Thursday, April 21, 2022

India: Hindu Nationalists Target Christian Communities, Beat Families, Over Easter Weekend

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC) regarding this travesty. Please check out their website at www.persecution.org for more on the persecution and genocide of Christians around the world.

Hindu Nationalists Target Christian Communities Over Easter Weekend

04/20/2022 (International Christian Concern) – While Christians in India were celebrating Easter Sunday, incidents of physical violence and disruption of Easter services devastated Christian communities. In the East Indian state of Odisha, a mob of 100 radical Hindu nationalists brutally beat three Christian families. The houses of these Christians were ransacked and desecrated. In neighboring Chhattisgarh state, a Christian’s body was kept unburied for three days by the radical Hindu nationalists, claiming that the body would defile the land.

According to the local Odisha Pastor, a mob of nearly 100 radical Hindu nationalists burst into a Christian home in Markapalli village where Easter service was in progress. The mob beat the congregation with sticks, injuring several Christians including women and children. The mob harassed them for more than an hour before police arrived at the scene. While the church was being attacked, another group went and damaged the three houses belonging to the believers. By the time police reached the houses, they had been ransacked. The food reserves that they had secured through the year were stolen or rendered useless.

These Christians are enduring continued hostility from the radical Hindus,” the local Pastor told ICC. “Sometimes the Christians were denied electricity, other times they were denied rations (subsidized food grains) and other times water, work, etc… but they persisted in faith, despite what they have gone through.”

In the neighboring state Chhattisgarh, the dead body of a Christian was kept unburied for three days. According to sources reaching ICC, the man died on Holy Saturday in his village. The anti-Christian mob opposed burying the body saying that since he died as a Christian, they would not allow his body to be buried as it defiles the Indian land. The block administration and the police force did not act lawfully to make a provision to bury. On the third day, following multiple petition letters and complaints, the body was taken 25 kilometers away from the village and finally buried.

The family went through torture and humiliation for three days,” a local Christian who requested anonymity told ICC, “the Christians in the village face social boycott for practicing Christian faith. They are really tested, and they are treated as less than human.”

Christians have been targeted for their faith across the nation. They are subject to physical violence, social boycotts, and psychological torture, all while the leaders claim that India is a secular democracy. We continue to pray for our fellow Christians in India.

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I recently bought the book Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice: An Urgent Appeal to Fellow Christians in a Time of Social Crisis, by Scott David Allen. I want to recommend it to my readers, as it does an excellent job of explaining the difference between politically-correct "social justice" and true Biblical justice. Social justice has creeped in modern churches, which have become weak as they seek to embrace worldly acceptance. Sadly, most church-goers today don't understand enough about social justice (or Biblical justice for that matter) to see the dangerous distortions embedded in the social justice concept. 

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Politician Gets Five-Month Sentence for Hate Speech for Tweet

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC) regarding this travesty. Please check out their website at www.persecution.org for more on the persecution and genocide of Christians around the world.

Christian Politician Gets Five-Month Sentence for Hate Speech

04/20/2022 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – On April 19, an Indonesian court convicted Ferdinand Hutahaean, a Protestant politician, with charges of hate speech for making insulting remarks about Islam on social media. He was sentenced to five months in jail.  

ICC reported previously that Hutahaean, who failed to win a national assembly seat in parliamentary elections in 2019, was arrested on Jan. 10 following an outcry over a comment on Twitter in which he allegedly taunted Muslims by calling their God “weak.” 

The tweet in question said: “Poor you, your God is evidently weak [and] must be defended. My God is amazing, [he] is everything. He is my defender, and my God does not need to be defended.” 

The five-month sentence given to Hutahaean was lower than the seven-month term suggested by prosecutors. 

“The defendant Ferdinand Hutahaean has been found guilty of intentionally spreading fake news causing a stir in society,” Suparman Nyompa, chairman of the judges’ council, said on April 19. 

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, said the punishment was lenient. 

