There’s no shortage of nincompoops buying into the legitimacy of the Biden presidency and the bullshit narrative about “an insurrection” at the U.S. Capitol building on January 6th. I’m sure they’re quite content in their ignorance — they refuse to even consider the evidence available regarding the lack of ballot integrity in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas, and elsewhere, and they continue to pretend the January 6th debacle was a real threat to our democracy, rather than a largely peaceful group of wide-eyed goofballs who were mostly waved through the barricades by the Capitol Police.
One of the best summaries I’ve read about the attitudes of those who feel disenfranchised by the 2020 election is this series of tweets by the of the MartyrMade podcast, Darryl Cooper. His tweets are also discussed here by Tyler O’Neil. It is Cooper’s “general theory” on the perspective of “Boomer tier” Trump supporters, as he calls them. Last year’s fraudulent election was only the culmination of events going back to the investigation of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. The whole thread is interesting, but you must get past a little “soft cover” at the start that might have been intended to distract the speech police at Twitter. I’ll try to summarize here:
The intelligence community spied on the Trump campaign in 2016, and that’s a major transgression! The DNC was involved too, actually paying for fabricated evidence. James Comey falsely denied any knowledge of that fact. John Brennan and Adam Schiff also lied shamelessly in this affair.
By the time Trump supporters realized all the noise was fake, they naively expected justice to be served. But no, and so their faith in certain institutions was shaken.
The gaslighting continued, and the whole thing consumed energy and had a chilling effect on participation in the Trump Administration. This was an active kind of subversion crossing “all institutional boundaries”.
The participation of the press was the poison icing on the cake. The press is now viewed by much of the country as a propaganda arm of “The Regime”.
Many aren’t sure whether the election was fixed, but if it was, they know they’d be lied to about it.
Voting procedures in many jurisdictions were changed using COVID as a pretext.
The press smoke-screened the Biden, Inc. scandals, including evidence of pay-for-play and incredibly lurid information on Hunter Biden’s laptop. Instead, the press played-up gossip about Trump.
Trump people rightly felt betrayed by the very institutions they’ve always trusted, but they voted in record numbers, and we’re not convinced all were counted.
“But when the four critical swing states went dark at midnight, they knew.”
Conspiracy theories abounded, but media and tech shut down discussion of real anomalies. Had the election gone Trump’s way, they would have cried foul!
The courts were handcuffed by fear of political violence and retribution.
I agree with substantially all of Cooper’s thread. Our experience since Donald Trump became an active politician has been disillusioning in several respects: it has shown how flimsy our constitutional rights and our republic are when the wrong actors come to dominate certain institutions. It also shows how malleable are the “facts” that we are asked to accept by these actors. We are seemingly helpless to defend the rule of law, the Constitution, and social norms when an intransigent minority decides it can simply ignore them. This is how tyranny is borne.
Election integrity is not an outlandish objective. Neither is demanding fair treatment of diverse viewpoints from social media, Big Tech, and educational institutions. And neither is it outlandish to demand safe communities and adequate police protection; that our borders be enforced; that our public health officials speak honestly about risks; and that we should never, under any circumstances, be judged, punished, or rewarded based on the color of our skin. These are just a few of the things we must demand, and never take “no” for an answer.
Factions comprising a majority of the public want to see SOMETHING done to curb the power of Big Tech, particularly Google/Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter. The apprehensions center around market power, censorship, and political influence, and many of us share all of those concerns. The solutions proposed thus far generally fall into the categories of antitrust action and legislative changes with the intent to protect free speech, but it is unlikely that anything meaningful will happen under the current administration. That would probably require an opposition super-majority in Congress. Meanwhile, some caution the problem is blown out of proportion and that we should not be too eager for government to intervene.
There are problems with almost every possible avenue for reining in the tech oligopolies. From a libertarian perspective, the most ideal solution to all dimensions of this problem is organic market competition. Unfortunately, the task of getting competitive platforms off the ground seems almost insurmountable. In social media, the benefits to users of a large, incumbent network are nearly overwhelming. That’s well known to anyone who’s left Facebook and found how difficult it is to gain traction on other social media platforms. Hardly anyone you know is there!
Google is the dominant search engine by far, and the reasons are not quite as wholesome as the “don’t-be-evil” mantra goes. There are plenty of other search engines, but some are merely shells using Google’s engine in the background. Others have privacy advantages and perhaps more balanced search results than Google, but with relatively few users. Google’s array of complementary offerings, such as Google Maps, Street View, and Scholar, make it hard for users to get away from it entirely.
