In its early years, the internet’s strength was the unfettered freedom that allowed countless voices to flourish and let readers choose between established sources of information and newer outlets with varying levels of credibility. This celebration of free speech leveled the playing field between Big Media and independent voices.
But Big Tech has now teamed up with Big Media, and together they behave like Big Brother from George Orwell’s 1984 – monitoring, influencing and censoring our ability to speak freely and even to consider dissenting views.
Google and its parent company, which also owns YouTube, generated over $170 billion in advertising revenue in 2019 from vendors, large and small, who use Google’s advertising service to reach customers. Google, Facebook and Amazon control the lion’s share of digital advertising sales. Each exerts more control over the free flow of information than any media conglomerate in our country’s history.
Popular websites don’t send salesmen to sell advertisements, like TV, radio and newspapers did in the 20th century. Instead, they allow Google to place ads on their webpages using analytic tools. Facebook ads operate similarly. That’s why ads for whatever you were shopping for on the internet yesterday will bombard your screen for several days.
Last month, Google threatened to discontinue its advertising service on two popular conservative websites after NBC News collaborated with two leftist activist groups to try to silence The Federalist and Zero Hedge for allegedly violating Google’s policy on “hate speech.”
Cutting off advertising revenue is like holding a knife to a publication’s throat. Before the internet, boycott organizers needed to persuade multiple advertisers to affect a network’s or newspaper’s ad revenue. Today, leftist censors need only convince Google or Facebook to turn off all advertisers’ access to a given website.
Southern Poverty Law Center almost unilaterally defines “hate” for Big Tech and Big Media. SPLC earned its reputation battling the Ku Klux Klan. As KKK faded, SPLC needed new targets, so it turned its “hate” list into a fundraising racket that generates over $100 million a year – and sometimes provokes shooters to attack its targets. While the list includes objectively hateful organizations, it lumps them together with others whose alleged “hate” is merely disagreeing with leftist ideology on sexuality, illegal immigration or radical Islam.
Amazon, owned by Jeff Bezos who also owns the Washington Post, removed conservative nonprofits Alliance Defending Freedom and Family Research Council from its customer charitable donations program after they were labeled “hate groups” by SPLC. SPLC explained that “traditional family” and “natural family” are hateful “right-wing talking points.”
SPLC also smeared Dennis Prager’s popular series of five-minute educational videos. YouTube then designated several PragerU titles – including The Ten Commandments – as “age-restricted content,” making them unavailable to users under 18, families with anti-pornography filters, or in schools or libraries.
More recently, Amazon refused to accept ads for Irreversible Damage, a book that questions the sudden rise in gender dysphoria among young girls. A writer for The New Republic argues that publishers should stop printing books by conservative authors altogether. How long before Amazon simply bans conservative books from its platform?
Numerous reports also detail how Google manipulates search engine results. Dr. Robert Epstein calls Google “the world’s biggest censor” and documents how its (and Facebook’s) manipulation of search results and newsfeeds affect public opinion and could surreptitiously change the outcome of a close election.
Big Media’s voice has always been large and loud, but its unholy alliance with Big Tech is creating a monopoly with the power to silence and punish dissent. That’s an intolerable attack on our freedom and an affront to the maxim that “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Mark Hillman served as Senate Majority Leader and State Treasurer. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.
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