“However, I agree with the court’s decision because the punishment for Hutahaean has a political aspect,” he told UCA News on April 19. He said it was a political ploy to use religion to attack Hutahaean. 

Hutahaean joins the list of other Christians recently arrested and detained for insulting Islam on social media, such as Joseph Suyardi and Muhammad Kace. In Muslim-majority Indonesia, non-Muslims are easily targeted and charged of blasphemy in Indonesia, while Muslims committing similar offenses hardly receive any punishment for their actions. 

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I recently bought the book Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice: An Urgent Appeal to Fellow Christians in a Time of Social Crisis, by Scott David Allen. I want to recommend it to my readers, as it does an excellent job of explaining the difference between politically-correct "social justice" and true Biblical justice. Social justice has creeped in modern churches, which have become weak as they seek to embrace worldly acceptance. Sadly, most church-goers today don't understand enough about social justice (or Biblical justice for that matter) to see the dangerous distortions embedded in the social justice concept. 

----------------

Join the Resistance, Subscribe to Tim Gamble by clicking here and by following me on social media (see list near top of right-hand column of this website).  

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

State Department Being Sued To Force Release Of Hunter Biden Documents

The following is an unedited press release dated April 20, 2022, from the legal watchdog group Judicial Watch. You can visit their website at https://www.judicialwatch.org/

Judicial Watch Sues State Department for Hunter Biden Documents

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. State Department for messages sent through the SMART (State Messaging and Archive Retrieval Toolkit) system that mention Hunter Biden (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:22-cv-01066)).

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after State failed to reply to a February 11, 2022, FOIA request for:
All cables/teletypes and email messages sent via the SMART system that reference Hunter Biden, excluding any records that consist solely of media articles or compilations.
In an email dated February 16, 2022, The State Department on February 16, 2022, acknowledged receipt of the request and asserted that the agency was invoking FOIA’s ten-day extension of time provision due to “unusual circumstances.” As of April 15, State failed to comply with Judicial Watch’s FOIA request.

Hunter Biden continues to be the subject of a federal criminal investigation in Delaware.

“The State Department is unlawfully ignoring FOIA law to protect Hunter and Joe Biden,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “We have no doubt, given our prior finds, that the State Department has many secrets about Biden corruption.”

In December 2020, Judicial Watch uncovered Obama-era State Department records showing that the Ukraine prosecutor general was pitched “high-level” access to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign by a firm linked to Burisma.

Judicial Watch also uncovered records showing that former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch had specifically warned in 2017 about corruption allegations against Burisma Holdings. During her November 2019 testimony in the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she knew little about Burisma.

In an October production from the State Department, Judicial Watch received records which included a briefing checklist of a February 2019 meeting in Kyiv between Yovanovitch and Sally Painter, Burisma’s lobbyist at Blue Star Strategies, and a Burisma executive. The briefing checklist noted that Painter also planned to meet with Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) Officer Martin Claessens “regarding the Burisma Group energy company.”

At the time of the meeting, Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, was serving on the board of directors for Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy firm, despite having no previous experience in the energy industry. Biden served on the board of Burisma until his term expired in April 2019.

In September 2020, Judicial Watch made public records that show George Kent, the Obama administration’s deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of Ukraine policy, which was copied to Yovanovitch, highlighting Russia-linked media “trolling” Joe Biden over “his son’s business.” An email was sent four days prior to the inauguration of President Donald Trump to a redacted recipient and CCd to Yovanovitch with the subject line “medvedchuk-linked vesti trolls Biden.” Kent writes: “Burisma – gift that keeps on giving. (With medvedchuk affiliated Vesti pushing the troll like storyline on visit day)”

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Monday, April 18, 2022

Nigeria: At Least 17 Christians Killed in Muslim Fulani Attack

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC) regarding this travesty. Please check out their website at www.persecution.org for more on the persecution and genocide of Christians around the world. 

