The internet used to be the “wild west” of the world where everyone was free to say and do as they please. Today, big tech (Google, and FB) have started censoring what can be said. This isn’t great, but what is the solution? Should government regulate big tech, or are there other ways?
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi, Connor.
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: So we are not afraid to shy away from controversial topics. We’ve talked a lot about things that a lot of people might not agree with, even you, and I might not agree on some of ’em, but I wanna talk today about something a lot of people disagree on. it’s a very big topic right now. you know, even with people who identify as, you know, libertarians and we talked about a lot, they don’t wanna talk about this issue because it’s a little bit murky. So I wanna talk about big techs like Facebook and Google, and whether they have too much power, and what we can do about it, if anything, you know if we should even do anything about it. so I wanna have just kind of an honest conversation about what’s been going on, kind of pick your brain and see if there are any, you know, solutions. But I have to give a disclaimer that even though I am scared of big tech, and I’m gonna probably like, make fun of them a lot, I currently have three Google Homes in my house that are probably listening to everything, saying I’m well aware that they know too much about me and honestly target me with these great ads that I don’t really hate because they’re targeting with ads, like, with things I want. Right?
Connor: Right, right, right.
Brittany: But Connor, can you explain like, why are people so scared? What is going on right now that is making people terrified of big tech?
Connor: Well, there’s been that concern for a while where like, I mean, honestly, right now I’ll do it where I’ll say like, you know, I really like, you know, the Tuttle Twins books, and then all of a sudden, like later today, I’ll be scrolling Facebook and I’ll see an ad for the Tuttle twin’s books, right? Where like, Hey, hey, honey, you know, we need a new wheelbarrow. And all of a sudden you get a Home Depot ad, you know, in your Instagram.
Brittany: You’re buying a lot of wheelbarrows these days Connor?
Connor: Our last one got busted. So I’m speaking from personal experience here, and so, you know, people have had that concern for a while that our devices are listening and that these tech giants are serving us ads. But also, as you say, Britney, there’s this like, a reverse effect where like, wouldn’t you prefer an ad for something you specifically need, than just a generic ad that’s dumb? However, you know, the fact that they’re like listening to these devices and stuff is still a problem. so there’s that tension between like, Hey, big Tech is learning about us, right? When I search for something on Google, they’re learning what I’m searching. And so the ads that they show and the results they show are going to kind of more closely match the things I’m searching for. Well, wouldn’t I like that from a search engine to be more accurate based on my preferences, right? Or as I’m on Facebook or Instagram, and if I follow certain accounts, and I like certain, you know, images, well, the ones that it then suggest like, Hey, you might wanna follow these accounts, and hey, you know, you might like this. Well, these big tech giants, they try and learn from our behavior and then show us content that they think we would like. And so there’s an aspect there that’s very, you know, harmless, that they’re trying to make it a better experience. But then, of course, you know, comes when like the election was happening. Yeah. And Joe Biden’s son had this horrible, you know, thing going on, and then Big Tech was like, Nope, we’re not gonna allow anyone to share the news article about, you know, that website. and they’re preventing the free flow of information. And then, you know, hey, certain people are outspoken, or, you know, Donald Trump himself is outspoken, or these, you know, conservative, you know, commentators on the radio or Fox News and they’re saying things about COVID or about the election or whatever, and oh, hey, you know, I’m Twitter and I don’t like that, so I’m gonna ban your account or.
Brittany: See that? Yeah. That’s what’s scaring me, right? And, we’ve talked about this before a little bit, like, where does Free speech start and end? And you and I are both very big advocates of private property and private ownership. And this is where I’m, I’ll be honest with you, my libertarianism is struggling right now, because on the one hand I’m like, all right, you’re a private company, you can do what you want, but you’ve gotten so powerful that, I mean, parler right here, we have this instance of Parler, which was supposed to be right, the alternative, and you and I believe in Market Alternatives, right? We don’t wanna use the government to ban things. We wanna create something better. So here comes, here comes Parler, which people are like, all right, let’s try Parler, let’s do this. And then Amazon and Apple Ban Parler. So you can’t download the app anywhere. And so it’s becoming this thing where it’s like, what do we do? Because even when we try to invent these new solutions, they don’t work because Big Tech is blocking them. So I’m really torn right now.
