Opinion | Freedom of expression is under attack

Twitter has just permanently banned a U.S. president during his term of office, an historical move resulting in the undermining of the country’s highest office both on the domestic and international stage.

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Big corporations now determine the acceptable speech in society and their power is absolute.

Those fleeing the Twitter censorship found a safe harbour in the social media Parler.

The social media platform Parler branded itself as a free-speech alternative to Twitter. Although laggy and visually unpleasant, the platform offered a space for debate without fear of unreasonable suspension.

Yes, Parler had its fair share of nutcases and conspiracy-minded posts, but it also had a large and growing community of reasonable conservatives fleeing Big Tech’s threat of censorship.

That’s precisely what freedom of expression is about. Yes, there will be nutbags. There will be crazy posts, falsities and positions that are up to debate. Those posts will be debated, they will be logically deconstructed, and the truth will usually prevail.

Political debate is the backbone of our democratic activities. If Facebook and Twitter become the arbiter of truth, falsely fact-checking posts that do not align with their ideological dogma, users will move on to new platforms. These platforms, if only adopted by conservatives, will generate unhealthy echo chambers.

The best way to counter speech with which we disagree is to debate it. A division of our civil society into two parallel but distinct worlds, one where leftists stoke each other up and one where conservatives only talk to conservatives is a dystopian and scary idea.

It took only a few days of mob pressure for Apple and Google to ban Parler from their app store.

Of course, urban leftists who claim to be “anti-capitalist” and “anti-corporatist” rejoiced in seeing an unprecedented amount of power consolidated in the hands of a handful of multinational corporations.

Twitter has never suspended the accounts of Iranian politicians who call for the genocide of Israelis, or the accounts of the Chinese Communist Party who condone the genocide of the Uighurs.

Political action will be necessary to repeal section 230, break up big tech and possibly convert social media platforms into public utilities. Free speech is the cornerstone of our western democracies and the threat that big tech poses to our freedom of expression and belief must be curtailed.

Whether the Democrats will act on this and follow anti-trust legislation will be their litmus test. If they truly stand against monopolistic oligarchies and concentration of power, they will break up big tech and applaud will ring from both sides of the political arena.

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