At Least 17 Christians Killed in Fulani Militant Attack

04/16/2022 Nigeria (International Christian Concern) Tior-Tyu, normally a bustleing community within Nigeria’s Benue state, has been described as a “ghost town” following the April 11th attack by men suspected to be Fulani militants.

Giving a brief analysis of what happened, a witness by name T.U. said, “At about 11:00pm in the night, we heard gunshots and before we could know what was happening, we were surrounded, and people started running for escape routes. The attackers were many, they were dropped at strategic places.

By the next day we counted 14 dead bodies. We have not yet ascertained the exact number of people because we are still discovering dead bodies in the bushes. People have run to neighboring towns like Wannune, Gboko and Makurdi.”

A youth ambassador for the community, E.T., also narrated the incident:

“We heard gunshots the night before the unfortunate incident, and the next day, the youth leader delegated some youths to go into the bushes to check what happened, as we went into the bushes, we saw suspicious traces and came back to report it to the Local Government Chairman and our traditional ruler. Before measures could be taken, that very night, the Fulani came in trucks and launched a massive attack on us.

We recovered 14 dead bodies, as I am talking to you, yesterday which is 13th April, we discovered 3 more dead bodies totaling 17 and I fear there will be more in the bush as the search is still on.

This attack was not envisaged at all because we live as a peaceful Christian community and have never expected any attack from anyone most especially from the Fulanis. We were not prepared for such at all. Many people ran leaving their farms and means of livelihood. If not for the presence of the security personnel here, you will not have seen anybody here for fear of the unknown.

Women and children were also brutally killed and a fast a burial arrangement was made for them because of how gory it was.

We therefore call on good hearted people to come to our aid. At this moment, any assistance will be appreciated as we foresee hunger and hardship ahead”.

At the time of gathering this report, ICC reporters who had entered the community received word that Fulani militants had regrouped and were trying to attack again. “The few security personnel on ground swiftly went on patrol in the bushes and came back and told the youths who were around to go into one home, and not to leave to avoid being misidentified as an attacker,” said an ICC reporter.

The Fulani, who are majority Muslim, are the world’s largest nomadic ethnic group. While most Fulani live at peace with their neighbors, Militant Fulani, having been radicalized by extreme Islam, have emerged from their people group with Jihadist intent. 

Last year, Nigeria earned the distinction of being the country with the world’s worst persecution in ICC’s Persecutor of the Year Awards. Radicalized and armed Islamist Fulani’s have killed tens of thousands of Christians and left more than three million homeless in a 20-year genocide against them.

“Christian communities in the Middle Belt of Nigeria have effectively suffered a twenty yearlong genocide,” said ICC President Jeff King. Where is any action? The Nigerian government gives these attacks lip service without any meaningful response. “Where is the outcry? Where is effective action? In Nigeria, the military, the police, and the intelligence agencies are all controlled by Muslims. This coupled with a twenty-year lack of response by these agencies should naturally lead to deeper questioning by the world community. Simply put, the time for cheap talk and platitudes is over. The world is waking up and starting to ask, “Is the Nigerian government complicit in these attacks.” Time will tell, but for this long-time watcher, the decision is in.

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Saturday, April 9, 2022

Fund the Children, Not the Schools

Prager U. released a 5-minute video by Corey DeAngelis that I want to bring to everyone's attention. In it, DeAngelis proposes a simple solution to the problem with public education: Fund the Children, Not the Schools. This short video is well worth watching, and I hope you will. 

The video can be watched for free on the Prager U. website at https://www.prageru.com/video/fund-the-children-not-the-school

"Why is it that parents have so little control over where their children go to school? Unless you homeschool or send your child to a private school, you’re at the mercy of the government and the Teachers Unions. That needs to change. Corey DeAngelis, National Director of Research at the American Federation for Children, explains why."

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Indonesia: Christian YouTuber Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC) regarding this travesty. Please check out their website at www.persecution.org for more on the persecution and genocide of Christians around the world.