Amazon has been very successful in gaining retail market share over the years. It now accounts for an estimated 50% of retail e-commerce sales in the U.S., according to Statista. That’s hardly a monopoly, but Amazon’s scale and ubiquity in the online retail market creates massive advantages for buyers in terms of cost, convenience, and the scope of offerings. It creates advantages for online sellers as well, as long as Amazon itself doesn’t undercut them, which it is known to do. As a buyer, you almost have to be mad at them to bother with other online retail platforms or shopping direct. I’m mad, of course, but I STILL find myself buying through Amazon more often than I’d like. But yes, Amazon has competition.
Quillettefavors antitrust action against Big Tech. Amazon and Alphabet are most often mentioned in the context of anti-competitive behavior, though the others are hardly free of complaints along those lines. Amazon routinely discriminates in favor of products in which it has a direct or indirect interest, and Google discriminates in favor of its own marketplace and has had several costly run-ins with EU antitrust enforcers. Small businesses are often cited as victims of Google’s cut-throat business tactics.
The Department of Justice filed suit against Google in October, 2020 for anti-competitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising businesses. The main thrust of the charges are:
Exclusivity agreements prohibiting preinstallation of other search engines;
Tying arrangements forcing preinstallation of Google and no way to delete it;
Suppressing competition in advertising;
There are two other antitrust cases filed by state attorneys generalagainst Google alleging monopolistic practices benefitting its own services at the expense of sellers in various lines of business. All of these cases, state and federal, are likely to drag on for years and the outcomes could take any number of forms: fines, structural separation of different parts of the business, and divestiture are all possibilities. Or perhaps nothing. But I suppose one can hope that the threat of anti-trust challenges, and of prolonged battles defending against such charges, will have a way of tempering anti-competitive tendencies, that is, apart from actual efficiency and good service.
These cases illustrate the fundamental tension between our desire for successful businesses to be rewarded and antitrust. As free market economists such as Murray Rothbard have said, there is something “arbitrary and capricious” about almost any anti-trust action. Legal thought on the matter has evolved to recognize that monopoly itself cannot be viewed as a crime, but the effort to monopolize might be. But as Rothbard asserted, claims along those lines tend to be rather arbitrary, and he was quite right to insist that the only true monopoly is one granted by government. In this case, many conservatives believe Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 was the enabling legislation. But that is something anti-trust judgements cannot rectify.
Section 230 gives internet service providers immunity against prosecution for any content posted by users on their platforms. While this provision is troublesome (see below), it is not at all clear why it might have encouraged monopolization, especially for web search services. At the time of the Act’s passage, Larry Page and Sergey Brin had barely begun work on Backrub, the forerunner to Google. Several other search engines had already existed and others have sprung up since then with varying degrees of success. Presumably, all of them have benefitted from Section 230 immunity, as have all social media platforms: not just Facebook, but Twitter, MeWe, Gab, Telegram, and others long forgotten, like MySpace.
Nevertheless, while private companies have free speech rights of their own, Section 230 confers undeserved protection against liability for the tech giants. That protection was predicated on the absence of editorial positioning and/or viewpoint curation of content posted by users. Instead, Section 230 often seems designed to put private companies in charge of censoring the kind of speech that government might like to censor. Outright repeal has been used as a threat against these companies, but what would it accomplish? The tech giants insist it would mean even more censorship, which is likely to be the result.
Other Legislative Options
Other legislative solutions might hold the key to establishing true freedom of speech on the internet, a project that might have seemed pointless a decade ago. Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion in Biden v. Knight First Amendment Institute suggested the social media giants might be treated as common carriers or made accountable under laws on public accommodation. This seems reasonable in light of the strong network effects under which social media platforms operate as “public squares.” Common carrier law or a law designating a platform as a public accommodation would prohibit the platform from discriminating on the basis of speech.
I do not view such restrictions in the same light as so-called net neutrality, as some do. The latter requires carriers of data to treat all traffic equally in terms of priority and pricing of network resources, despite the out-sized demands created by some services. It is more of a resource allocation issue and not at all like managing traffic based on its political content.
