The perplexing question of how to regulate user content on social media companies has been somewhat of a free-for-all and open to debate, whilst many nations have launched their own legislation to prevent illegal content, such as documenting criminal activities, uploading “revenge porn” and even, in extreme cases such as in Australia, who have introduced criminal penalties and jail time for tech executives in the Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material Act in 2019, making technology companies liable in cases where users upload content such as the live streaming of shootings.
However, the United States has had a cushion for tech executives in a legislation called Section 230, which gives immunity from all criminal liabilities for tech companies if users happen to upload content documenting illegal activity.
Section 230 was borne from the auspices of an emerging internet, in which many users had been uploading copyrighted content in the 1990s, and in many decades since, much of the material which can be uploaded on social media in the US depended on user communities flagging content, instead of social media companies policing content. It paved the way for companies like YouTube, which at the inception had been riddled with copyright infringement lawsuits, and instead allowed the transition towards a new kind of establishment, in which content could be promoted and user revenue became a new way for the democratisation of media. The Australian legislation of 2019 has veered away from that model, and instead has put the focus of liability directly on tech companies, shifting the liability from the user to tech executives.
Celebrities whose nude photos ended up on social media networks included Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence. Section 230 shielded US social media and technology companies from criminal liability during "the Fappening" in 2014, when hackers uploaded nude photos of celebrities through iCloud security vulnerabilities. Those photos are still shared on multiple websites today. However, with Australia’s new legislation, sites hosting illegal content would be directly legally responsible.
THE THREAT OF PRESIDENT TRUMP VS. BIG TECH
President Donald Trump has made it no secret regarding his vision for a repeal of Section 230, and to follow Australia’s lead in making tech executives directly criminally responsible for user posted content, taking away the cushion of liability it has enjoyed since 1996. Although, in recent news, tech executives have banded together to collectively ban President Trump, and many of his allies and supporters from social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat et al, citing rather specious terms regarding the incitement of Capitol Riots, it serves as a rather misleading and altogether legally flimsy excuse for simply ousting him due to his ability to garner support from a wide audience in order to continue to launch his repeal of Section 230, in addition to dismantling the tech monopolies, which have become the primary focus of the Department of Justice right before the November Presidential elections.
The collective ban of President Trump by US social media and tech companies also makes a statement around the world, and sends an unequivocal message to political leaders that they can be “cancelled” at any time, flexing the muscle of Big Tech in how they can not only choose those they want in political power, but how they can also control the media narrative, in addition to dictating the terms they want for legislation, in an effort to place political leaders beneath them as mere servants to their will.
Leaders around the world, including Chancellor Angela Merkel came out to denounce the banning of President Trump on social media. Mrs. Merkel has been known to disagree with President Trump on many issues but her position on his ban was reported as "an unacceptable ban of freedom of speech".
The hierarchy of power is clearly at the advantage of Big Tech in our contemporary era of corporatism, however, it places the majority of our political leaders in an uneasy predicament, in which they must choose either their conscience and serve the people and the interests of the public good, or else they serve the corporations that own them.
HOW BIG TECH’S COLLECTIVE CENSORSHIP PUSHES OPENS THE DOOR FOR A DECENTRALISED SOCIAL MEDIA OF THE FUTURE
Despite that many social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat et al are publicly traded companies, their collective censorship on specious grounds of a political leader opens the door for both state-sponsored media and a decentralised media of the future.
It could be that in the near future, instead of using one or two dominant platforms for communication, nations could launch their own domestic, state sponsored companies in order to garner public support, therefore limiting the outreach of US tech companies as a global entity.
The overt banning of users with differing opinions on US tech platforms who support one political ideology over another also sends a clear message to millions of Americans as well, that tech companies cannot be trusted to uphold the basic tenets of democracy, of respecting the freedom of speech, therefore unwittingly fueling the roots of revolution. The recent censorship of American Big Tech companies against President Trump and his supporters has opened a wide gaping door which could also lead to their ultimate demise as the exodus of users has only just begun.
