Twitter and other social media platforms such as Facebook and Google have long been in the business of censoring opinions they don’t like. These aren’t necessarily “dangerous” opinions as they claim, but rather opinions that are generally deeply opposed to the progressive orthodoxy of Silicon Valley.
Right-wing provocateurs such as Roger Stone, Carl Benjamin, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Laura Loomer were the first major figures to be banned entirely from Twitter, where they each had hundreds of thousands of followers. Despite this censorship, the majority of Trump supporters remained active on the platform in order to keep themselves within the wider conversation.
However, Twitter’s decision to ban Donald Trump, the sitting U.S. president, on Friday evening represents a radical new step by the company that should alarm anyone interested in preserving freedom of speech. The move was clearly political, despite the company’s disputable claim that Trump was inciting violence. Since before Trump’s election, Twitter has been a political machine, with many of their employees being openly progressive activists.
Led by its somewhat uncharismatic founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, the company has suspended countless right-wing activists who had built a following of millions of people, effectively removing their voices from the public debate. Meanwhile, figures involved in egregious human rights abuses such as Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro or the Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei remain free to use the platform as they wish.
Twitter is a private company, and although the arguments for breaking it and other Silicon Valley giants such as Google and Facebook up are convincing, the passing of any such legislation under a wholly Democratically controlled Congress is extremely unlikely. This is where conservatives and libertarians must embrace the beauty of innovation and the free market. Luckily, they have a ready-made platform in the form of Parler, a social network founded in 2018 that is similar to Twitter but with a steadfast commitment to free speech.
Millions of people have already joined Parler and the company is rapidly expanding, although it still faces major challenges. The first of these obstacles is the monopoly like behavior of Google and Apple, who have threatened to permanently remove the Parler app from their app stores should it not enforce stronger moderation of its content. Currently the platform only bans pornographic content and things that are illegal, although they will require far more stringent policies in order to meet the demands of these two companies, who together control more than 90 percent of the app market.
The other major challenge facing Parler is turning it from a conservative echo chamber into a place where people of all creed and color are willing to use it. One of the great things about Twitter is the idea that it is a public square of debate, yet this diversity of opinion on Parler will be much harder to achieve. Should Parler become a safe space for conservatives, it will likely only contribute to the strict partisan and ideological divides that are currently tearing America apart.
With Donald Trump no longer able to speak to his 88 million Twitter followers, the obvious thing for him to do is to join Parler and rebuild his audience. Despite the media’s determination to prevent him from reaching his supporters and effectively write him out of history, millions of people will go to Parler just to be connected with this enigmatic yet most controversial of American presidents. This will likely be easier than it sounds, Fox News host Mark Levin already has over four million followers on the platform.
After the platform becomes a hub of conservative opinion, Parler can hopefully expand into other markets and become an attractive option for anyone seeking to share content and ideas not approved by our Silicon Valley overlords. After all, there are many dissident voices on the left, such as journalist Glenn Greenwald or NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, whose anti-establishment opinions may eventually see them also cut off by Twitter and other social media giants.
At a time when censorship and cancel culture are more prevalent than ever, freedom-minded individuals must find creative ways to make their voices heard. With no prospect of a legislative solution in the near future, people must vote with their feet, leave Twitter, and join platforms such as Parler where the spirit of the First Amendment is alive and well.
Ben Kew is the English Editor at El American. Follow him on Parler