Recent events have brought the issue of social media censorship to the forefront:

  • Facebook bans Trump’s account
  • Instagram bans Trump’s account
  • Snapchat bans Trump’s account
  • Twitch bans Trump’s account
  • Twitter bans Trump’s account
  • Amazon removes Parler from its cloud hosting service
  • Apple removes Parler from the App Store
  • Google removes Parler from the Play Store
  • Discord bans TheDonald.win server
  • Reddit bans r/DonaldTrump
  • Pinterest censors Trump related topics
  • Shopify removes Trump’s merchandise from its platform
  • TikTok removes Trump’s speeches
  • Youtube removes videos claiming widespread voter fraud

No informed person is disputing that these are private companies and they have the legal right to do whatever they want (within the bounds of the law) with their platforms. The 1st amendment doesn’t apply here. Nonetheless it’s very alarming that voices coming from the political left are sympathetic to widespread censorship just because it’s Trump. If it were someone within their own ranks being censored they would no doubt be making the same argument I’m going to make about the danger of censorship. Voices coming from the political right actually have a saner viewpoint on the censorship problem in the sense that they can actually recognize censorship as a social problem which Trump’s situation has only highlighted.

As amusing as it is seeing adult Eric Cartman’s megaphone taken away, having a handful of big tech companies control who gets a voice and who doesn’t is extremely dangerous. Once a platform is large enough it is a de facto public forum in the sense that it can be used by anyone to freely spread their ideas. Censorship on it in practice can be as damaging to freedom of speech as censoring a de jure public forum. The good coming from this censorship is people are waking up to the fact that big tech companies can and do censor whoever they want when it suits them. Signal Messenger has even seen a huge increase in downloads since the censorship imposed after the capitol riots. Uncensorable platforms are needed. Luke Smith proposes federated platforms as a permanent fix for the censorship issue:

[Video Link]

Federation Versus Peer to Peer

While federation is better than centralization, in practice federation tends toward centralization anyway. Email is federated but a few big providers (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, iCloud, Protonmail) control the market. Worse yet, all the big providers sell user data. But it’s not just email. On the federated communication platform Matrix users are still heavily concentrated on the default matrix.org homeserver. So it’s not true that federation alone fixes social media for good. A peer-to-peer social media platform could fix social media for good. But I’d still rather see everyone on The Fediverse instead of the centralized social media platforms used today.