By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
In a few days, we are going to reach a point in our history where for the 46th time a president will be sworn in to office. And no matter your political persuasion, if anything has come to light in the last few years, it is that Big Tech has played a role in suppressing the 1st Amendment promise of freedom of speech (guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States) on a level that would make George Orwell holler, “I rest my case.” That suppression has most recently prevented the leader of the free world from communicating unabated with those who would choose to read or hear what he has to say. As someone who grew up in the Cold War, all I can say is “Pravda” to those who feel it is reasonable to bow down to the Almighty Algorithm in the name of progress, except in Pravda’s case, the Thought Police were actually a part of the Soviet government posing as a newspaper, and not that of the private sector. Senator Josh Hawley recently referred to the tech “biggies,” i.e., Facebook, Google/Youtube, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft as being analogous to the “robber barons of the 19th century.” And, as of January 15, 2021, for the first time in American history, a President has been at least partially muzzled on a global scale. This is alarming, no matter one’s political persuasion.
The term “technocrat” was developed in the early 20th century by a man by the name of W.H. Smyth. It comes from two Greek words, ?????, (tekhne) meaning skill and ??????, (kratos) meaning power, as in governance, or rule. Smyth coined the term technocracy to refer to the “management of society by technical experts.” I am sure that Mr. Smyth could not have foreseen just what that would look like a century later in 2021, and I hope that we as Americans don’t choose to let this unelected cabal of power go unchallenged.
Three years ago, I was sitting in the balcony of the House Chambers in Washington DC on April 10, 2018. This was the day that Mark Zuckerberg was hauled in for the first time to face a panel that was trying to reign him in from reigning in the American people, or at the very least, try to figure out what he as the founder of Facebook believed about his company’s role and influence in the lives of Americans. The whole experience was rather surreal—just a few feet below me was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who was chatting with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and a few feet away in another room, Zuckerberg was facing down the likes of Ted Cruz and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both of whom were exposing his inability to answer a yes-or-no question. More recently, in November of 2020 when Zuckerberg was being questioned by Senator Josh Hawley, it was suggested humorously that the room itself might have the ability to cause amnesia in those who were being asked simple questions. A Facebook whistleblower had done the yeoman’s job of exposing not only the “content moderation” teams, and the “community well-being team,” but also the fact that major league tech and social media moguls get together on it in order to assert their collective community standard. In July of 2019, Google’s Karan Bhatia did no better when it came to transparency and accountability, and couldn’t get any stronger with the heinousness of child porn than to refer to it as “minors in risky situations.”
I would like to point out the obvious fact with reference to Zuckerberg’s debut performance in DC that Cruz and AOC could not be from more polar political positions, and ironically, in that moment in 2018, they were after the same things. Clearly, things have changed greatly since then, and not in a good way. A week ago, Twitter suspended President Trump’s account for “peddling claims of election fraud.” My question is this: Doesn’t the Constitution protect the president’s right to make such a claim, true or false? If it was fraud, isn’t he allowed to say it until his dying day, and if it wasn’t fraud, isn’t he allowed to express the fact that he believes it was until his dying day? Isn’t that what America is supposed to be about, from the president to the person on the street? And, if this can be done to the president, then what is waiting in the wings for the country he leads?