Big Tech has been censoring content it considers to be hate speech (e.g. any political dissenting posts being removed from social media) for some time, but there are two particular examples of people being punished for criticizing public officials that have gone beyond censorship.
The first of these examples is in China, where the Cyberspace Administration of China has developed a hotline for its citizens to report online criticism of the Chinese Communist Party in an attempt to crack down on those who “distort” the party’s history, attack its leadership and policies, defame China’s national heroes, and “deny the excellence of advanced socialist culture”. Such individuals who criticize the Communist Party in China are referred to as “historical nihilists”.
The internet in China is tightly censored, and most of the social media networks, search engines, and news outlets from other countries are banned. Such censorship gets stricter on the eve of major events (e.g. historical anniversaries). Violators convicted of such laws can face up to three years in jail, while Chinese social media sites that fail to censor online criticism are subject to financial sanctions and/or temporary suspensions of service.
Such measures are not surprising since China is a communist state.
The second of these examples has occurred here in America, in which Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who always wants to be in the spotlight), has asked her followers on social media to report any critics of her to Big Tech so they can be punished.
Earlier this month, an anti-war activist from California named Ryan Wentz criticized AOC for comments she made during an interview about establishing peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Such criticism was made because, in Wentz’s view, she made no mention of the rights of Palestinians.
As a result, Twitter (where Wentz made his comments) apparently decided to punish Wentz. But instead of just imposing its own punishments (e.g. suspending or removing his account) Twitter notified the California Highway Patrol, who sent a couple of plainclothes officers to his house. The officers claimed they were there because the U.S. Capitol Police requested that they look into a threat he made against AOC, even though that was not the case.
Supposedly the investigation was launched because the Capitol Police noticed Wentz was tagged in a Tweet by another individual whose message they considered to be threatening.
So why didn’t the authorities just investigate this unnamed individual if he or she did actually pose a threat, and leave Wentz alone (or anyone else who might have been tagged in the message)? It should be noted that the authorities have yet to clarify what the message by this individual actually said, especially since the Tweet has been removed.
So was this a knee-jerk reaction by the Capitol Police, given the recent incidents? Or was it Twitter deciding to silence any criticism of AOC?
Either way, such a situation is disturbing. Because the real threat is our freedom being taken away.