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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/11/21

Is Big Tech Too Powerful? Chris Hedges & Ramesh Srinivasan Debate Twitter & Facebook Banning Trump

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Twitter, Facebook and other social media companies have removed President Trump from their platforms, after years of debate about the disinformation he shared to millions of followers from his accounts. While many are applauding the bans, author Chris Hedges warns they could backfire. "To allow these companies to essentially function as de facto platforms for censorship and manipulation...harkens back to the way civil liberties were eviscerated in the wake of 9/11," says Hedges. "It's always, in the end, the left that pays for this kind of censorship."

We also speak with UCLA professor Ramesh Srinivasan, director of the Digital Cultures Lab, who says Big Tech allowed right-wing extremism to flourish for years before acting and that lawmakers need to enact robust regulation. "All of these technology platforms, powered by their hidden algorithms that are indeed opaque, thrive on the amplification of polarization," says Srinivasan. "It is incredible how much power we have given to a very small number of people who are essentially mediating pretty much every aspect of our lives."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

After years of debate, Twitter and Facebook have removed President Trump from their platforms. Today we'll host our own debate on the moves by Big Tech.

Twitter permanently suspended Trump Friday, cutting off his instant line of communication with 89 million followers, after reviewing two tweets it said could incite violence and contribute to a possible, quote, "secondary attack" on the U.S. Capitol and other government facilities next weekend, ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday. Trump's tweets were, quote, "The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!" and Trump also tweeted that he, quote, "will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20," unquote.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Instagram, which are the same company, have now suspended Trump at least until Inauguration Day. Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, and Snapchat also disabled Trump's accounts. Other platforms that have now banned or restricted Trump include TikTok, Reddit, Snapchat and Shopify.

Meanwhile, Apple, Google and Amazon Web Services ended their support for the social media network Parler over the weekend, which bills itself as Twitter without rules. The companies say Parler's managers have consistently failed to halt threats of violence and calls for armed insurrection on the site. Parler was co-founded by the Republican megadonor Trump supporter Rebekah Mercer, daughter of hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer.

All of this comes as critics argue Facebook, Google and Twitter have peddled extremism for profit for years. Now the payment processing company Stripe has cut ties with the Trump campaign, which continues to fundraise, saying it violated policies against encouraging violence after the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol last Wednesday.

For more on Big Tech's response to the Capitol insurrection, we begin with Ramesh Srinivasan. He's professor of information studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA, where he also directs the Digital Cultures Lab. Professor Srinivasan is the author of the book Beyond the Valley: How Innovators Around the World Are Overcoming Inequality and Creating the Technologies of Tomorrow.. After we speak with him, we'll host a debate with professor Srinivasan and Chris Hedges.

So, Professor, if you can start off a lot of people may not even be familiar with some of these sites, but if you can talk about what has happened in the last week with Big Tech?

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I listened to the "debate", which I put in quotation marks just because Goodman, the "moderator", was so obviously partisan, urging her usual "orange man bad" theme on both participants. What happened was they both agreed that Big Tech is way too powerful, and on the subject of whether Trump should be banned, Hedges disagreed and Srinivasan weaseled.

I give credit to Goodman for sometimes allowing a bit of space for a point of view that disagrees with her own, but I often find myself agreeing with the other side of the argument. Kind of like the way I feel about how OEN goes often, although I think Rob is much more willing to give a large and unfettered space for points of view he disagrees with. Too bad Democracy Now is so narrow in its viewpoint so much of the time, but nice when little scraps of light are allowed to peek through.

Submitted on Wednesday, Jan 13, 2021 at 8:03:19 PM

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