What You Need to Know about the Heads of Social Media and Big Tech

untitled-5-6

In an unprecedented move by the head honchos of social media, President Donald Trump had several posts on his Twitter account slapped with “fact check” disclaimer labels.

When internet companies were in their infancy back in the 1990s, Congress, via legislation, provided them with immunity from certain civil lawsuits in order to encourage the development of “platforms,” i.e., digital places for users to share user-created content.

Similar to bookstores that are not in the business of creating, editing, or publishing the material contained on the shelves of their stores, companies such as Twitter were granted special protection from lawsuits so that digital platforms that merely host media content created by third parties (their users) would be able to operate unhindered by the threat of legal action.

Companies with very large social media platforms have been acting as if they merely provide space for third parties to share, when in actuality it is just that, acting. Based on the same premise, they additionally continue to maintain that they should not be held liable for what their users post.

Twitter’s decision to fact check in such a high profile and subjective manner stands as a watershed moment in the relationship between government and social media.

By fact checking the President of the United States on, of all things, an issue related to potential election fraud, Twitter tossed its identity of being a platform out into the ethersphere. But it also let the cat out of the bag as to its real present status, that of full-fledged publisher.

Twitter expressed a political opinion when it engaged in its fact checking. The issue was a mega-politically charged one involving mass mail-in voting and whether such a process is ripe for fraud.

President Trump’s tweet was evaluated by the overseers at Twitter, and users were prompted to “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” Upon clicking a link, users were subsequently instructed that “experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud,” an unmistakable political statement that also happens to be false.

If one is willing to dig a little deeper, what is discovered is that Twitter has implemented a policy that currently seems to apply to a single user—President Trump.

When a social media company engages in the same activities as a publication, it must be treated as if it were one. Newspapers, magazines, etc., fall under the umbrella of conventional publishers that create and edit their own content and are not exempt from liability.

Twitter has not been considered a publisher, despite the fact that it has been acting like one. But to exacerbate the situation, it has increasingly become a publisher of the most highly partisan kind. And it just so happens that, as of this writing, we are less than six months away from a presidential election.

Some big tech companies have also demonstrated a political bias in giving liberals a pass while engaging in an all-out targeting of conservatives.

–PragerU’s Facebook page was marked with a virtual branding iron as containing “false news” and was demonetized as well.

–A study from NYU on the addition of zinc to a hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin treatment was removed by YouTube.

–A hydroxychloroquine video by Sharyl Attkisson was also removed, although it was subsequently reinstated.

–A contrarian Michael Moore-produced documentary, “Planet of the Humans,” was yanked from YouTube.

As reported by Vox, a number of top Silicon Valley figures appear to be working behind the scenes in a concerted effort to get presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden elected. Big tech names include LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Apple founder Steve Job’s widow Laurene Powell Jobs, and ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Twitter’s own Yoel Roth, who presently holds the title “Head of Site Integrity,” has referred to President Trump and his team as “actual Nazis.” Roth has additionally mocked Trump supporters, insulted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and provided campaign donations to former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

President Trump recently signed an executive order that sets in motion a potentially costly change for Twitter with respect to the company’s civil liability exposure. The order directs all executive departments and agencies to ensure that their application of Section 230(c), the law that limits liability, falls within “the narrow purpose of the section.”

The executive order cites the legislative purpose of the law to maintain the internet as a “forum for a true diversity of political discourse.” The departments and agencies are instructed to “take all appropriate actions in this regard.”

The heads of departments and agencies must also review advertising and marketing expenses that are paid to Twitter and other online platforms. This includes the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Department of Justice (DOJ), as well as other parts of the executive branch.

With regard to Twitter, Google, Facebook, YouTube, and others, it is possible that some of the personnel of these departments and agencies will be looking into the practice of the gathering of information about virtually everything users do and then selling the data for billions of dollars.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has already indicated that the DOJ will begin drafting legislation to regulate social media companies.

