Likening big tech to the Spanish Inquisition, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has announced that he will spearhead a global fight against big tech censorship by online giants. The announcement comes after major American tech platforms like Facebook and Twitter banned the account of President Donald Trump, triggering concerns worldwide that free speech would be curtailed and dictated by tech behemoths. Obrador revealed that he is already contacting various governments around the world to take action on the issue.
“I can tell you that at the first G20 meeting we have, I am going to make a proposal on this issue… Yes, social media should not be used to incite violence and all that, but this cannot be used as a pretext to suspend freedom of expression… How can a company act as if it was all-powerful, omnipotent, as a sort of Spanish Inquisition on what is expressed?” Obrador said to Associated Press.
Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretary, revealed that they have already received responses from officials in the EU, Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
President Obrador has instructed the drawing up of a joint proposal to curb big tech censorship. Obrador also asked his Facebook followers to switch to Telegram.
Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, pointed out that the tech companies are underestimating the influence Trump has among overseas governments and other influential foreigners. He predicts that targeted censorship by companies like Facebook and Twitter will drive users towards newer platforms and that in a few years these companies will be complaining about how they destroyed their business model, eradicating billions of dollars’ worth of shareholder wealth. The shares of Facebook and Twitter have already taken a combined plummet of $51 billion dollars in market value in the course of only two trading sessions, that is, two days.
Faced with this loss of value, Facebook and Twitter don’t seem to be flinching, which makes one wonder: Could their moves have been incentivized in some way, or was pressure somehow irresistible? In light of the plummeting value and the questions this raises, various state governments in the U.S. are swiftly moving to divest their funds away from these tech firms. Notably, the administrations of Florida and Tennessee are exploring ways to get rid of all debt and equity they hold in companies like Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet.
In Poland, the ban on Trump has triggered the government to speed up a proposed law to counter big tech censorship. The plan is to create a Free Speech Board that will be composed of five people selected by the parliament through a three-fifths majority. Each of them will have six-year terms. Social media users can approach the Free Speech Board in the event of any platform unjustly banning content or deleting their account. If it is found that the tech company took action against the user for speech that is considered legal according to Polish law, the firm can be fined up to 50 million zloty (approx. $13.3 million).
Zbigniew Ziobro, the Polish Minister of Justice, noted that the function of the Free Speech Board will be to prevent censorship by social networks and not to act like censors themselves. “Polish citizens, while carrying out such discussions and debates on the internet… should have a guarantee of their basic rights that ensure the respect for their civil rights and freedoms that the Polish constitution guarantees to them,” he said in a statement. Notably, Poland was the first European country to break from Communism and has held fast to freedoms necessary for a healthy representative democracy. Ziobro’s statement also emphasized: “The freedom of speech and freedom of debate is the essence of democracy; there is no democracy if the state does not guarantee freedom in these two areas….”
In Trump’s view, the big tech censoring tactics are a move that will only end up angering more Americans. The president noted that he has been warning about the threat of big tech censors for a long time but wasn’t taken seriously, and now they have banned his accounts. He feels that conservatives are getting increasingly enraged at the biased way in which the mostly Silicon Valley-based companies are censoring content.