The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Simple Question: Who Complained?

Posted on | September 21, 2022 | No Comments

British journalist Toby Young reports that PayPal shut down the accounts of his Daily Sceptic site, as well as the Free Speech Union, a non-profit he created. When he inquired about the cause of this deplatforming, Young received an email that included this bit of boilerplate “explanation”:

PayPal’s policy is not to allow our services to be used for activities that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance. We regularly assess activity against our long-standing Acceptable Use Policy and carefully review actions reported to us, and will discontinue our relationship with account holders who are found to violate our policies.

To which Young responds:

That message was a bit weird since it didn’t explicitly accuse the Daily Sceptic of promoting “hate, violence or racial intolerance”, or say that that was how we’d violated its precious policy. But it certainly implied it. To which my response is: How exactly? Or, more profanely: What the f*** are you talking about?

The obvious solution to this problem is to file a lawsuit for breach of contract, and perhaps also for defamation, since it is obviously false that Young is a promoter of “hate, violence or racial intolerance.” Through the process of discovery, Young hopefully would be able to find the answers to a few crucial questions, including what it was exactly that led to this deplatforming. Young’s site has bucked the conventional wisdom on several issues, including COVID-19 policy, transgenderism and the war in Ukraine, any one of which might have caused a complaint.

More importantly, who filed this complaint? Because how likely is it that PayPal would deplatform a popular site on the basis of a complaint from a random anonymous nobody? Doesn’t it seem more likely that, as with the case of Twitter banning COVID-19 policy critics Naomi Wolf and Alex Berenson, government pressure was involved in this decision?

This is what’s wrong with the arguments of those who defend deplatforming when done by Big Tech corporations — at what point do such actions become indistinguishable from government-imposed censorship? If these business exhibit a clear partisan bias in their decisions to ban people then (a) isn’t it likely that one party will benefit politically from this bias? and (b) once that party controls the government, isn’t it likely that they’ll leverage Big Tech to punish or silence critics of government policy? At some point on this trajectory, it becomes corporate-sponsored totalitarianism.

For example, how far are we permitted to go in criticizing U.S. policy in Ukraine before somebody at the State Department decides to have a friendly chat with lobbyists from Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc., to explain why such criticism should be suppressed? And if the government can do this over Ukraine policy (or COVID-19 or transgenderism), then why shouldn’t they do this on every controversial issue?

Different people are going to have different opinions as to where the lines should be drawn in such matters — really, does a private company have an obligation to provide services to neo-Nazis or Islamic radicals? — but it is important to know why such decisions are being made. There ought to be some kind of requirement for corporate transparency in these matters, because otherwise people will get banned without even knowing what caused the ban or who made the decision.

(Hat-tip: John Tierney at Instapundit.)




 

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