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sábado, 11 de agosto de 2018

MATTHEW BOOSE: The banning of Alex Jones is troubling for conservatism

What do you call it when a right-wing conspiracy theorist is banned from nearly all social media in a single day?

That sounds like a conspiracy — a real one. No need to unveil a nefarious plan by the Illuminati or inter-dimensional reptile overlords.

The banning of Alex Jones from most social media platforms vindicates something conservatives have claimed for some time: Big Tech is biased against the right and is censoring them on their sites.

Censorship of conservatives has been difficult to prove because the evidence is scattered and the alleged techniques, like “shadowbanning,” are often subtle.

Jones’ banning, by contrast, was unmistakable. It had the appearance of a coordinated political attack — a decisive digital airstrike.

The most infamous thing Jones has ever done is defame the families of Sandy Hook victims. That’s awful. It’s also not the reason why he was banned.

Google, Apple, Spotify, and Facebook all cited nebulous “hate speech” violations in their decisions to banish him.

Apple said, “Apple does not tolerate hate speech.”

Facebook said Jones was “glorifying violence” and “using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants.” They specifically said that they did not ban him for spreading “false news.”

Spotify and Google also cited hate speech violations.

But none of the companies supplied evidence.

The timing is odd, too. Jones has been publishing content like this for years. Why now?

It’s significant that Big Tech’s reasoning had nothing to do with his false, defamatory statements and everything to do with the political substance of his content. Jones was censored for political reasons — not for indecency, or charlatanry, or defamation, but because his content was politically incorrect.

His firing came on the heels of another event that showed how arbitrary the “hate speech” standard is for the left. The New York Times recently doubled down to defend a new hire, Sarah Jeong, after tweets surfaced in which she expressed racism toward whites.

Jeong hasn’t faced any consequences. Instead, she’s getting an illustrious position at a paper of record.

This double standard runs through the entirety of academia, journalism, and Big Tech. These industries enforce lopsided standards that condone hate when expressed by certain “oppressed” groups while prohibiting parallel sentiments from “oppressor” groups.

Jones’ banning illuminates a disturbing reality: a small tech cartel with opaque, one-sided, political standards now has control of what can and can’t be said in the public square.

Jones, some argue, still has his website. But he has been removed from most social media, and social media is, increasingly, the public square. Leaving a handful of corporations to arbitrate speech is dangerous, especially when those companies share a single political orientation.

Some conservatives have understandably defended the right of Big Tech companies to make their own rules. This is standard libertarian fare. But when those rules are obscure and unfair to conservatives, they’re just setting themselves up to be challenged.

What is stranger is that the left has employed the same libertarian argument to defend those companies banning Jones on the basis of corporate rights while simultaneously demanding that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey follow suit.

Dorsey made it clear that Jones had not violated the site’s rules, but to the left, Dorsey is making an unjustifiable political decision by not banning him. Clearly, the left doesn’t care about corporate autonomy. They simply want to wield Big Tech like a cudgel to enforce their political views.

Incidentally, Dorsey has since begun to succumb to pressure from his own employees to crack down on “hate speech.” These are the people moderating the public square. What does that say about the future of conservatism on social media?

Many conservatives sense the danger. The National Review’s David French isolated a part of the problem: Big Tech used a vague, arbitrary standard to censor Jones.

But where French falters is in his belief that Big Tech will change, for some reason, to become less vague and arbitrary. French suggests that tech companies use an even-handed “libel and slander” standard, which would be a reasonable idea — if Big Tech had not already shown its commitment to using a malicious, political standard.

Some conservatives have been less sympathetic. To them, there’s no reason to fret at all: it’s a one-off example, Jones deserved it, and this is not the start of a slippery slope. Nothing is amiss; the left will play fair from now on.

It’s understandable that conservatives don’t want to be associated with Jones. Unfortunately for them, though, the left doesn’t see much of a difference between Jones and the editors of the Weekly Standard.

It doesn’t matter what “principled conservatives” think of Jones. What matters is what the Big Tech companies who control the public square think of conservatives.

The idea that Jones’ banning is not the start of a slippery slope is naive because the left is not operating in good faith. Only right-wing purists care if Jones is a “real conservative.”

For the left, Alex Jones is a perfect right-wing strawman — a Sandy Hook-denying “angry white male” who thinks Hillary Clinton comes from another dimension. Even if he doesn’t mean everything he says, which seems obvious enough to anyone with a sense of humor, he is an easy target.

His banning looks a lot like a warning shot, and a troubling sign of things to come.