In the United States, coming across censorship is an incredibly rare experience for most of us. Aside from the occasional swear word being bleeped out on cable, we never truly feel the effects of censorship. Thanks to the first amendment, the government is not allowed to censor any form of expression that does not infringe on the rights of others. This statute, however, does not apply to private companies, which is a positive thing in most cases as private companies should be able to express themselves just as individuals do. Unfortunately, some companies have grown large enough to have nearly no competition and have direct influence on our democracy.
In their infancy, websites like Facebook and Twitter seemed harmless as they were just public forums for anyone to post anything they wanted with limited rules on the content. Eventually, as we all know, they grew into tech giants on a scale we have never seen before. With billions of users each, the reach of the social media behemoths is global and have become the main way many people consume their news. As we move toward this new means of consuming media we have come to the roadblock of censorship. Should these companies be able to arbitrarily censor the users of their platforms?
Quickly following the 2016 election it was found that several firms around the globe were paid to place ads or create fake accounts on social media websites to help sway the election in the favor of their candidate. While a separate problem entirely, this event shows us that these platforms do indeed hold the power to sway our elections one way or another. If it stands that these platforms have such influence over the most powerful democracy in the world, it does not seem appropriate that social media platforms should have the power to arbitrarily silence those expressing views the platform arbitrarily views as wrong.
With the vast majority of tech giants being located in silicon valley, it is no surprise that they have taken a generally politically left leaning stance on their content. A recent example of this is Youtuber Steven Crowder, host of "Louder With Crowder", released a video criticizing a Vox.com contributor known as Carlos Maza. Unhappy with the criticism, Maza called for the deplatforming of Crowder, and a day later Youtube announced they had completely removed monetization opportunities from his channel. Despite calls for violence and censorship from Maza himself, the Vox youtube channel is still fully monetized. This is just one high profile incident, but these incidents happen constantly to smaller voices that cannot afford to be demonitized and eventually stop making content, or those who cannot defend themselves to the public as Crowder did.
Censorship is never something that should be taken lightly. Fortunately we have a significant buffer keeping us safe from government censorship, but now we are in an era of unprecedented character. At the current rate, social media platforms will continue to thin out conservative voices until mostly left leaning voices are left, which could have a tremendous effect on the health of our democracy.