HAVING rarely considered the significance and power of Big Tech, it now looks like Facebook, Twitter and their billionaire buddies at Google and Apple are perhaps the biggest threat we face to free speech and democracy today.

I’d have said that the silence over the banning of the president of the United States from Facebook and Twitter is deafening but I can’t hear the silence for all the cheers and jeers coming from the mouths of the 'liberal' elites.

One enlightened BBC reporter even used the banning of Trump to illustrate what a bad man he is with no reflection on what the silencing of the man elected to run America meant for Western democracy.

Some argue that these social media giants are private institutions and so are not governed by American First Amendment rules. But at the same time, in 2017 the Supreme Court unanimously recognised that, like private universities that should and generally do recognise freedom of speech, “cyberspace … and social media in particular,” are, “the most important places … for the exchange of views”.

Love them or loathe them, social media platforms are now some of the most important spaces in the world for public discussion and debate. That some of the richest men in the world, people who liberal-minded individuals would normally associate with the label 'neoliberal', are increasingly determining what is allowed in this public space should be of concern for all democrats.

Perhaps even more overtly threatening to democratic debate is the action by Google and Apple against Parler, the right-wing online platform set up as an alternative to Twitter.

Both tech giants have threatened Parler with a ban from their Play Store and App Store if they don’t regulate what their users say online. Faced with this digital wipe-out it appears that Parler will acquiesce and bow down to this modern-day papal decree and start banning 'incorrect' voices from their service.

So threatening are these developments that even the conservative German chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken out against the banning of Trump. In Russia, opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has likewise come out in opposition to the ban, pointing out the hypocrisy of the tech giants who allow the authoritarian Putin to Tweet away while banning the US president.

Noting the similarity between Putin’s autocratic treatment of his opponents and the censoring of President Trump, Navalny has usefully argued that these bans open the way for dictators around the world to clamp down on their opponents.

As talk of 'hate' and words of 'violence' needing to be cancelled becomes the cry of 'progressive' liberals, liberalism implodes and the framework for open democratic discussion is replaced by a world of safe spaces for all.

Trump may well be a narcissistic idiot, indeed his constant inane Twittering helped to show just that, and I suspect helped him lose the election. But he is also the democratically elected president of a country that has prided itself on being the Land of the Free.

Parler may well be littered with right-wing bigots but last time I looked it wasn’t illegal to be a right-wing bigot. Perhaps our liberal elites should just say it is and be done with the pretence of freedom and democracy.

The claim that America is the centre of the free world has been contested time and again at home and abroad by those fighting for liberty and autonomy. Civil rights campaigns in the US and the demand for greater freedom and democracy around the world were predicated upon the liberal principles of tolerance and free speech.

The democratic claims of the Western establishment throughout the 20th century were put to the test and called out by liberals and radicals when they were shown up to be lacking. Today in comparison these same 'liberals' are laying the foundations for a world without quality, without principles and without any genuine commitment to the right of people to speak their minds.

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