Christian YouTuber in Indonesia Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

Muslim-Background Believer Imprisoned for Blasphemy Against Islam

04/08/2022 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on April 6, an Indonesian Christian YouTuber was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a viral YouTube video that allegedly offended Muslims across Indonesia.
Muhammad Kace, 56, is a former Muslim cleric who converted to Christianity in 2014. After his conversion, he began uploading videos to YouTube criticizing his former faith. He was arrested in Bali last August, following a sermon video in which he allegedly insulted the prophet Muhammad.
On April 6, the judges of Ciamis District Court in West Java province agreed with prosecutors to slap him with a 10-year sentence for his offenses. Thousands of Muslims surrounded the court in support of the harsher prosecution of Kace.
During his detention, Kace was treated in an inhumane way; he was allegedly beaten and tortured by a police official named Napoleon Bonaparte who was detained in the same prison due to a corruption case. Bonaparte forced Kace to eat his excrement. The police named five suspects in the alleged beating and torture of him after his maltreatment was revealed to the public.
According to UCA News, Martin Lucas Simanjuntak, Kace’s lawyer, said the sentence was harsh and that his client would appeal the sentence.
“In other such cases, sentences have been lighter,” he said. “We will appeal the verdict, or at the very least the sentence imposed on him.”
While it is not unusual for Christians to fall victim to Indonesia’s draconian blasphemy laws, a Christian-turned-Muslim cleric who was arrested last August for insulting Christianity, Muhammad Yahya Waloni, was sentenced to merely five months in prison in comparison. The inconsistent standard embedded in Indonesia’s legal system is self-evident.
Andreas Harsono, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch Indonesia, told ICC, “The Indonesian government should promptly repeal the blasphemy law. Both Christian preacher Mohammad Kace and Muslim cleric Yahya Waloni need not to stay a single night in prison because of the toxic law.”
“The right to speak one’s mind is essential and must be protected. This sort of treatment and punishment under Indonesian law is a shameful reality,” said Timothy Carothers, ICC’s Advocacy Manager for Southeast Asia. “As long as Indonesia continues to enforce religious harmony through regulation and prosecution, it will continue to achieve the opposite.”
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Thursday, April 7, 2022

Turkey: First Muslim Prayers in 88 Years at Hagia Sophia Cathedral

Sad News: The beautiful Orthodox Christian cathedral Hagia Sophia's forced conversion into a Muslim mosque has reached the next level with the first Muslim prayers held there in 88 years. 

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC) regarding this travesty. Please check out their website at www.persecution.org for more on the persecution and genocide of Christians around the world.

Hagia Sophia Cathedral Hosts First Muslim Prayers in 88 Years

04/07/2022 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – For the first time in 88 years, Tarawih prayer, an evening prayer during Ramadan, was held at Turkey’s Hagia Sophia. Currently operating as a mosque, Hagia Sophia was built as an Orthodox Christian cathedral in 537. It later was converted to a mosque in 1453 and then a museum in 1935.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced in 2020 that the historic Christian cathedral would be converted back into a mosque, a move largely criticized by the international community. The prayers held on the first night of Ramadan marked the first prayers held in Hagia Sophia since its conversion, as COVID-19 restrictions kept the building closed.

Lights were strung to illuminate the mosque’s minarets to celebrate Ramadan. Turkey’s controversial head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, Ali Erbaş, led the Muslim prayers. Christian images inside the mosque, such as the Virgin Mary and Archangel Gabriel, which are in the direction Muslims face during prayer were reportedly obscured.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Who Is in Control? The Need to Rein in Big Tech

Tim's Note: The following came out in January of last year, yet remains timely as the dangers of the emerging technocracy is only getting worse. Please also see my article Technocracy, The Power Elite, and the Transformation of Human Civilization after reading this one. 

Credit Line: "Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College."

This article is from the December 2021 issue of Imprimis. Get your FREE print subscription to Imprimis now! (click link to go to the Imprimis subscription webpage). 