The legislation contemplated by free speech activists with respect to big tech has to do with prohibiting viewpoint discrimination. That could be accomplished by laws asserting protections similar to those granted under the so-called Fairness Doctrine. As Daniel Oliver explains:
“A law prohibiting viewpoint discrimination (Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has introduced one such bill) would be just as constitutional as the Fairness Doctrine, an FCC policy which adjusted the overall balance of broadcast programming, or the Equal Time Rule, which first emerged in the Radio Act of 1927 and was established by the Communications Act of 1934. Under such a law, a plaintiff could sue for viewpoint discrimination. That plaintiff would be someone whose message had been suppressed by a tech company or whose account had been blocked or cancelled….”
Ron DeSantis just signed a new law giving the state of Florida or individuals the right to sue social media platforms for limiting, altering or deleting content posted by users, as well as daily fines for blocking candidates for political office. It will be interesting to see whether any other states pass similar legislation. However, the fines amount to a pittance for the tech giants, and the law will be challenged by those who say it compels speech by social media companies. That argument presupposes an implicit endorsement of all user content, which is absurd and flies in the face of the very immunity granted by Section 230.
Justice Thomas went to pains to point out that when the government restricts a platform’s “right to exclude,” the accounts of public officials can more clearly be delineated as public forums. But in an act we wouldn’t wish to emulate, the government of Nigeria just shut down Twitter for blocking President Buhari’s tweet threatening force against rebels in one part of the country. Still, any law directly restricting a platform’s editorial discretion must be enforceable, whether that involves massive financial penalties for violations or some other form of discipline.
There are private individuals who care enough about protecting speech online to do something about it. For example, these tech executives are fighting against internet censorship. You can also complain directly to the platforms when they censor content, and there are ways to react to censored posts by following prompts — tell them the information provided on their decision was NOT helpful and why. You can follow and support groups like the Media Research Center and its Censor Track service, or the Internet Accountability Project. Complain to your state and federal legislators about censorship and tell them what kind of changes you want to see. Finally, if you are serious about weakening the grip of the Big Tech, ditch them. Close your accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Stop using Google. Cancel your Prime membership. Join networks that are speech friendly and stick it out.
Individual action and a sense of perspective are what Katherine Mangu-Ward urges in this excellent piece:
“Ousted from Facebook and Twitter, Trump has set up his own site. This is a perfectly reasonable response to being banned—a solution that is available to virtually every American with access to the internet. In fact, for all the bellyaching over the difficulty of challenging Big Tech incumbents, the video-sharing app TikTok has gone from zero users to over a billion in the last five years. The live audio app Clubhouse is growing rapidly, with 10 million weekly active users, despite being invite-only and less than a year old. Meanwhile, Facebook’s daily active users declined in the last two quarters. And it’s worth keeping in mind that only 10 percent of adults are daily users of Twitter, hardly a chokehold on American public discourse.
Every single one of these sites is entirely or primarily free to use. Yes, they make money, sometimes lots of it. But the people who are absolutely furious about the service they are receiving are, by any definition, getting much more than they paid for. The results of a laissez-faire regime on the internet have been remarkable, a flowering of innovation and bountiful consumer surplus.”
The fight over censorship by Big Tech will continue, but legislation will almost certainly be confined to the state level in the short-term. It might be some time before federal law ever recognizes social media platforms as the public forums most users think they should be. Federal legislation might someday call for the wholesale elimination of Section 230 or an adjustment to its language. A more direct defense of First Amendment rights would be strict prohibitions of online censorship, but that won’t happen. Instead, the debate will become mired in controversy over appropriate versus inappropriate moderation, as Mangu-Ward alludes. Antitrust action should always be viewed with suspicion, though some argue that it is necessary to establish a more competitive environment, one in which free speech and fair search-engine treatment can flourish.
Organic competition is the best outcome of all, but users must be willing to vote with their digital feet, as it were, rejecting the large tech incumbents and trying new platforms. And when you do, try to bring your friends along with you!
I just quit Facebook for good, and it’s about time! Over the years my posts there became focused on links to my blog, SacredCowChips. In fact, I started the blog as a vehicle for longish-form refutation of nitwitted ideas to which I was regularly exposed on Facebook. Of course, nitwitted ideas are all too common in economic and political discourse, so there is always a deep vein of blog-worthy material. Facebook has no monopoly on that! More recently, COVID became a primary vehicle for foolish policy and commentary, which gave me plenty to write about.
What strikes me now is how much inspiration I drew from the purveyors of nonsense on Facebook. And when I say “inspired”, I mean it excited me to write posts that I knew would drop their jaws. Again, there are infinite sources of wrongheaded thinking and non-thinking acceptance of “woke” BS outside my circle of former Facebook friends. Still, I wonder whether posting my articles there gave me an extra thrill because I knew those people and could stick it right under their noses.
