental entities mostly freed from the restraints of the First Amendment is in some ways more dangerous.

In 2017, on the occasion of Legal Insurrection’s 9th Anniversary, I wrote, Legal Insurrection is 9 years old, and filled with dread:

… [I’m] waking up to implications of the concentration of power in a small number of social media and internet companies who have been weaponized to shut down speech and expression. Google, Facebook, Twitter and two handfuls of other companies now completely control our ability to communicate with each other, while internet backbone companies are poised to block internet access altogether.

Imagine living in a repressive country in which the government blocked access to and suppressed internet content. You don’t need to move. It’s coming here but from private industry. This is, in many ways, more dangerous than government suppression of free speech because at least in the U.S. the government is subject to the First Amendment, and can be voted out of office.

On December 14, 2020, I further cautioned about the merging of the internet oligopolies and Democratic Party, and the need to shift the focus to organizing rather than continuing to contest the election:

The merging of the Democratic Party and the high tech oligarchs who control the flow of information is one of the most serious threats non-liberals have faced politically. They will hit the ground running. Will we?

They just hit the ground running, using the Capitol Hill riot as the pretext. And it is a pretext as demonstrated by singling out Parler, seeking to deplatform it from the internet and destroy it, even though liberal darlings like Facebook and Twitter are far more toxic.

Sinclair Lewis wrote a novel, “It Can’t Happen Here,” frequently used by liberals as a “prediction” of Trump. In fact, it’s more of a prediction of the loss of freedom that is happening now by tech oligologies choking speech in collusion with a political party.

Free speech and the ability to express political ideas is a societal pressure-relief valve. That relief valve is being slammed shut, and the consequences are entirely predictable, particularly combined with organized efforts to get Trump supporters fired and made unemployable.

Democrats and their tech oligopoly friends are drunk with internet power, and feel all-powerful. If history shows us anything, it is that those who seek to repress free expression inevitably increase the repression, and the people repressed find a way to push back. In China, The Communist Party has increased repression through internet control and deplatforming dissenting voices through extensive social media monitoring. It can happen here, and it is. Tech oligopolies have learned well from the Chinese Communist Party.

Parler is the canary in the coal mine. Whether it surives or not, internet repression by tech oligopolies is making the national atmosphere more toxic by the day.

[The title was changed after publication.]

 

 
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