Connor: It is a tough thing, right? Because Parler, you know, still needs the services of other companies. They had their computers hosted with Amazon, and Amazon was like, eh, we don’t wanna be associated with this company because they have no moderation. I mean, so Brittany, you’re really good at kind of doing investigative writing and getting to the bottom of an issue. And I feel like with the Parler story, we didn’t see a lot of that. People were claiming that, oh, Parler, it’s this conservative, you know, alternative to social media, and the social media giants don’t like it, so they’re trying to kill it. Well, I mean, maybe, there are some of that, but also Parler had no moderation at all. In other words, there were a ton of people on Parler who were posting awful, awful things, who were posting threats, who were posting, you know, people’s home addresses of elected officials, like things that Facebook and Twitter, like, they have content moderation. They basically say, well, hey, look, we wanna make sure everything’s safe. You can’t threaten people on our platform, like, you know, just be decent people and share whatever opinions you want. But Parler didn’t have any of that. And so, especially during the Donald Trump, the election, the January 6th, you know, the Capitol riots and all this stuff, there were a lot of people posting bad things on Parler, which I feel like the company should have taken down, and didn’t. And so what you see in Amazon, like, so I’ll use Amazon as the example, right? The real issue is that they were hosting their computers with Amazon. And so Amazon was like, we don’t wanna have, we don’t wanna be associated with this content. We don’t want people knowing that Amazon helps people post threats, you know, online, etcetera. And so Amazon was like, we want the freedom of association. We don’t wanna have to provide services to someone who’s unwilling to remove these bad posts. And so in the court, there was a court battle, and in the court battle, Amazon had this big long document where they shared all these examples, and they’re like, look, here are all these posts on Parler that are legitimate problems. Parler was not taking them down. And so now our company is kind of guilty by association, and we don’t want to be. So that’s why we said, Hey, Parler, you can’t be on here. In fact, they gave notice to Parler, I think it was unfair. They basically said 24 hours, which is like impossible. Yeah. To make, you know, some code changes to your app and then, you know, launch it. So I think that part was a little unreasonable and unfair. However, parler should have done this weeks and months prior. They should have had basic content moderation. I mean, if you’re creating a social media app, you don’t want like crazy people going on there and planning, you know, assassinations of people. Like you would reasonably have some type anyway. So to me, the real issue is that parler should have done this smarter and that Amazon was in its right to be like, yeah, we don’t wanna be associated with you. Parler can go set up their own computers. I mean, they can kind of do their own thing. They were just relying on other companies who, when it kind of blew up, those companies were like, yeah, we don’t wanna be associated with you. And so the real question is, should the government force, you know, Amazon to associate with Parlor and to work with Parlor? And to me, that’s a rather simple question at the end of the day.
Brittany: So this is where I’m gonna disagree with you a little, not in the government part on the parler part. So, and this, I need to do a disclaimer here. I am not supporting the incitement of riots or threats. I think Doxing, which is where you give people’s home addresses and their real names is terrible, right? But there is an aspect of the Wild, wild West, the no rules of the internet, that remind me of the beginning of the internet, which is what made it so great. Now, I think you’re right where you have to take some precautions where you have to say like, all right, we can’t support this. But I also think it gives you a minus the, like, the doxing minus the threats. I think being able to say what might be abhorrent things might be terrible things.I think having that, and you meet it with, you compete it with better speech, right? You actually have the dialogue to talk it out, which you don’t have if you get censored on Facebook or Twitter. I think we need to get back to that. The other thing that worries me, and he does not mind me using his name because he’s been actually asking me to tell a story. We have a friend named Jason Rink, I think you know Jason Rink. I do. So Jason Rink is this incredible filmmaker, and he went to the Capitol. We have to be careful what words we use cuz even certain words will get us like booted off certain things, right? So, he was at the Capitol interviewing, people. He was not storming the capitol, he was just there as a documentary. You know, he’d making a documentary, interviewing people. He was the last person who interviewed the guy with the Buffalo, whatever it was like horns before he was arrested by the FBI actually, he turned himself in. That should be noted. But Jason got booted off of all social media because they have bots, they have AI that kind of, if you say certain things, you automatically get kicked off. Well, Jason had been hashtagging what was popular to hashtag to see, you know, what was going on at the Capitol. And he got every single social media account deleted. Even some of his YouTube videos were deleted. And this is somebody who in a lot of ways is a journalist, right? Because he’s trying to tell people what’s going on. and now he’s banned from everything. And that, you know, that kinda destroys his livelihood in a lot of ways because he makes movies for a living. Again, I’m gonna agree with Connor though, where I don’t think this means the government needs to come in and regulate, but I’m sitting here kind of tearing my hair out thinking, well, what’s the alternative? Because we already tried Parler. What do we do? You know, how do we stop this? Because it’s not a free speech issue. We need to be very careful about that. Free speech is only when it is the government, and these are private companies. So what do we do?
Connor: Well, Jason shared an interesting video after all this happened that I watched when he was talking about how they had this documentary. it was a brief one, it was a short one. but it was very timely cuz everyone was talking about this guy.
Brittany: It was just a trailer. I think they never released the full one, but it was a good trailer.