Who Is in Control? The Need to Rein in Big Tech

By Allum Bokhari 
Senior Technology Correspondent, Breitbart News

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is a graduate of the University of Oxford and was a 2020 Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy. In 2018, he obtained and published “The Google Tape,” a recording of Google’s top executives reacting to the 2016 Trump election and declaring their intention to make the American populist movement a “blip” in history. He is the author of #Deleted: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal the Election.
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The following is adapted from a speech delivered at Hillsdale College on November 8, 2020, during a Center for Constructive Alternatives conference on Big Tech.

In January, when every major Silicon Valley tech company permanently banned the President of the United States from its platform, there was a backlash around the world. One after another, government and party leaders—many of them ideologically opposed to the policies of President Trump—raised their voices against the power and arrogance of the American tech giants. These included the President of Mexico, the Chancellor of Germany, the government of Poland, ministers in the French and Australian governments, the neoliberal center-right bloc in the European Parliament, the national populist bloc in the European Parliament, the leader of the Russian opposition (who recently survived an assassination attempt), and the Russian government (which may well have been behind that attempt).

Common threats create strange bedfellows. Socialists, conservatives, nationalists, neoliberals, autocrats, and anti-autocrats may not agree on much, but they all recognize that the tech giants have accumulated far too much power. None like the idea that a pack of American hipsters in Silicon Valley can, at any moment, cut off their digital lines of communication.

I published a book on this topic prior to the November election, and many who called me alarmist then are not so sure of that now. I built the book on interviews with Silicon Valley insiders and five years of reporting as a Breitbart News tech correspondent. Breitbart created a dedicated tech reporting team in 2015—a time when few recognized the danger that the rising tide of left-wing hostility to free speech would pose to the vision of the World Wide Web as a free and open platform for all viewpoints.

This inversion of that early libertarian ideal—the movement from the freedom of information to the control of information on the Web—has been the story of the past five years.

***

When the Web was created in the 1990s, the goal was that everyone who wanted a voice could have one. All a person had to do to access the global marketplace of ideas was to go online and set up a website. Once created, the website belonged to that person. Especially if the person owned his own server, no one could deplatform him. That was by design, because the Web, when it was invented, was competing with other types of online services that were not so free and open.

It is important to remember that the Web, as we know it today—a network of websites accessed through browsers—was not the first online service ever created. In the 1990s, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee invented the technology that underpins websites and web browsers, creating the Web as we know it today. But there were other online services, some of which predated Berners-Lee’s invention. Corporations like CompuServe and Prodigy ran their own online networks in the 1990s—networks that were separate from the Web and had access points that were different from web browsers. These privately-owned networks were open to the public, but CompuServe and Prodigy owned every bit of information on them and could kick people off their networks for any reason. 

In these ways the Web was different. No one owned it, owned the information on it, or could kick anyone off. That was the idea, at least, before the Web was captured by a handful of corporations. 

We all know their names: Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Amazon. Like Prodigy and CompuServe back in the ’90s, they own everything on their platforms, and they have the police power over what can be said and who can participate. But it matters a lot more today than it did in the ’90s. Back then, very few people used online services. Today everyone uses them—it is practically impossible not to use them. Businesses depend on them. News publishers depend on them. Politicians and political activists depend on them. And crucially, citizens depend on them for information. 

Today, Big Tech doesn’t just mean control over online information. It means control over news. It means control over commerce. It means control over politics. And how are the corporate tech giants using their control? Judging by the three biggest moves they have made since I wrote my book—the censoring of the New York Post in October when it published its blockbuster stories on Biden family corruption, the censorship and eventual banning from the Web of President Trump, and the coordinated takedown of the upstart social media site Parler—it is obvious that Big Tech’s priority today is to support the political Left and the Washington establishment.

