The European Union is threatening to introduce speech regulating legislation if Big Tech does not do more to protect against what the multi-nation governing body sees as interference into its elections.
“Google, Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. need to continue to boost efforts to combat disinformation on their platforms, the European Union said, as it repeated warnings it could introduce legislation,” according to Bloomberg. “The companies’ actions helped limit interference in the European Parliament elections in May and provided greater transparency around political ads, the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body said. But large-scale automated propaganda and disinformation persist and more work needs to be done, it added.”
The story provided no concrete examples of such “large-scale automated propaganda,” but made reference to alleged Russian interference in the 2015 Brexit vote and the 2016 U.S. elections. The hysteria over election interference could simply be a pretext for more stringent crackdowns on online speech.
“The EU said there is ‘an urgent need’ for online platforms to establish meaningful cooperation with a wider range of independent researchers and grant them access to data,” the report said.
In other words, the EU wants big government and Big Tech to team up in order to police speech online. What could possibly go wrong?
Bloomberg noted the timing of the speech crackdown: just before the 2020 election cycle in the United States.
Meanwhile, Big Tech has had no problem cracking down on free speech in the U.S. all on its own. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg live streamed a “free speech manifesto” in which he professed to support the concept wholly, only for Facebook users to find that he censored the comments section during his stream. During the speech, he claimed to be a champion of free speech, even though several top conservative activists and influencers are banned from the platform.
In May the monopolistic company permanently suspended the accounts of Laura Loomer, Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, and Infowars from the platform and subsidiary social media site, Instagram. Facebook justified the ban arguing their accounts violated its policies against dangerous individuals and organizations.
Trump has repeatedly blasted Facebook for being “anti-Trump,” and violating antitrust law, while his supporters have long warned the social media network is demonstrably and brazenly biased against conservatives.
Earlier this year, Trump warned the platform is on the side of the “Radical Left Democrats.”
Zuckerberg’s manifesto was likely given to save face during a time when 50 state attorneys general are looking into the company for anti-competitive behavior, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has discussed breaking the company up if it is deemed to be a monopoly.
It is a dangerous time for political speech in both the United States and Europe. Tech companies like Facebook, which function as the modern day public square for people to share their political beliefs, always seem to be leaning towards restriction of speech rather than freedom of speech.
In societies that have historically valued free expression, the challenge of reigning in Big Tech’s massive power to censor is the first of its kind.
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