The exodus of users from social media has begun. The collective ban of President Trump by tech leaders has instead unintentionally launched a counter movement in which President Trump is now being heralded as a Moses of his time, leading the exodus from a tyrannical collective media.
The public backlash also creates a blueprint for both the development of a US-state sponsored media of the future in which potential telecommunications and social media companies could be state-owned, instead of being privately owned or publicly traded, as what China has been quietly accelerating, such as their govt state-sponsored WeChat, and also a counter movement of decentralised social media, in which blockchain enabled user-to-user interface could replace the current system of the tech giants. The lack of diverse opinions present in Big Tech would ultimately launch a more democratically enabled system in a decentralised version of social media. Although, twitter announced in late 2019 that they were also working on a decentralised version of their network, this system could ultimately bypass platforms such as twitter and facebook, so that users could essentially develop their own node to interact with other users on a blockchain-enabled network.
Social media apps may become a thing of the past. Users are weary of having to download multiple apps, and in the near future, users may instead have nodes that connect to a federated blockchain, directly connecting users together, and bypassing third party sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat et al.
After all, in our present era, many users are most likely exasperated from constantly switching from one platform to another, and downloading numerous apps to be able to do so, then having to upload to multiple platforms in order to communicate and share the same idea. Instead, developing individual nodes to interact directly with other users to communicate and share information would bypass “middlemen” such as facebook and twitter in the near future. Internet providers could readily launch services in which an internet subscription would include nodes to be utilised on the blockchain, and legislation would move away from a repeal of Section 230 as social media and tech companies become less influential and instead focus on the internet service providers themselves. The decentralisation of power is inevitable as the public backlash against technology heads in their arbitrary determination of what they deem as “fact” in addition to the ousting of people with opposing political viewpoints has begun the mass exodus of users from social media.
All in all, what has been perceived as the arbitrary censorship of the US President by technology executives has sent a clear message to leaders around the world that Big Tech must be wrangled and tamed, and no longer will they be subject to the liberal protections they had been given before.
NANCY PELOSI’S LAST ACT
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in her illustrious career 30+ year career in politics, in which she has been known to throw lavish Capitol Hill parties and has equally obstructed numerous legislation and enhanced a dual-party gridlock in Congress, has made it abundantly clear that her views and morals are up for sale to the highest corporate bidder, and the true role of a politician is to only appeal to her corporate sponsors.
An incomplete list of legislation that Nancy Pelosi has obstructed, as both Minority House leader and as House Speaker, often in conjunction with her right-hand man, Senator Chuck Schumer in the Senate
Wicked Witch of the West or Feminist? Nancy Pelosi started her political career at the age of 47, defying the culture of American ageism which often glamourises youth, and has also become a staple in American politics, but according to her critics, has been a bad influence on Capitol Hill. She is often reported as someone politicians would not want to get on her bad side.
A perennial favourite of Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Oil, Big Tech, Wall Street and the Military Contracting industries, Mrs. Pelosi has not failed to usurp nearly every piece of legislation in order to make certain their objectives have been hijacked from their original intent whilst doing the bidding of her corporate donors.
Some of the accomplishments of then House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi include overturning President Obama’s intended universal health care legislation to benefit private health insurance companies, pushing TARP that benefitted Wall Street Banks and most recently as House Speaker, although initially dismissed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal as "Green New Dream or whatever", now most likely has her sights on how to turn the Green New Deal into a deal that benefits natural gas and oil companies.
Mrs. Pelosi is in direct contrast to her idealistic colleagues, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and even the more radically minded Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Jamal Bowman, Cori Bush; and also on the other side of the coin, Josh Hawley, Dan Goetz, Ted Cruz and Majorie Taylor Green, most of whom are newer members of Congress who still wear their idealistic badges to serve their constituents. But the question is, how long will their political idealism endure in a decades-long era in which Mrs. Pelosi has been criticised by political pundits to have corrupted every young idealistic politician into doing her bidding?