President Trump’s executive order may have an immediate limiting effect on social media and big tech’s future editorial actions.

Apparently, tech CEOs, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, have already heard the footsteps of the federal government. Zuckerberg recently distanced himself from Twitter when he told Fox News that the social media platform had, in his opinion, made a mistake, and that no social media platform should be the “arbiter of truth.”

The bottom line is that social media and big tech companies can’t have it both ways. And hopefully, in the very near future, they won’t.

President Trump Shows Real Leadership in Coronavirus Response

c1_3563945

President Donald Trump’s rough and tumble experience in the business world of Manhattan’s real estate market came into full view in the recent launch of a series of federal actions to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Shortly after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus to be a global pandemic, President Trump began a threefold engagement in the battle against the outbreak. He unveiled an innovative plan that brought in the private sector in the form of some of the nation’s largest companies to work alongside government to get our country back on a healthy footing.

To allow for the speedy production of coronavirus tests, the Trump administration cut out the red tape and enlisted companies with private labs to effectuate the tests.

Also brought in were leaders of some of the country’s most significant enterprises in order to initiate a public-private plan that could address the nation’s concerns and mitigate the mainstream media-prompted anxiety that had heightened over the virus.

President Trump and his staffers engaged in a series of meetings with business leaders from various relevant industries. Multiple agreements with major firms were successfully negotiated in order to provide, among other crucial protocol, coronavirus testing for Americans.

As a beneficial result of negotiated deals, Target and Walmart will be contributing parking lot space for drive-through testing facilities. Google, via a subsidiary, will work on the construction of a website, which will enable individuals to determine whether a test is needed, and if so, directions to the nearest testing location will be provided.

Other companies joining in with the pro-active efforts include Swiss drugmaker Roche, which received a fast track FDA approval to produce a new coronavirus test. Thermo Fisher will also provide tests. LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics offered their labs for testing purposes. And LHC Group, a company that provides home health services, will provide testing to the homebound.

The facilitation of government working together in conjunction with private enterprise is President Trump’s forte. Reassuring for the nation is the fact that the partnership concept has a demonstrated track record. In times of war, private industry proved to be indispensable in helping to defend the country. No doubt the business sector will once again play a vital role.

President Trump’s acumen in the art of the deal has additionally come to the fore as he has overseen negotiations for a compromise bill, legislation that was passed by the House and is likely to be expeditiously passed by the Senate and signed into law.

The legislation adds significant power to the nation’s efforts to fight the coronavirus as well as provide additional protections with regard to the economy. Paid sick leave, no-cost coronavirus testing, enhanced unemployment insurance, and the provision of additional Medicaid payments in the event of a rise in hospital patients are part of a comprehensive plan.

Passage of the bill in the House came to fruition only after marathon negotiating sessions had materialized. The White House and the GOP were attentive to the necessity of maintaining a cooperative attitude so that a swift agreement could be reached. For example, the inclusion of paid sick leave was secured via the negotiated item of granting employers offsetting tax credits in order to ease the burdens of small business owners.

“People really pulled together. Nice to see!” President Trump tweeted.

It appears likely that the Senate will soon pass the bill.

Excluded from the measure is President Trump’s desired provision of granting a payroll tax cut for working people. The White House and Republican leadership have likely deferred the payroll tax cut for an inevitable future bill.

The third prong of the administration’s strategy involves an additional $50 billion to be made available via President Trump’s State of Emergency declaration.

All in all, the president’s expert leadership should allow the country to recover in the most salutary of ways as together we shake off negativity and live in the light.

The Separation of Church and Search

shutterstock_245047444

Google has been busy of late laying down a track record of bias against conservative, pro-life, and Christian content.

Credible reports indicate that the tech giant has been manipulating searches on the part of participant users to facilitate end results that favor liberal outcomes and simultaneously suppress conservative content.

Google, via YouTube, has removed videos of Prager U, and Live Action and demonetized YouTuber Steven Crowder’s channel as well as Dr. Michael Brown’s Christian ministry, among others.

