A Hit on Free Speech in America

Alex Jones partakes in a demonstration in Texas.
Sean P. Anderson

A Hit on Free Speech in America

Big Tech companies are deciding what information should be available to American citizens.
From the October 2018 Trumpet Print Edition

The Trumpet depends on freedom of speech. Free speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. But it also relies on Americans’ willingness to hear voices from outside the mainstream. God’s truth is definitely outside the mainstream. The Trumpet keeps a watchful eye on the ways free speech is being suppressed and censored. Among them are legal challenges against religious freedom, draconian firings of employees with “politically incorrect” views, exclusion of nonconformist guest speakers from university campuses, calls for public shaming and ostracism, even violence aiming to intimidate and silence.

Now, tech companies are escalating this trend.

On August 5 and 6, Apple, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Spotify and several other technology firms united to ban the content of firebrand radio host and commentator Alex Jones. Apple removed five out of Jones’s six podcasts on August 5. Early on August 6, Facebook removed four pages controlled by Jones, and Google banned the Alex Jones Channel from YouTube. Pinterest also removed its InfoWars board, and Spotify took down all episodes of The Alex Jones Show.

Jones has some very unorthodox views, including erroneous conspiracy theories. He also happens to be an outspoken critic of many politicians, policies and government agencies that these tech companies tend to support.

All claim Jones violated their hate speech policies. An Apple representative told BuzzFeed News, “Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users.” Facebook also released a detailed press statement on the matter: “As a result of reports we received, last week, we removed four videos on four Facebook Pages for violating our hate speech and bullying policies.”

Despite these reasons for censoring Jones’s opinions, there is no single explanation for why all five companies suddenly chose the same two-day period to silence him. The move appears to have been coordinated by either social media executives or government officials.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, expressed strong support for these moves and called on Silicon Valley to ban even more websites. “I know Facebook and Apple and YouTube have gotten so big they sometimes seem like the government. But they aren’t. They are private companies that shouldn’t knowingly spread lies and hate. They took a good first step today by removing InfoWars,” Murphy tweeted on August 6. “InfoWars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it.”

Jones’s rhetoric is often controversial and inflammatory. But what happened to InfoWars is only the latest example of the broader, concerning problem of Silicon Valley censorship. As Senator Murphy says, Apple, Facebook, Google, Pinterest and Spotify are technically private companies. But their power over the flow of information is now enormous. And the line between them and the government is blurry at best. Silicon Valley technology companies spent over $49 million lobbying Congress, federal agencies and the White House last year. And many Silicon Valley executives have taken senior government positions. Corporate lobbying gives Big Tech companies power and influence over government policy and behavior, allowing them to establish digital monopolies.

The Internet moguls are now confident enough to blatantly restrict free speech.

Authoritarian governments in China and Iran regulate what information their citizens can access online. The First Amendment forbids Congress from enacting similar censorship laws. But that doesn’t stop these tech companies from making decisions with similar effects. When you spend $49 million to improve your relationships with lawmakers and bureaucrats in Washington, d.c., you’re wasting your money if you allow people to criticize the government using your platform.

“The companies list repeated violations of their policies as the reason Jones’s materials are no longer on their sites,” Holly Scheer wrote for the Federalist. “But this isn’t about whether you like Jones or think he’s a reprehensible human being. Rather, this is about what it means for our society if a few tech companies should be able to decide for everyone what information is available, and what is over the line” (August 7).

As America’s “New Morality” grows more fanatical, powerful, stringent and hostile to biblical morality, the Trumpet, by standing its ground, finds itself more on the fringe. Amos 7:10, an end-time prophecy, describes a time when God’s message is marginalized, as “the land is not able to bear all his words.” We are watching society move inexorably closer to that time.

Soon, public antagonism will combine with political force to abolish that message. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11).

Heed God’s message—and act on it—while there is still time to hear it.