Nearly 80 percent of big tech employees believe the industry has too much power, according to a recent poll from Protocol. If recent events dictate anything, they have good reason to be concerned.
In a courtroom, a jury needs evidence before it will convict. In the land of big tech, executives only need a rumor before they’ll sentence a company to life offline.
Parler, an alternative social media platform, was removed from the app stores of Google and Apple while Amazon ripped it from the internet altogether within a single weekend. Apple later doubled down on its decision. These three companies -- seemingly in concert -- destroyed Parler because they said its users were responsible for the U.S. Capitol riots on January 6.
What evidence did they have to punish Parler? Almost none. In fact, most of the evidence shows that Facebook platforms were key in organizing the riots.
An analysis of Department of Justice reports by Forbes and George Washington University’s Program on Extremism revealed that Parler was mentioned as an organizing tool the alleged rioters eight times. Facebook, on the other hand, was mentioned by the alleged rioters 73 times. Facebook’s subsidiary, Instagram, was mentioned 20 times. Google’s subsidiary, YouTube, was mentioned 24 times.
The data is clear: Facebook’s social media platforms were mentioned nearly 12 times more than Parler by the rioters. Yet Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg spent the evening of January 6 blaming Parler despite having no evidence to back it up.
“I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate and don’t have our standards and don’t have our transparency,” Sandberg said the night of the riots.
Any social media platforms can be misused by malicious people. The millions of users on Facebook should not be punished for the 73 alleged criminals who used the platform to organize a riot. But the 15 million Americans who used Parler have been punished for the misdeeds of those eight users.
If Parler’s case had played out in a courtroom, the jury wouldn’t need two minutes to arrive at the decision of “not guilty” after seeing that the smear of Parler is based on self-serving misinformation of a competitor. But these big tech monopolies are beholden to no one. With a nod to Alice in Wonderland, they acted as judge, jury, and executioner without even waiting to see the evidence.
Of course, Parler was offered parole by these companies. All Parler needed to do was abandon the free speech principles that caused its user base to skyrocket as Americans ditched Twitter and Facebook following their decisions to ban former President Trump. If Parler gave up its competitive advantage and stopped serving the disgruntled conservatives who left Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google had no problem with allowing Parler to return.
Parler may still have its day in court. Parler has filed a defamation and breach of contract lawsuit against Amazon. But Parler should include Apple and Google in these lawsuits, as well.
Here are the facts: Google, Apple, and Amazon all decided over a single weekend that Parler needed to be taken down despite not having any actionable evidence. The only “evidence” they had was a talking point from Parler’s largest competitor. Meanwhile, the number of arrests tied to Facebook continues to grow.
This could all be a coincidence. It could also be a coordinated attempt to destroy a rising company based on misinformation and animosity towards its conservative user base. The term conspiracy comes to mind. Either way, it makes sense why big tech employees are concerned about the amount of power the industry wields.
The right lawsuit could finally reveal these big tech overlords for undemocratic, unfair rulers they have become. There will certainly be some interesting theater when these executives are deposed about who acted so quickly and why they made their decisions.