Saturday, 9 January 2021

Google Plus, censorship, and the future of Twitter et al

The current President of the United States, as of writing this sentence, Donald J. Trump, has just experienced what being unpersoned entails, something some of his supporters had long experienced. 

His Twitter account has been permanently banned, for saying he would not attend the Biden inauguration, seemingly. Facebook and Instagram have him suspended. Shopify has banned his store. His email provider has allegedly banned him and kept his email list from him. Whether the servers of his website do the same, or Visa and MasterCard ban him (the Andrew Torba treatment) is uncertain.

The creation of a left wing social media network by suppressing conservatives has been done before, in the form of Google Plus. I used to love using Google Plus, but it soon became very manipulated by Google. Trending and popular posts were almost never conservative, even when they got more pluses than liberal ones. Lynch mobs soon formed to go after and destroy conservatives on the platform. They were nasty and without mercy. Google Plus soon confirmed its status as a ghost town. Eventually, it was taken down by Google. 

There is also talk of charging Donald Trump and his son with inciting violence, due to the strong condemnation of the rushing of the Capitol on all sides of the establishment. 

Very little of my Twitter following is American, but even so, even I have seen the dip in my following as large conservative accounts say they are losing thousands of followers. Those lost followers are almost certainly people being banned now the Trump era is over and big tech need not fear Biden and the Democrats.

Assuming a repeat of Google Plus

Big conservative accounts will increasingly see their Tweets replied to by masses on the left, campaigns to deplatform even the mainstream among them, and rushes to attack their followers. The balance on Twitter will sway hard left, and the moderate will have much to fear even if they are on the left, as the hard left are emboldened. Eventually, the risk of losing your job in the real world won't be worth the vanity of having thousands follow you, for the average person. Getting a Blue Checkmark verifying your identity is already associated with being more or hard left. People also often associate blue checkmarks with cruelty and bad takes. Many no longer aspire to achieve that status, and mass following on Twitter may soon be a signal the average person doesn't want to give. Would you boast about having a massive MySpace or Tumblr following?

Without conservatives on platform, the left will turn on moderates and on their own. It will be cruel and will drive engagement away from the platform. Eventually, a platform kept alive by famous figures on both sides will go from being deemed a deeply toxic site to being deemed too toxic. Twitter, like Google Plus, will become a small website serving to organise the hard left.

But what is the larger impact?

The something like seventy million people who voted for Donald Trump are not dead. They have seen some people enter the American parliament, mess up a few papers, wonder around with a speaking platform, and shout slogans. They are likely to see those people jailed with hard time. 

They see Donald Trump deplatformed and denied service by various essential tech services. They may soon seen Trump and others charged and convicted for the people who entered the sacred space of the Capitol. 

The shooting of the unarmed air force veteran has met no outrage, nor the unexplained deaths of 3 other protesters (everyone in the end dies of a heart attack, that can't be cause of death, did they die from overuse of tear gas?). Instead we are told authorities went too easy on the larping Trump supporters by the same people who called the burning down of a police precinct, mass rioting, harassment, theft, vandalism and the murder of dozens: mostly peaceful protests, and who made heroes of those who did so, even those who set up their own independent states inside US cities. 

If the storming of the Capitol is only bad because of who did it, and would have seen those behind it gain billions of dollars in corporate funding and police kneeling before them if they were the right cause, what message does that send to John who lost his job due to lockdown?

What would you do if you were a Trump supporter in America in these circumstances? Likely deplatformed, demonized, and facing those who you believe stole an election from you, and who refuse to satisfy you with an audit or something else, because they really don't have to, having absolute power? Millions of people don't just go away. There was a chance to create healing and for the left to be magnanimous. That has been done away with.

Yesterday, I referred to China as the most powerful nation on Earth. An American friend corrected me, saying that that was America. That friend was wrong. As things stand, America likely faces years of unrest. 

People don't stop being people when you unperson them on social media. Treat a largely peaceful and rather dumb protest as insurrection and terrorism, and you may feel you are strongly condemning the bad guys ... but you are also signalling to them that running about largely peacefully protesting with your face showing and your identity made clear will see you incur the same punishment as terrorists ... That ups an ante. 

A country at real risk of widespread civil unrest and internal collapse cannot be called the most powerful nation on Earth. It just isn't, anymore. The freedom which put the States ahead of China is now largely a thin veneer, when oligarchs can unperson a sitting President on behalf of the present opposition party, a party which won an election where stories adverse to them were openly suppressed, such as the New York Post article, and where Big Tech clearly backed one side and likely swayed the election via its backing. That is a country likely facing years of internal strife.

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