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Digital Freedom

JamesRusselMar 11, 2018, 8:53:10 PM

We live in strange times.

Recently it was shown that Facebook and Google were actively scrubbing content about the Parkland shooting.  This was content they deemed to be 'conspiratorial,' and while some might agree with this, we need the right, as a free people, to make up our own minds.  I believe that everyone has a right to interpret events their own way, and to broadcast their interpretation without being stifled, and I believe this is the fundamental intent of the 1st Amendment.

Some argue that corporate entities have a right to run their businesses as they see fit, but I would argue that, once a platform has reached a size at which it can be considered infrastructure, it must recognize the rights of the people, in totality, in its user agreement.   To do otherwise effectively creates the means of production/government marriage that is so insidious in fascist systems.

Proponents of the 'corporations trump your rights' argument say 'just use another platform if you don't like it,' but this is useless advice for a couple of crucial reasons:

First, people have spent years building up groups of friends, contacts, etc on social media platforms such as Google and Facebook.  If you can be disconnected from that for simply expressing an unpopular idea (or worse, a popular one they disprove of), you are absolutely the victim of a coercive and totalitarian system.   To say 'just go somewhere else' when what amounts to your digital life is being deleted...it's not much different than burning someone's house to the ground and saying 'find a new one, bub!'

Secondly, and much more importantly: Until recently, the internet itself was protected as infrastructure.  It was treated as a public square, or road system, or utility;  systems that must exist because of their importance to society, and must be available to all people equally.  The end of Net Neutrality destroyed this, and in the context of the above issue, this is terrifying.

This creates a system where the above social media monopolies can not only scrub dissent from their own sites, they can pay ISPs to remove it from the internet in totality.   Most people are limited in their access to ISPs, and if you only have one local one and your phone provider is Verizon, your worldview can be very easily sculpted.

In the context of the Parkland shooting, maybe you agree with this, but would you agree if information about a candidate was being buried?  If known corruption were covered up?  If the guilty were framed as innocent and the innocent framed as guilty?

How do you feel about this? What can be done?  How do we proceed?