Connor: And, so they were shopping it around to different, companies like, you know, Netflix and Hulu and some of the different companies. And according to Jason, what he shared is that they were having some really good talks with these companies cuz they’re like, guys, everyone is talking about this right now. if you host our documentary, you know, if you work with us and you’re the distributor, you’re gonna get a ton of people watching this thing and talking about it, and it’ll be good for business and create conversation. And so, according to Jason, they were having some really positive discussions with finding a distributor, but that every time the idea kind of ran up the flagpole to the corporate, you know, bosses at the top of these companies, they would say no, they would shoot it down. And Jason’s kind of theory and I would agree with them, is like, you know, these companies have this desire to not be associated at all with kind of the Donald Trump, you know, crazy whatever, whatever, because they feel like it’s bad for their brand or they feel like they should not lend, they should not give a platform for those views to be shared. And that to me is the worrying thing where it’s like, Hey, you have this legitimate disagreement on a policy. You have feelings about, you know, whether, you know, boys should pretend to be girls and then go play girl’s sports. you know, or not just pretend in some cases, you know, whatever. But yeah, But if you have, you know, strong feelings about these ideas, whether they’re legitimate or not, right? you know, should you be shut down? Should, should these companies feel like, oh, well, you know, we don’t want, our Twitter platform to be associated with, you know, these ideas. And to me, Brittany, one of the concerns is hypocrisy. Yeah. where it’s like, well, you know, there’s awful stuff all over Twitter. Like legitimately.
Brittany: We saw people inside and calling for the murder for people that didn’t agree with them. Yeah. Right?
Connor: And so it’s like, okay, like I’m totally fine. Again, free speech and whatnot. I’m totally fine with these companies setting their own terms and conditions, you know, saying who they’ll allow to have a platform and not totally fine. That’s their right. But I think there is a role for us to like, call them out and say like, you are being inconsistent. You’re being hypocritical. And I think there’s a lot of people doing that. I think that’s, you know, happening a lot right now. but I struggle with you, Brittany, in terms of saying, what is the question? is it a parler or something like it a full alternative? Is that, you know, market pressures? I’ll give you another example. We over the years have advertised the Toran books, in a variety of ways. But one of the ways is we talk about, hey, you know, if you want your kids to learn the dangers of socialism, you know, these are books you need to check out. We’re not allowed to mention, that word anymore.
Brittany: I saw that. Yeah.
Connor: Our ads get banned. You know, if we have that word in it. And so now we’re like, oh, well those ads we’re doing really well, but now we, you know, and so we’re kind of trying to be a little clever with it, right? Like these books teach the dangers of something that rhymes with you know, but it’s not socialism. So I don’t know, like at the end of the day, I feel like these guys can do what they want and look, during the MySpace era, like everyone thought like, oh wow, this is, no one can take down MySpace. Like MySpace crashed and burned. And so I feel like the free, like where there’s a will, there’s a way and the market will work. And if the big tech giants continue to cause problems, whether it’s Parler or some other type of company, right? if an entrepreneur sees a demand, right? That creates an opportunity. if an entrepreneur out there, like the parler guys, if they’re like, Hey, look, there’s a demand for this, then hey, let’s go, you know, create an app. Let’s learn from the mistakes of parler, right? Let’s have content moderation. And if I’m being honest, the Parler app, it was awful It just was so like, horrible to use. It felt like a high schooler, no offense to all the high schoolers out there, but you know, it felt like someone very inexperienced, was the one creating the app. And so I still feel like if Peter Teal or Elon Musk or one of these guys really wanted to like, solve the problem they could and they would win a lot of customers over, right? and so Parler tried and may still try, but I feel like there’s still a lot of opportunities and that if this is a big enough problem, if there is consumer demand, you know, we’ll see a big shift and Facebook and others will lose a lot of their market share.
Brittany: I actually, I wanna bring one positive example to this, and that is I’m a big Joe Rogan fan, and Joe Rogan is one of those people that he has everyone on his show, doesn’t matter if he disagrees with them or not. Now he switched from YouTube to Spotify and a lot of Spotify employees, a lot of these woke Spotify employees were like, no, we’re gonna walk out. We’re not gonna do this if you allow him on our platform. But Joe Rogan has so much market power and he’s so popular that they couldn’t do it right. They couldn’t, they couldn’t cancel him, as we’ve talked about before. So I think there is hope, I think there are these people like it’s funny to be how Joe Rogan doesn’t mean to be, but Joe Rogan I think is gonna end up being one of the most important figures in modern history,
Connor: Which is hilarious cuz I remember back, what was that TV show?
Brittany: Fear Factor.
Connor: Yeah. Fear Factor, eat these random bugs, he’s come a long way. So a fun topic, but a serious issue. And it’s something that a lot of us are grappling with and trying to figure out. And I feel like a lot of us are like tiptoeing, just like you said, oh, we can’t like, mention certain things. Yeah. Cause then we might like offend the, not even like the humans. Like we might trigger this AI bot like you mentioned, that sees a word and kind of flags our account. And I remember even, Ron Paul’s account got shut down. Yep. briefly because, someone on his team, you know, had an issue and he was an admin for Ron Paul’s page. And so it, so a lot of this is automated and these companies are trying to deal with, you know, big problems and a lot of people posting, content that is bad. So I think some of it is, you know, understandable, they’re trying to deal as best they can. but I do think there’s this kind of agenda and I think, I don’t know. I believe in the market and I believe that this problem will ultimately get solved, but maybe it’ll still take a while. And maybe it’s not parler, maybe it’s Parler version two but, good issue for us to all be thinking about because I think, I think free speech, in the broader sense, is something that is really important. And you know, we gotta protect it. So anyways, guys, thanks as always for listening, and Brittany, until next time, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.