Big Tech has become the most powerful election-influencing machine in American history. It is not an exaggeration to say that if the technologies of Silicon Valley are allowed to develop to their fullest extent, without any oversight or checks and balances, then we will never have another free and fair election. But the power of Big Tech goes beyond the manipulation of political behavior. As one of my Facebook sources told me in an interview for my book: “We have thousands of people on the platform who have gone from far right to center in the past year, so we can build a model from those people and try to make everyone else on the right follow the same path.” Let that sink in. They don’t just want to control information or even voting behavior—they want to manipulate people’s worldview. 

Is it too much to say that Big Tech has prioritized this kind of manipulation? Consider that Twitter is currently facing a lawsuit from a victim of child sexual abuse who says that the company repeatedly failed to take down a video depicting his assault, and that it eventually agreed to do so only after the intervention of an agent from the Department of Homeland Security. So Twitter will take it upon itself to ban the President of the United States, but is alleged to have taken down child pornography only after being prodded by federal law enforcement.

***

How does Big Tech go about manipulating our thoughts and behavior? It begins with the fact that these tech companies strive to know everything about us—our likes and dislikes, the issues we’re interested in, the websites we visit, the videos we watch, who we voted for, and our party affiliation. If you search for a Hannukah recipe, they’ll know you’re likely Jewish. If you’re running down the Yankees, they’ll figure out if you’re a Red Sox fan. Even if your smart phone is turned off, they’ll track your location. They know who you work for, who your friends are, when you’re walking your dog, whether you go to church, when you’re standing in line to vote, and on and on. 

As I already mentioned, Big Tech also monitors how our beliefs and behaviors change over time. They identify the types of content that can change our beliefs and behavior, and they put that knowledge to use. They’ve done this openly for a long time to manipulate consumer behavior—to get us to click on certain ads or buy certain products. Anyone who has used these platforms for an extended period of time has no doubt encountered the creepy phenomenon where you’re searching for information about a product or a service—say, a microwave—and then minutes later advertisements for microwaves start appearing on your screen. These same techniques can be used to manipulate political opinions. 

I mentioned that Big Tech has recently demonstrated ideological bias. But it is equally true that these companies have huge economic interests at stake in politics. The party that holds power will determine whether they are going to get government contracts, whether they’re going to get tax breaks, and whether and how their industry will be regulated. Clearly, they have a commercial interest in political control—and currently no one is preventing them from exerting it.

To understand how effective Big Tech’s manipulation could become, consider the feedback loop. 

As Big Tech constantly collects data about us, they run tests to see what information has an impact on us. Let’s say they put a negative news story about someone or something in front of us, and we don’t click on it or read it. They keep at it until they find content that has the desired effect. The feedback loop constantly improves, and it does so in a way that’s undetectable. 

What determines what appears at the top of a person’s Facebook feed, Twitter feed, or Google search results? Does it appear there because it’s popular or because it’s gone viral? Is it there because it’s what you’re interested in? Or is there another reason Big Tech wants it to be there? Is it there because Big Tech has gathered data that suggests it’s likely to nudge your thinking or your behavior in a certain direction? How can we know? 

What we do know is that Big Tech openly manipulates the content people see. We know, for example, that Google reduced the visibility of Breitbart News links in search results by 99 percent in 2020 compared to the same period in 2016. We know that after Google introduced an update last summer, clicks on Breitbart News stories from Google searches for “Joe Biden” went to zero and stayed at zero through the election. This didn’t happen gradually, but in one fell swoop—as if Google flipped a switch. And this was discoverable through the use of Google’s own traffic analysis tools, so it isn’t as if Google cared that we knew about it. 

Speaking of flipping switches, I have noted that President Trump was collectively banned by Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, and every other social media platform you can think of. But even before that, there was manipulation going on. Twitter, for instance, reduced engagement on the President’s tweets by over eighty percent. Facebook deleted posts by the President for spreading so-called disinformation.

But even more troubling, I think, are the invisible things these companies do. Consider “quality ratings.” Every Big Tech platform has some version of this, though some of them use different names. The quality rating is what determines what appears at the top of your search results, or your Twitter or Facebook feed, etc. It’s a numerical value based on what Big Tech’s algorithms determine in terms of “quality.” In the past, this score was determined by criteria that were somewhat objective: if a website or post contained viruses, malware, spam, or copyrighted material, that would negatively impact its quality score. If a video or post was gaining in popularity, the quality score would increase. Fair enough.