Concordia Publishing House, the publishing arm of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, had an ad disallowed due to the fact that items in the promotional materials and website postings refer to “Jesus and/or the Bible.”

In early 2019, a Google software engineer became a whistleblower and agreed to go on record to provide an inside witness in support of the premise that the tech company has a bias against Christians.

Hostility by Google regarding the tenets of Christianity comports with the politics of Silicon Valley and in particular the political ideology endemic within the search giant’s corporate culture.

James Damore, an engineer who was terminated by Google, filed a class action lawsuit last year, alleging that the tech giant harassed him and others over their right-of-center political views. Damore had written a memo that characterized the environment within the company as a “politically correct monoculture.”

This descriptive was recently made manifest when Google-owned YouTube suppressed an advertisement for a charity whose purpose is to provide assistance and support to military veterans. The explanation given for the suppression of marketing expression was that the ad in question contained the keyword “Christian.”

Keywords are routinely utilized in online advertising to allow advertisers to have their ads appear in search results whenever potential customers who are conducting internet searches type in a particular term or phrase.

Chad Robichaux, a Marine veteran and former MMA fighter, started a charitable foundation called the Mighty Oaks Warrior Program in order to serve veterans and their families in their battles to recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Robichaux became a Marine at age 17 and served eight tours in Afghanistan, where he was part of the Joint Special Operations Command Task Force and earned a Medal of Valor for his service to the nation.

The marketing team of Robichaux’s charitable organization attempted to publish an ad to promote an episode of the group’s “Mighty Oaks Show” that highlighted ways in which the Christian faith assisted a Korean War veteran in finding healing.

“So one of the keywords to boost the ad was the word ‘Christian,’ which we use regularly,” Robichaux told Faithwire. “The ad was denied specifically because of the use of the word ‘Christian.’”

Robichaux posted a screenshot on Twitter of an email that he received from Google, which indicated that the keyword “Christian” was “unacceptable content” and a “potential policy violation.”

According to Robichaux, the group has run ads with the keyword “Christian” for years. In 2019 alone, the group had 150,000 impressions on this word in its ads. However, because it appeared to be a new restriction, members of the group called the Google helpline. They were told that Google’s new criteria prohibited the use of the word “Christian.”

YouTube responded on Twitter, stating, “We know that religious beliefs are personal, so we don’t allow advertisers to target users on the basis of religion. Beyond that, we don’t have policies against advertising that includes religious terms like ‘Christian.’”

Google’s explanation seemed coherent, possibly even one that had been made in good faith, with a line of reasoning based on an ostensible policy of separation of church and search. However, Robichaux produced evidence that Google’s policy treats some religions as more equal than others.

Mighty Oaks proceeded to run the exact same ad with the keyword “Muslim” in place of “Christian.” Perplexingly, the ad was approved.

The two screenshots Robichaux provided stood in stark contrast to one another. The first showed that the word “Christian” had been flagged, while the second showed that Robichaux’s group had been given the green light to use the keyword “Muslim.”

The above example indicates that Google, the company that holds the key to the information door of the digital world and also owns the number one global video portal, has an animus toward a faith to which a majority of our nation’s residents adhere.

In light of Google’s selective application of its business policies, it is appropriate to examine the legislative privileges bestowed upon the tech giant. It is also fitting to question whether or not anti-trust law should be used to restore competition in the market over which Google currently reigns.

Antitrust Law Should Be Used to Break Up Big Tech Monopolies

161214-trump_techexecutives-1558_539e73df73d2409411e78c0f502b8ce3-fit-1240w

President Donald Trump, via his Twitter account, recently prompted a public discussion about the possibility of using antitrust law against major technology companies, due in part to a growing body of evidence that bias is being perpetrated against conservative individuals and entities by such companies.

The primary rationale of antitrust enforcement is the protection of the American consumer and free market economy from unprincipled business behavior by monopolistic enterprises.

