In the mid-18th century, a secretive political group began spreading dangerous conspiracy theories throughout Britain’s colonies. British subjects had long enjoyed the freedom of expression, but these radicals abused novel communication platforms to churn out seditious literature not often grounded in fact, even resorting to threats and violence that endangered those around them.
According to their wild theories, a series of modest taxes levied by Parliament actually represented an incremental process to strip away their rights. They had no evidence to back their claims. After they arranged one of the costliest acts of vandalism in the history of the Empire, Parliament very reasonably invoked a state of emergency to protect the public. Yet, characteristically, rather than raising their objections through proper legal channels, these extremists co-signed a document penned by one of their most wily and manipulative agitators, falsely claiming to speak for all the colonists in declaring themselves above the law.
In a helpful rebuttal, Governor Thomas Hutchinson thoroughly debunked the document, outlining the many “false and frivolous” claims in this “list of imaginary grievances,” its signatories relying on spurious overtures to “what they called the natural rights of mankind” to evade substantive argument. Hutchinson noted the signers’ racism, “depriving more than a hundred thousand Africans of their rights to liberty,” discrediting their appeals to so-called “natural rights,” as well as “the absurdity of making the governed to be governors,” a laughable contradiction. Moreover, the document was misleading. “The real design was to reconcile the people of America to that Independence.” The signers even referred to their sovereign as a “tyrant,” a profanity for which “indignant resentment must seize the breast of every loyal subject.” The Empire had always been about saving lives, after all—even if it occasionally fell a bit short.
In this story, most readers now recognize the birth of the world’s oldest democracy and the modern constitutional republic. But perhaps those who presently govern the mega-platforms collectively referred to as “Big Tech,” on which most online discourse now takes place, take it as a warning of what can go wrong if citizens are permitted to freely express their beliefs.
As strangely low an ethical standard as it was, the days of “Don’t be evil” appear to have been left far behind. Big Tech platforms now routinely side with raw state and corporate power, showing a disregard bordering on outright disdain for the rights and welfare of the human beings whom their actions affect. The recent history of Big Tech is a history of repeated usurpations, all demonstrating as their direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over the people.
Big Tech platforms openly disavow any role in abiding by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, to which all American citizens owe a duty and to which any person who chooses to become an American citizen must swear an oath to uphold and defend. They censor centuries-old news organizations for publishing true, factual, and timely information.
Big Tech platforms routinely censor the legal speech of citizens, concealing the rationale behind their decisions and applying their terms of service selectively, if at all. They mislead the public as to the scale and scope of this censorship, systematically silencing the most articulate voices on one side of any given debate unbeknownst to the vast majority of the public.
Big Tech platforms openlycollude with governments to suppress the speech of their own people, while overtly abusing the legal system and paying massive settlements to conceal the evidence of their collusion. They craft the false illusion of consensus on political issues of their own choosing, a power unprecedented in our democracy and historically held only by the most despotic regimes, promising in every instance to wield it for good, but falling short every time.
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Big Tech platforms deploy artificial intelligence to censor and de-boost citizens and opposing viewpoints with increasingly inhuman detachment and efficiency. They retain as leading AI experts—on their boards of directors—personnel with deep and well-documented ties to the militaries of the world’s worst dictatorships.
Big Tech platforms routinely apply fact-check labelsto true stories and information based on unrelated contextual issues, manipulating political narratives by deceiving the public into believing that the pertinent information is itself false. Meanwhile, they ignore large-scale bot and astroturf campaigns affecting political outcomes all over the world—despite harrowing accounts from whistleblowers—while misleading the public as to the frequency, scale, and purpose of these bot and astroturf campaigns.
Big Tech platforms censor the voices of the most well-qualified citizensunder the Orwellian pretext of combatting “misinformation,” drowning out their views with those of disinformation agents and bots. Meanwhile, they anoint as “experts” those who hold no relevant qualifications in the designated field other than a groveling deference to the viewpoints of Big Tech, who then regularly publish falsehoods without retribution.
Big Tech platforms employ managers who accept bribes to censor political dissidents fighting against the world’s deadliest regimes, to whom they show obsequious deference. They bear a growing resemblance to organized crime syndicates, submitting false statements to the highest courts of law while hiding behind an unlimited legal budget and cutesy PR campaigns replete with amorphous birds and round, lower-case letters to escape legal scrutiny.
This is no far-off dystopia. As rapidly as they’ve transpired, these things are already happening, and this is the reality of the world that Big Tech has created today. Given their systematic suppression of dissent against lockdowns, which ultimately killed over 170,000 Americans and countless millions more around the world, it’s hard to think of any ostensibly-private enterprise since the British East India Company that’s been responsible for more widespread human suffering. Much of this behavior is surely being coerced by the federal government, just as the East India Company was largely doing the bidding of the British Government. But Big Tech might want to ask how well “just following orders” worked as a defense in 1945.
I conclude with the words of another individual who ultimately came to sign that radical 18th-century document, but other than whom no man ever fought harder for peace.
“Look upon your Hands! They are stained with the Blood of your Relations! You and I were long Friends. You are now my Enemy—and I am Yours.”
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