Big tech needs to stop silencing conservative voices

Abuse of power allows Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to censor the right


Ariel Davila-Sanchez

Illustration by Ariel Davila-Sanchez

Holden Lomeli, Guest Writer

“Like the date of Dec. 7, the day in 1941 that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Jan. 6 the day American citizens attacked their own Capitol will live forever in infamy” –Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York). 

Although the siege on the U.S Capitol will most certainly be captured in history books, the aftermath of that assault — especially the increasing censorship by the social media giants and service providers — will sadly be overlooked.

 The actions that took place on January 6 created the perfect opportunity for big tech monopolies to flex, abuse and reveal their unprecedented amount of power. These same tech monopolies almost completely silenced former POTUS Donald Trump in mere minutes as his opponents and critics cheered or showed great glee for the former president’s near complete disappearance in the media. 

Social media outlets like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook did not start this censorship on January 6;  instead they began by implementing new policies like “fact checkers.” Right wing political photos or videos were posted with disclaimers to indicate that the political opinions were “misleading,” had no evidence of being factual or the post was simply removed. 

After nationwide riots involving police precincts being set afire, businesses trashed and looted and whole city blocks taken over in the beginning of June, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark) offered his opinion about the use of military support; in response, Twitter threatened censorship. How is expressing a valid opinion on a timely issue suddenly fodder for the censorship police, otherwise known as big tech? 

These sites became emboldened during the 2020 election by temporarily blocking news stories regarding Hunter Biden and the content on his laptops and temporarily blocking  people who posted about it. Former White House Press Secretary Kayleign McEnany faced censorship from Twitter when she spoke out against Hunter Biden and linked a “New York Post ” article regarding Hunter Biden’s alleged money laundering scheme with China and further financial affiliation with the Ukrainan government.  Twitter reinstated her account only after she deleted any links to the Hunter Biden investigation.  Although McEnany resurfaced on Twitter to express how she will not be silenced, the damage and control big tech has over politicians and even news is clearly visible. As a result of the suppression, election polls revealed that 45.1 % of Biden voters had never heard of the Hunter Biden scandal and alleged cover-up.

Shadow-banning — the hiding of a creator’s content without their awareness — is another common practice used to censor conservative voices and other accounts deemed “inappropriate.” In 2018, Donald Trump, Jr., spoke out against the shadow-banning he faced when his friends searched his name only to find posts linked to his name with this disclaimer: “posts often encourage behavior that can cause harm or even lead to death.” Sites like Instagram deny that they shadow-ban accounts, claiming that they hide public posts that are deemed “inappropriate”  yet these posts do not violate any of their guidelines. By proceeding to hide these posts in spite of no visible violation of any guidelines, Instagram is enacting the very definition of Shadow-banning.  Although conservatives’ posts are deemed inappropriate by Instagram’s hidden standards, Instagram fails to notify conservative users of any violation, often leaving them unaware that their post has been targeted. 

With good reason, conservatives moved to an alt-tech app called Parler. Parler quickly became the fastest growing free speech app, garnering 2.5 million users in the last week it was operational. What was big tech’s solution to this alternate site? Shut it down. The App and Google Play stores removed the app so that users could no longer download the site from their stores on January 9. 

To further prevent people who already downloaded the site from using it and to prevent users from downloading the site  from elsewhere, Amazon stopped hosting Parler’s servers on January 10, making the service unavailable for everyone who already had it previously installed. 

How has the mainstream media failed to acknowledge this level of explicit censorship? Why has our government allowed such explicit censorship to occur? 

In a statement, Amazon claimed the reason behind halting Parler’s servers was its role in the planning of the riot that took place in the Capitol, even though most of the planning and group conversations about the Capitol riots were on Facebook.  According to the “Washington Post,” more than 100,000 users posted hashtags in affiliation with Capitol riots . Facebook received no punishment for its involvement with the planning of the riots, proving that the real goal was always to punish and silence conservatives. Now conservatives cannot  go anywhere to express their opinions as freely and openly as their liberal counterparts and are forced to follow rules and hidden guidelines that the big tech apps use to control conservatives’ “dangerous” views. 

Censorship is not limited to social media apps, as the same people who censor conservatives online are now trying to pressure Verizon, ATT and Comcast to stop beaming news outlets like OAN, FOX, and Newsmax on TV. These actions of egregious censorship will sadly continue to happen and even progress due to the massive power and influence these social media outlets and other big tech companies have over their conservative counterparts. According to Business Insider, “Ninety percent of news outlets in the United States are controlled by just six corporations.” These six corporations (Disney, News-Corp, Viacom, CBS, GE and Time Warner) have become the strong arm for spreading and controlling information for their liberal leaders in government and will continue to align themselves and spread those ideals while silencing those that pose any real “danger.”    

Shelby Steele, a black author, columnist and documentary filmmaker, saw his documentary depicting the death of Michael Brown at the hands of a white police officer — and the impetus for the riots in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 — banned by Amazon because the film failed to align itself with the progressive narrative of white police officers killing young black men because of “systemic racism.” Instead of admitting this truth, Amazon claimed in an email to Steele that his film couldn’t be streamed on its site because it didn’t “meet Prime Video’s content quality expectations,” adding that the decision could not be appealed. Although Amazon later relented after facing criticism for that decision, Eli Steele, Shelby’s son and co-author of the documentary, said this: “When Amazon rejected us they also silenced these voices and that is the great sin of a company that professes to be diverse and inclusive.” 

Conservatives fear that censorship will only continue because of the lack of conservative influence in the media. There has been liberal influence in the media for decades starting with shows and movies proceeding to social media in recent years. Conservatives don’t have nearly enough influence online or in society, leaving conservatives to fight a losing defensive battle while liberal ideology continues its influence entirely unimpeded.

 When Big Tech has more power than the government when it comes to online communication, the government must stop the monopolies. The giant social media apps and their big tech allies that squash any major growing competition for them only provide the illusion of public safety and protecting democracy. If we continue to allow big tech and other sources of communication who censor the voices of any kind to face no consequences, our Republic is destined to be left divided.