Never before in the nation’s history have companies, such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, among others, possessed the size, wealth, dominance, control, and sheer power that the tech giants do.

With more than 70 percent of the PC search market and almost 85 percent of the mobile device market, Google currently has a virtual stranglehold on the gateway to digital information. And Google’s video social media platform, YouTube, controls almost 80 percent of the video market.

Facebook has about 2 billion users worldwide, and when the company’s additional acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp are factored in, 95 percent of young people regularly log on to Facebook platforms.

When it comes to Amazon, by the year’s end the company will have swallowed up almost 50 percent of the U.S. e-commerce business, and additionally lays claim to 80 percent of the e-book market. Amazon is also the largest provider of hosted cloud services, and the odds are strong that an online sales firm that competes with the company would likely be using Amazon servers for its own website.

Research on Google searches has produced data, which indicate that bias against conservative news outlets, blogs, and websites exists, and additionally indicate that ideologically right-of-center content has actually been removed from YouTube.

Despite Google’s denial of bias, PJMedia recently conducted a count of search results relating to President Trump and found that 96 percent of the most visible news articles that arose were generated from liberal outlets.

The Daily Caller reported that Google’s fact check feature engages almost exclusively in the targeting of right-of-center sites.

Facebook has exhibited bias in its trending topics, as well as in its removal of conservative content, and Amazon has manipulated book reviews to favor leftist writers.

Despite promises to the contrary, Facebook continues to censor ideas based on conservative content and has recently been caught doing so. A New York Post article by Salena Zito, which noted that supporters of President Trump were unaffected by the conviction and plea deal of two prominent Trump-associated individuals, Zito’s article was labeled as “spam.”

Facebook even took down an article titled “The School Shootings That Weren’t,” posted by NPR, that showed the number of school shootings, which were claimed to have taken place during the 2015–2016 school year, was highly inflated.

The president is correct in suggesting that the use of antitrust law against tech companies may be a necessary step that the government needs to take in order to awaken the tech giants to the duty that they have, to exercise greater responsibility in their approach to users and content. If they do not, consequences may result as seen with other companies, which were divided into smaller less monopolistic concerns.

In a previous antitrust filing, AT&T was split up into eight much smaller companies, and Standard Oil was divided into 34 firms. Each of these companies possessed the ability to almost totally dominate their respective market. The original AT&T accounted for 93 percent of all telephone calls made in the U.S., and Standard Oil sold 87 percent of U.S. refined oil.

An antitrust case that began in the early years of former President Bill Clinton’s administration was ultimately settled by the Department of Justice. Microsoft had been accused of abusing monopoly power on personal computers, in its handling of operating system and web browser sales, by bundling its Internet Explorer browser with its Windows operating system.

Microsoft’s actions are strikingly similar to a recent Google business practice. To insure its dominance of the mobile market, Google forced carriers and manufactures that used its Android operating system to make Google Search the default search engine and include a number of Google apps as well.

In 2008 the Bush Justice Department threatened to bring an antitrust action against Google, due to a proposed partnership with Yahoo for the sale of advertising. At the time, Google had a 70 percent share of the market, and Yahoo, with 20 percent, was the second largest search engine.

Due to the monopolistic realities of these giant tech companies, startups that might compete with the giants may end up being smothered. For example, an entrepreneurial startup company with products that compete with Google offerings has to be concerned that Google will give its own product a higher ranking and may even hide the new company’s competing products.

This poses a danger to the overall consumer market, because consumers lose the ability to become aware of and/or purchase any innovative products that startup companies might have to offer.

Both Google and Facebook maintain that their companies should not be the subject of antitrust scrutiny, because their product is said to be provided to their users free of charge. However, participants who are obtaining the services for free are not the actual customers of the companies. The real paying customers, in both search and social media, are the advertisers and publishers that pay for the ability to broaden their own pool of consumers.

The argument can be made that the big tech companies, via paid search advertising and paid social media advertising, have morphed into monopolies, and these monopolies have effectively stifled competition and innovation, while having a deleterious effect on the free market economy.