There is no doubt that the current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has had a lot to grapple with in the past year; on one hand, he represents the interests of Big Tech and NATO, and does not support the repeal of Section 230 yet on the other hand, he is someone with a conscience, who wants to get the right balance of working for the public good vs. serving corporate interests.
The ultimate frenemy. As House Minority Leader during the Obama years, Nancy Pelosi blocked nearly every piece of meaningful legislation that President Obama had authored, holding access to key corporate donors to members of her Democratic Party. Mrs. Pelosi has been the perennial frenemy to all her colleagues, and known as someone who attained her position due to her extraordinary ability to raise money and cater to all the demands of her corporate sponsors without any compunction.
However, it is clear though that the second impeachment proceedings by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has more long-term ramifications than simply silencing a wild cannon such as President Trump. Due to the basis of the impeachment, if even remotely successful, would most likely silence every member of Congress, in the House and Senate, along with any future President from speaking out against injustice nor appeal to their constituents using words that invoke protest.
Protest is a fundamental right in the US Constitution, along with the right to assembly (gather in groups) and what these second impeachment hearings actually accomplish is to effectively silence the freedom of speech in order to protest and gather in groups.
If we were to assess President Donald Trump’s social media accounts and his speeches, nowhere does he incite violence against the Capitol. In fact, he had tweeted for gatherers to “peacefully march to the Capitol”. There were never any fighting words in his speech presented to the protesters before the Capitol Riots, nor did he ever suggest people should resort to violence and to deface the Capitol.
If we were to assess the President's words, they could be compared to the passionate speeches of President John F. Kennedy, President Abraham Lincoln, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and even to Martin Luther King, Jr, but nowhere has he been documented to incite violence nor ask his followers to incite violence. Instead he asked his followers for a show of strength and unity during tumultuous times.
President Trump's call for peace during the Capitol riots was deleted and censored by Twitter executives, in a move that was highly criticised as hypocritical by leaders around the world along with millions of Americans and Europeans.
“A revolution is coming: a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough, compassionate if we care enough, successful if we are fortunate enough - but a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character, we cannot alter its inevitability.” President John F. Kennedy
Play video: https://youtu.be/7J3V0rAuDaw
It has been reported that the only President that Nancy Pelosi has not been able to stronghold and influence has been President Donald Trump. Her motives in wanting to impeach the President twice may be motivated, in part, by her desire to usurp the separation of power, by weakening the role of the President in American politics and through the eradication of the freedom of speech in order to finally silence all her critics.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must recognise that Mrs. Pelosi’s attempt at a second impeachment will inevitably not only affect Presidents of the past but also the ones in the future, and also have consequences on the US Constitution in freedom of speech and how it can be utilised to begin movements, those very movements in which the US was founded. There are serious long-term ramifications in the present in which the US Republic has been under fire in an ideological civil war, in which internal factions have paralysed and hijacked the responsibilities of both the Representatives and Senators of Capitol Hill, who have been sworn to serve the people.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made her stance clear, and has been shown to obstruct meaningful legislation every step of the way, often using feeble excuses to prevent aid to Americans, even the recent coronavirus stimulus package, and now in her show of political theatre in her continued antics of the new second impeachment proceedings, threaten both the freedom of speech and assembly, the very rights that the US Constitution has held dear for hundreds of years. The question remains, will Mr. McConnell be able to finally stand up to her and unite his party or will he allow Mrs. Pelosi and her “handler” and matchmaker extraordinaire Mr. Chuck Schumer to completely dismantle what remains of the true tenets of Congress?
By Sierra Choi
Disclaimer: This article is based on the author’s opinions and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organisation she may be a part of nor of the companies she works with. Opinions are defined as subjective viewpoints based on available data, including facts, and may be speculative but also may serve to use insight to point out hidden truths that are often overlooked by mainstream media and should be considered with equal weight and measure as other viewpoints as it is those individual viewpoints that contribute to a diversity of opinions and viewpoints in a truly functioning democracy where freedom of speech and dialogue are actively encouraged and not subject to arbitrary censorship.