We live in strange times.
The Web promised a liberation of free speech across the world.
And that seemed to happen in the 1990s.
But the technology changed, and the massive centralisation of Web 2.0 has been in many ways bad for free speech.
Social media firms have enormous power to censor people on their platforms.
Which is, sort of, their right.
You can publish elsewhere on the Internet.
The other Web still exists.
And yet, because of their dominance, opinions being banned from the big social media platforms
is in effect like censoring those opinions from society.
Social media companies were not always evil.
We can even date the year it changed.
They started abusing their power in 2016.
The big firms - Google and YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram - all abuse their power now.
They have killed the 1990s dream of free speech Internet.
Censorship by big tech firms is probably the dominant form of censorship in the West now.
You Can't Watch This (2019)
on the Web 2.0 world, where unelected social media corporations, not elected governments, in effect control global speech, and regularly abuse their massive power.
The simple libertarian answer to social media abusing its power is:
"Tough. They are private companies."
This meme version of
"Don't Tread on Me"
is the answer most people can relate to.
Which is, that we feel now as if unelected and abusive companies, not government, control our speech.
And we feel that way because it is basically true.
So "At least it's not the government" is not much of an answer for most people.
Facebook is an island of censorship in an Internet sea of freedom.
Facebook appoints Muslim Brotherhood radical
to oversee their censorship of user content.
Facebook censors Covid theories, then backtracks:
In the Covid
pandemic of 2019 on, Facebook censored people who said
the virus came from a Chinese lab.
It censored them and banned them from its platform
for spreading "fake news".
It put up "nanny" notices like the above.
In May 2021 Facebook said they will
people discuss this theory.
(The image above is from this story,
which also has a roundup of the many people who treated the theory as a dangerous conspiracy theory.)
In Oct 2021, Instagram removed this scientific diagram showing male advantage in sport.
Not because women were offended. (All women know this.)
But because "trans women" (men pretending to be women)
See full size.
In Dec 2021,
deleted this post mocking Hamas terrorism.
Censoring opponents of terrorism because of complaints by supporters of terrorism.
That sums up social media companies.
- Freely view and embed and download the videos that YouTube bans and restricts.
The end of Google, 2018. Google started
in the 1990s
because other search engines were biased and did not show the most important hits at the top,
but had other criteria.
In the 2010s,
Google decided to start censoring results it does not agree with,
and as a result its search engine is becoming useless.
Here is a search for "jihad" on a Chrome incognito window in Aug 2018,
and the most important site in the world on the topic,
Jihad Watch, is on page 12.
Since thousands and thousands of sites link to Jihad Watch,
it must be put on page 12 deliberately by Google because they do not like it.
Well Google, it's been a nice 20 year run, but it is time for a new search engine now.
After 20 years using Google, around 2018 I started switching my bookmarks and links to
In May 2017, they made the error of inviting "anti-troll expert" Vian Tahir to curate @sweden.
a huge list of "hate" accounts,
that were then blocked by @sweden.
The Swedish Institute unwisely
these accounts were linked to things like neo-Nazism and incitement to violence.
Inevitably, the "hate" list turned out to be something rather sinister.
I have mixed but generally positive views of Wikipedia.
It is less centralised in its ideas than social media companies.
Wikipedia is not simply pro censorship like the social media companies.
Rather it is a war between pro and anti censorship people.
The result tends to be more anti censorship than pro.
But the war never ends.
Compare Wikipedia to the pre-Internet world
and honestly it is still better.
Who would ever want to go back?
Here is the
Encyclopaedia Britannica 1974 edition on
Izmir in Turkey.
Now there is a lot to be said for the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
and there are major disadvantages to Wikipedia.
But consider what is now online.
In Wikipedia there is not just an article but
category on Izmir
with many sub-articles
And for images
there is an entire Wikimedia Commons
category on Izmir
with many sub-categories.
Far, far more information and images than any Encyclopaedia could give.
Not to mention the millions of other
And I chose this page because the information on it is defective.
Presumably written by some Turkish or pro-Turkish academics,
fails to note the most important event in modern Izmir
- the slaughter by the Turks of the Christians of Izmir in 1922
(the city was majority Christian before then).
In contrast, Wikipedia covers this topic in
a massive, detailed entry.
Far from being "heavily damaged in the fighting",
Izmir was set on fire by the Turks after it surrendered.
The army of Ataturk burnt the city, and killed and expelled the Christians.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica entry is a lie.
On Wikipedia, similar lies
can hide in
but it is hard for them to survive in the
The Internet truly has liberated us
to go beyond what is in our books.
Blocked on Twitter by the regressive left and Islamists:
I love debate.
I love ideas.
But the Western left
and their friends the Islamic right
do not return the favour.
Their response to opposing ideas, whether expressed politely or robustly, is often to block.
See Who blocks me on Twitter.
I will debate almost anyone.
Stick to ideas and I will debate you.
But I do have rules.
See Who I block on Twitter.
Twitter is broken, 2016 on:
I am on Twitter at
Twitter was a great place for debate before 2016.
You could meet everyone in the world, and argue about ideas.
Starting in 2016,
Twitter became increasingly broken.
It became full of reporting and bans and censorship.
In 2019, Twitter even started
for no reason that was ever explained, or could be appealed.
promised to end the censorship.
But it looks like a false dawn.
One day, we will have a better place to gather.