The Digital Threat to Free Expression

google-facebook-apple-spotify-big-tech-censorship-640x480

Recently, in a series of unprecedented moves on the part of four major social media platforms, free expression was deliberately brought to a halt.

That the thwarting of the free expression in question took place on the same day adds to the alarming nature of the action by the digital powers that be.

Alex Jones’s InfoWars content was banished from Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify. The move appears to have been a coordinated effort.

The removal of the content was evidently motivated by a desire to rid the platforms of supposed hate speech. However, the same platforms continue to display pages that have far more incendiary and/or offensive content than InfoWars posted.

Provocateur Jones’s site was a convenient quarry for tech companies to begin their purge of content that they subjectively deem undesirable.

However, tech giants have laid down a track record that indicates they cannot be trusted to maintain a fair venue for the marketplace of ideas.

Approximately 70 percent of the people within our country now obtain their news from Google and Facebook. Additionally, the major tech concerns have a virtual stranglehold on the manner in which billions of people around the globe communicate.

Truth be told, there has never been a more massive concentration of media power than that which is squarely in the hands of Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, and a smattering of other internet companies.

As digital companies go about the business of justifying censorship, many are looking for solutions via regulation.

Restraints on speech imposed by private companies are not protected by the First Amendment, and companies do not have a legal obligation to provide freedom of speech to their users. While internet companies were once fierce advocates of free expression, this is unfortunately not the case anymore.

Being larger than many governments of countries throughout the world, the tech giants act in a quasi-governmental manner when they eliminate or limit speech within their internet province.

Some have proposed turning the big tech giants into public utilities. Others have urged breaking up the companies through the use of anti-trust law, a logical idea when considering that the major tech firms have essentially become a monopoly with no significant competition, e.g., Google’s dominance of the internet video market and Facebook’s rule over the social media sector.

British Prime Minister Theresa May recently suggested that social media platforms be treated like news organizations, which would render them responsible for content appearing on their platforms.

Rep. Steve King has recommended revisiting the law that shields internet companies from being treated as the publisher of content users’ posts, thus restoring legal responsibility for defamatory and other tortious or criminal content that is published. The Iowa congressman is referring to a statutory provision that made the current internet social media landscape possible: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Publishers of content are typically liable for the material they disseminate, even when the content originates from individual unpaid contributors, such as a “letter to the editor.”

In 1996, when the web as we know it was still in its infancy, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act. An amendment to the original bill, Section 230, stated, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

The statute protected Internet providers from being deemed news organizations and gave legal immunity to the tech companies, ostensibly to foster industry growth and freedom of speech.

The U.S. Supreme Court stripped away much of the bill in 1998, but Section 230 was left unscathed.

Later precedents interpreted Section 230 broadly so that digital platform companies could grow exponentially, without serious concern for illegal speech placed on their platforms. And grow they did, to become the gargantuan companies that they are today, complete with secret algorithms that render selected users invisible. At the start, the young companies would not have been economically feasible minus the provision.

The law also prevents liability in the event “objectionable” material is removed. If the companies do choose to eliminate offensive user-created content, their immunity is not forfeited.

These massive companies are essentially being treated by the law as if they are still mere startups. Although many in the tech community see Section 230 as sacrosanct, i.e., not to be touched, the provision was modified by a bi-partisan coalition in Congress earlier this year. President Trump signed legislation amending Section 230 in April 2018, denying some legal immunity to internet platforms in order to fight sex trafficking.

More carve outs of the statute, or the threat of such, will get the attention of the tech giants and perhaps motivate them to return to the free and open platforms they once wanted to be.

How to Get Real News in a World of Fake News

google-fakenews-search-ss-1920

There was a time when three dominant television networks had the power to control the news and information narrative. Societal sources of information, though, have been constantly shifting over the past several decades due in great part to changes in technology.