I’d say my hope was to persuade except I couldn’t help giving in to my disdain for “sacred cows.” Those aren’t really confined to one side of the political aisle, either. I’ll find a way to piss off everyone eventually. People of all stripes take pieces of received wisdom without subjecting them to logical scrutiny, and they don’t like to be told they’re wrong. I’m sure that led certain “friends” to “unfollow” me on Facebook. There’s no way of knowing, but it really didn’t bother me. What bothered me a little was when friends who agreed with me were too chickenshit to “like” a post. I know some had business interests to protect and couldn’t afford to alienate the crowd, but some people are more daring in that regard, to which I must accord some respect.
I now find myself on several platforms dominated by folks more amenable to my largely libertarian point of view. But I feel much more as if I’m “singing to the choir”. Also, I’m concerned that articles might get lost amid a sea of posts appealing to similar “mood affiliations”.
Here’s another concern: since I posted “On Leaving Facebook”, in which I was highly critical of the tech giants, my readership has plunged. Granted, I haven’t posted in six days due to travel and reorienting my social media connections. Nevertheless, I find the downturn in views and visitors to my blog highly coincidental and suspicious.
Even after all that, however, I’m still eager to continue writing about issues that are important to me. As part of that, I’ll find plenty of inspiration in the dumb reports of woke journalists, pundits, and politicos. And after all, the Biden Administration and Congress are full of busybodies who are so set on “doing something” that they will propose all sorts of moronic public policies. No, inspiration won’t be a problem!
Cartman is awesome! Haha! But really, that kind of reaction to the dominant social media platforms is well deserved, especially given their recent behavior. Listen to this: my wife’s church held a service of hymns and prayer for “healing the nation” on Tuesday. The church’s IT administrator posted an advance notice about the service on the church’s Facebook wall. There was nothing overtly political about the notice or the service itself. Nevertheless, somehow FB deemed the notice subversive and blocked it! We are not dealing with decent or reasonable people here. They are pigs, and we don’t have to do business with them.
A number of years ago, a woman told me FB was “the Devil!” She was very good natured and I laughed at the time. But there are many reasons for people to wean themselves from social media, or at least from certain platforms. The web abounds with testimony on lives improved by quitting FB, for example, and there are forums for those who’ve quit or would like to. There’s also plenty of practical advice on “how to leave”, so there is definitely some interest in getting out.
Ditching FB offers a certain freedom: you can eliminate the compulsion to check your news feed and escape those feelings of obligation to “like” or comment on certain posts. These are distractions that many can do without. No more efforts to “unsee” expressions of foot fetish narcissism! Free of the pathetic virtue signals that seem to dominate the space. And quitting might be especially nice if you’re keen on cutting ties with certain “frenemies”. Almost all of us have had a few. This study found that quitting FB results in less time online (surprise!) and more time with family and friends (pre-COVID lockdowns, of course). It also found that quitting leads to less political polarization! Imagine that!
There’s no question that FB helped me make new friends and reconnect with old ones. It also led to overdue severing of ties with a few toxic individuals. I know I’m likely to lose contact with people I truly like, and that’s too bad, but in most cases I must leave it up to them to stay in touch (read on). Obviously, there are many ways to stay in contact with friends you really want to keep.
As for politics (and seemingly every aspect of life has been politicized), now is a very good time to quit FB if you believe in free expression, the value of diverse opinion, and a free marketplace of ideas. FB doesn’t want that. As the episode at my wife’s church demonstrates, FB has been brazenly selective in suppressing opinion, like other prominent social media platforms. It was obvious well before the presidential election, and it has become intolerable since.
How To Defacebook
There are voices that counsel patience with the tech giants. They recommend a strategy of diversification across platforms, without necessarily quitting any of them. I can understand why certain people might prefer that route. It’s well nigh impossible to migrate an extended family to another platform, for example. However, juggling several accounts can be a problem of time management. And for me, this all boils down to a matter of disgust. It’s time to stick it to FB.
This rest of this post offers some practical advice on quitting FB and more thoughts on how and why I’m doing it. This will also appear on some speech-friendly platforms, so if you see it there and you haven’t quit FB, do it! You’re already halfway there.
