The way some Silicon Valley giants have behaved of late leads me to wonder whether they’re spectacularly short sighted, or whether they’re so convinced of their own invulnerability that they believe they can act with impunity and never be challenged. Their politically driven editorialising must surely stem from either hubris or foolishness.
Social media and its fellow travellers have a long and well documented history of highly partisan political interference which doesn’t need to be regurgitated here. However, something’s just happened which has left the tech titans in a very precarious position.
Last night, conservative campaigner Laura Loomer won the Republican nomination for Florida’s 21st Congressional District. In fact, she won just over of 40% of votes cast, which is a remarkable achievement considering that she’s been handed indefinite bans by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as being blacklisted by PayPal and GoFundMe. Despite this serious communication and fundraising handicap, she’s managed to amass way over half a million followers on Parler and the backing of one of the United States’ biggest political parties.
Now that Laura Loomer is an official, bona fide political candidate, will Twitter, Facebook and the rest let her speak freely?
In fairness, I’m not the only one asking that question, but I’m actually surprised that more people aren’t making a fuss about this in the blogosphere. Oh wait a minute; Laura Loomer is Jewish and critical of Islam…so of course I’m not surprised.
Once again, there’s no need to rehash the old arguments about private companies controlling their own affairs, and there’s already been more than a little discussion about Silicon Valley abusing the legal protections they enjoy under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That conversation is far from over.
As a result of their hubris, Twitter et al now find themselves in a tight legal corner. If they reinstate Loomer’s accounts they tacitly admit there was no legal basis behind the editorial decision to ban her in the first place. On the other hand, if they leave the ban in place while her opponents continue to use their platforms, they run the very real risk of being charged with genuine, straight up election interference.
Win or lose come November, Loomer’s case could very well be the first of its kind to find its way to the Supreme Court. At the very least we can expect to see her testifying before various congressional committees as the growing problem of tech censorship finally receives its due attention. Imagine how much more embarrassing that would be if Loomer was speaking as a duly elected Member of Congress, despite Twitter and Facebook’s best efforts to thwart her. That’s entirely possible when you consider just how much she’s managed to achieve without anything close to a level playing field.
It’s little wonder Silicon Valley blatantly favours the Democrats.
Image courtesy of Laura Loomer for Congress.com