The widespread reliance on digital information today has allowed ta trio of technology companies to be in a position to increasingly influence cultural and political conversations in a host of ways.

When it comes to establishing the news narrative, the big three consist of Google, Facebook, and Twitter. It is the tech giant Google, however, that has managed to morph into a monolithic kingdom of web search.

Google has become a digital pathway to information for almost the entire world, having secured approximately 70 percent of the global search market share. The usage of the search site for exploring the net is almost double the amount of its nearest competitor, Bing.

Additionally, as the owner of the principal video sharing site YouTube, Google is second only to Facebook as a social media platform.

Using its extraordinary algorithms and artificial intelligence, search giant Google unfortunately displays blatant and explicit biases against conservative viewpoints, all the while favoring left-leaning positions.

This partiality is underscored by discrimination lawsuits filed by former Google employees James Damore and David Gudeman against their prior employer. Damore alleges that he was fired for writing a memo criticizing Google’s diversity policies, while Gudeman claims he was blacklisted and let go for holding conservative beliefs, particularly for his support of now President Donald Trump.

The lawsuits describe a systemic ultra-liberal atmosphere at the tech giant. What is of major concern for the unknowing public is the fact that the radically left-leaning Google culture has manifested itself in distorted and biased search results.

In 2017 researchers from Northeastern University and the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology presented a paper that demonstrated a pervasive bias favoring Hillary Clinton existed in Google search results regarding the 2016 election.

Later in the year a research report written by Leo Goldstein of the group Defeat Climate Alarmism used data from Alexa.com to determine that Google searches were biased in favor of liberal domains and against conservative domains.

Using a current news story that broke over this past weekend concerning the Democratic memo, which was released to counter the Republican FISA abuse memo, a search on Google was conducted by this article’s author using the term “democrat memo.”

The results of the search were as follows: Two articles that appeared on the first line as “Top Stories” were one-sided pro-Democrat pieces from the The New York Times and Vox.

It was not until halfway down the third page of the Google search listings that a single article with a divergent point of view appeared. The article titled “What The Democrats Left Out Of Their Memo” was from the Daily Caller website.

The Google search exhibited the results, despite the fact that a plain reading of the Democratic memo indicated significant facts set forth in the Republican memo were left unanswered.

Particularly disturbing was the lack of any mention in the Democratic memo of the DNC and Clinton campaign funding of the infamous Steele dossier, or any mention or explanation of why that information was not provided to the FISA Court.

Assuming that Google’s bias is extensive and is unlikely to be addressed, conservatives cannot sit idly by and continue to use the search site.

In the business world, there are antitrust laws that exist to protect consumers from monopolies, which artificially raise prices and stifle innovation. Perhaps people who are seeking objectivity should consider using an alternative approach when conducting Internet searches.

Considering the fact that Google and most other search engines track and mine personal information without an individual’s knowledge or consent, it becomes even more important to adopt an alternative approach.

This brings us to some Google alternatives that may surprise the reader. DuckDuckGo.com not only provides unbiased news and information, it also maintains personal privacy by not engaging in tracking, data mining, or retention of search history. It is as comprehensive as Google and allows customization of its interface. It enables searches to be free from adult content via a safe setting similar to Google.

Ixquick’s Start Page claims to be the world’s most private search site. The site does not participate in data mining or tracking and additionally offers users the ability to visit sites via proxy, thus rendering searchers the protection of invisibility to the sites that appear in the search results.

Yippy is a search engine that also protects privacy with the added benefit of delivering child-friendly results. Yippy pulls search results from other search engines and groups topics together, organizing the results in clusters. Although the site filters out topics to which children ought not be exposed, including gambling, pornography, and other inappropriate material, adept teenagers may still find a way to obtain unsuitable results.

Conservatives may enjoy the experience of a search engine that gives results of a right-leaning nature. 4conservatives.com will do just that. The search engine delivers content from a conservative perspective and uses reputable sources.

By using more objective search alternatives, we can move toward a world with less fake news and more real news.