The first decision is whether to quit outright or deactivate. Many don’t have the fortitude to stay away if they merely deactivate, and maybe they just need a break. For others, FB has earned an enmity that can only be satisfied by leaving for good. Count me among the latter.
You should reclaim all of your data before you quit: you can download it to a zip file, which will include all of your photos, chats, “About” information, your friends’ birthdays, etc… While it’s been claimed that shutting your account will cleanse Facebook of all your data, that’s not entirely the case. For example, your friends might still retain chats in which you participated. In fact, I’m not convinced all of your data isn’t permanently in FB’s possession, if not the NSA’s, but we might never know.
You should also change your login credentials on other online accounts linked to FB. You should be able to identify some or maybe all of those by looking at the password section in “Settings”. I’m not sure whether scrolling though and checking all the apps listed in Settings will help — it didn’t help me identify anything that the password section did not.
It’s a good idea to keep Messenger up for a while in case any of your friends want to inquire or find a way to stay in touch. That’s fine, but to really rid yourself of FB, you must part with Messenger eventually. Of course, you’ll lose Instagram and WhatsApp when you quit FB. I don’t use those, so it won’t be a problem for me.
Then there are the “I’m Going To Quit!” status updates, sometimes laced with sadness or anger. I haven’t found those particularly appealing in the past… I’ve often wondered if they were merely ploys to get attention. But things have changed. I will add this post to my wall and leave it there for a few days. My *noble* intent is to help others quit, and to do my small part to foster a more competitive social media environment. Another way to communicate your departure would be to use Messenger to inform selected friends, but that’s more work. And by the way, in anticipation of my stop date, I’ve been culling my friends list more aggressively than ever.
Once you pull the trigger and click “Delete”, your account will remain active for a few days. Don’t be a sucker. Delete the app on your phone. Wait it out. Forget about it!
Again, there was never a better time to dump FB. Beyond any emotionally corrosive aspects of social media, the last straw should be the selective censorship of political views, shadow bans, outright bans, and deletion of groups. Lately, it’s been like witnessing the early transition from Weimar to the Third Reich. We can only hope the full transition will remain unfulfilled.
For a company protected from liability under Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act, FB’s refusal to respect First Amendment rights and to abide diversity of opinion is shocking. Don’t tell me about fact checking! Facebook fact checkers are politically motivated hacks, and the new “oversight board” is not likely to help you and me. The presumption underlying Section 230 is that these platforms are not publishers, but having abandoned all pretense of impartiality, they should not be entitled to immunity. Moreover, they have tremendous market power, and they are colluding in an effort to consolidate political power and protect their dominant market position.
Big Tech, and not just FB, has been flagrant in this hypocrisy. These firms have deplatformed individuals who’ve questioned the legitimacy of the presidential election, and there is plenty to question. But they refuse to censor Antifa and BLM rioters, antisemites, state terrorists, and genocidal tyrants from around the world, including the Chinese Communist Party. More recently, FB and other platforms have condemned supporters of President Trump, as if that support was equivalent to endorsing those who stormed the Capital on June 6th. And even if it were, would an objective arbiter not also condemn leftist violence? How about equal condemnation of the Antifa and BLM rioters who ravaged American cities throughout last summer? Or those who rioted at the time of Trump’s inauguration?
The social media platforms won’t do that. FB is bad, but Twitter is probably the worst of them all. I quit using Google years ago due to privacy concerns, but also because it became obvious to me that it’s search results are heavily biased. Amazon pulled the rug out from under Parler, and I will quit using Amazon when my Prime membership is up for renewal unless Jeff Bezos starts singing a different tune by then. These companies are anticompetitive, but there are other ways to buy online, and there is plenty of other video programming.
The power of Big Tech is not absolute. Remember, there are alternatives if you choose to quit or diversify: check out MeWe, Clouthub, Rumble (video hosting), Gab, Signal, and Telegram, for example (see this interesting story on the latter two). And Parler, of course, if it manages to find a new hosting service or wins some kind of emergency relief against Amazon.
Message me for my contact information or my identity on other platforms, or you can always find my ruminations at SacredCowChips.net. You can even share them on FB (if they’ll let you), at the risk of alienating your “woke” friends! So long.
In advanced civilizations the period loosely called Alexandrian is usually associated with flexible morals, perfunctory religion, populist standards and cosmopolitan tastes, feminism, exotic cults, and the rapid turnover of high and low fads---in short, a falling away (which is all that decadence means) from the strictness of traditional rules, embodied in character and inforced from within. -- Jacques Barzun