The following is an excerpt from my latest pamphlet, Thought Control Inc. How Powerful Monopolies Hacked the Bill of Rights to Impose Their Radical Politics on America.
Dot Coms Hack Freedom of Speech
“We’re not arguing for censorship, we’re arguing just take it off the page,” Eric Schmidt, the Hillary Clinton adviser, serving as executive chairman of Google’s parent company, urged.
“It should be possible for computers to detect malicious, misleading and incorrect information and essentially have you not see it,” the powerful dot com industry figure suggested.
The topic was, among other things, ‘fake news’ and the 2016 election.
The attack on freedom of speech began, like many abuses, with an emergency requiring urgent action and leaving no room for civil rights and the rule of law. The emergency was President Trump’s victory.
President Trump had taken office two months earlier, but feelings were still raw from his victory.
November 8, 2016 had been met with celebrations in some parts of the country and despair in others. At Google, there were tears and talk of fighting “fake news” using “machine learning and AI.”
These buzzwords would shortly become the leverage in a battle over freedom of speech, fake news, the nature of the internet, and the power of monopolistic dot coms like Google to control what we see.
Election Day hadn’t just shattered the political complacency in Washington D.C., but had destroyed Silicon Valley’s conviction that its platforms were natural tools for the spread of progressive ideas. Trump’s success on social media, they believed, could only be due to his abuse of the platform.
It could never be allowed to happen again.
Social media had become powerful enough to determine the outcome of elections and economies by upending the internet in much the same way that the internet had upended traditional media because
its experience was built around user choice. The old free and open internet had been crushed out of existence by Google’s search dominance, which favored corporate media over individual sites.
“The internet is fast becoming a cesspool where false information thrives,” Schmidt had told media publishers in 2008. “Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.”
“In a world of disinformation, which is the future,” he insisted, “brands are the solution. “
By brands, he meant traditional media. Google’s search dominance had turned the internet into a series of links to duplicate media spam offering variations of the same stories from the same perspective. Facebook, however, allowed people to create circles defined by their own interests, not Google’s
Social media dot coms, some under pressure and others of their own initiative, were transforming from platforms to publishers, rating and ranking content based on social responsibility, putting media sources ahead of user content, and censoring whatever speech the media deemed to be “disinformation.”
The whole point of social media (and once upon a time of the internet) was that “user-generated content” was not curated. It did not succeed because it met someone’s personal definition of quality, but because people were interested in it. A cat picture could outrank an article on the British royal family. Silly, stupid, and even false nonsense battled it out in the marketplace of ideas.
Peer-to-peer content on social media harnessed the power of the internet to disrupt the media. The media can only thrive in a monopolistic ecosystem in which publishers, not users, are in control.
While pressure ramped up on Facebook to censor conservatives, Google had its own plan. Google Ideas had been renamed Jigsaw, and was being run by Jared Cohen. Cohen was a Hillary Clinton adviser and part of the revolving door between Google, the State Department, and the Clinton campaign. The connections were so intensive that the search engine monopoly nearly became part of Clintonworld.
Nineteen State Department officials, including Cohen, had joined Google while the Clinton campaign’s tech people came out of Google. Not only were the Clinton campaign’s chief technology officer, deputy CTO, chief product officer, and director of digital advertising Google people, but Eric Schmidt, Google’s own boss, had found innovative new ways of blending Google and Clintonworld organizations.
That included Schmidt’s The Groundwork, a secretive tech project for the Clinton campaign. It also included Jigsaw, headed by State Department officials, which worked with the State Department. In the Google Ideas era, its ‘moonshot’ idea was ending all censorship. In the Jigsaw era, though, ‘altruistic’ meant figuring out better ways to censor the internet. Even though that’s not what Google called it.
“Fake news is a ranking problem,” Schmidt had said.
Google didn’t need to entirely remove sites from its listings; all it had to do was lower their ranking so that they would be buried beneath dozens or hundreds of politically correct results.
“Everyone has the right to say what they want, have access to sites that they want, share what they want,” Goff, Hillary’s digital guru, insisted. “But a publisher with a record of making stuff up is not likely to rank that highly on Google, and the equivalent ought to be the case on Facebook.”
The idea that Facebook ought to work more like Google, that it should be less peer-to-peer and more top down, underlay the fake news crisis and the two competing visions of Google and social media.
Google believed that an internet defined by ordinary users would be a “cesspool” that could only be elevated by focusing on reputable brands. Social media was based around users driving conversation. Google’s efforts to get into social media failed because the monopoly did not understand user agency. Its one successful effort, YouTube, is being censored into irrelevance with PragerU, Steven Crowder, and other conservative media facing purges because their videos are popular, but politically incorrect.
A lawsuit against Google by PragerU asked “whether Google/YouTube are above the law when it comes to regulating free speech and expression.”
This is an excerpt from Thought Control Inc. How Powerful Monopolies Hacked the Bill of Rights to Impose Their Radical Politics on America.
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