Over the past several years, however—and one can trace the beginning of the change to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016—Big Tech has introduced all sorts of new criteria into the mix that determines quality scores. Today, the algorithms on Google and Facebook have been trained to detect “hate speech,” “misinformation,” and “authoritative” (as opposed to “non-authoritative”) sources. Algorithms analyze a user’s network, so that whatever users follow on social media—e.g., “non-authoritative” news outlets—affects the user’s quality score. Algorithms also detect the use of language frowned on by Big Tech—e.g., “illegal immigrant” (bad) in place of “undocumented immigrant” (good)—and adjust quality scores accordingly. And so on.

This is not to say that you are informed of this or that you can look up your quality score. All of this happens invisibly. It is Silicon Valley’s version of the social credit system overseen by the Chinese Communist Party. As in China, if you defy the values of the ruling elite or challenge narratives that the elite labels “authoritative,” your score will be reduced and your voice suppressed. And it will happen silently, without your knowledge. 

This technology is even scarier when combined with Big Tech’s ability to detect and monitor entire networks of people. A field of computer science called “network analysis” is dedicated to identifying groups of people with shared interests, who read similar websites, who talk about similar things, who have similar habits, who follow similar people on social media, and who share similar political viewpoints. Big Tech companies are able to detect when particular information is flowing through a particular network—if there’s a news story or a post or a video, for instance, that’s going viral among conservatives or among voters as a whole. This gives them the ability to shut down a story they don’t like before it gets out of hand. And these systems are growing more sophisticated all the time. 

***

If Big Tech’s capabilities are allowed to develop unchecked and unregulated, these companies will eventually have the power not only to suppress existing political movements, but to anticipate and prevent the emergence of new ones. This would mean the end of democracy as we know it, because it would place us forever under the thumb of an unaccountable oligarchy. 

The good news is, there is a way to rein in the tyrannical tech giants. And the way is simple: take away their power to filter information and filter data on our behalf. 

All of Big Tech’s power comes from their content filters—the filters on “hate speech,” the filters on “misinformation,” the filters that distinguish “authoritative” from “non-authoritative” sources, etc. Right now these filters are switched on by default. We as individuals can’t turn them off. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The most important demand we can make of lawmakers and regulators is that Big Tech be forbidden from activating these filters without our knowledge and consent. They should be prohibited from doing this—and even from nudging us to turn on a filter—under penalty of losing their Section 230 immunity as publishers of third party content. This policy should be strictly enforced, and it should extend even to seemingly non-political filters like relevance and popularity. Anything less opens the door to manipulation. 

Our ultimate goal should be a marketplace in which third party companies would be free to design filters that could be plugged into services like Twitter, Facebook, Google, and YouTube. In other words, we would have two separate categories of companies: those that host content and those that create filters to sort through that content. In a marketplace like that, users would have the maximum level of choice in determining their online experiences. At the same time, Big Tech would lose its power to manipulate our thoughts and behavior and to ban legal content—which is just a more extreme form of filtering—from the Web. 

This should be the standard we demand, and it should be industry-wide. The alternative is a kind of digital serfdom. We don’t allow old-fashioned serfdom anymore—individuals and businesses have due process and can’t be evicted because their landlord doesn’t like their politics. Why shouldn’t we also have these rights if our business or livelihood depends on a Facebook page or a Twitter or YouTube account? 

This is an issue that goes beyond partisanship. What the tech giants are doing is so transparently unjust that all Americans should start caring about it—because under the current arrangement, we are all at their mercy. The World Wide Web was meant to liberate us. It is now doing the opposite. Big Tech is increasingly in control. The most pressing question today is: how are we going to take control back? 

Credit Line: "Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College."
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