Following the protest and attack on the Capitol, leading social media companies purged individuals and apps from their platforms that were largely associated with the right wing. Given the widely felt shock, sadness and anger over what took place in Washington D.C., millions of people welcomed this, even wishing it had come sooner. But what seems to be a necessary response by the social media companies to prevent the extreme right from spreading their ideas is likely a maneuver by big tech to curb its competitors, and will not address the fundamental problem. In addition, censorship by private companies or government, if directed at racists and fascists today, can be directed at anti-racist organizations like Black Lives Matter, workers’ unions and other organizations tomorrow.
Let’s remember who runs the big social media and tech companies – some of the world’s wealthiest billionaires. The top four apps that were downloaded this past decade and are used to communicate – Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram – are all owned by the same company, Facebook. As is well known, Facebook has purposefully bought other apps, and now has a near monopoly.
Who is Mark Zuckerberg, the largest shareholder of Facebook, accountable to? The same issue applies to Parler, the social media app owned by John Matze, that millions of Trump supporters and others flocked to after leaving Twitter and Facebook after the election. The monopoly and private ownership of social media allows a handful of tech billionaires to singlehandedly decide who gets to communicate. This is putting the tool of censorship in the hands of our enemies. And we can’t trust a government of millionaires and billionaires either. We must address the underlying problem of why and how these ideas took root to begin with, and fight to propose an alternative.