Is Twitter Becoming Our New Big Brother?
By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Shanaya Daughtrey
TUSCALOOSA, AL– In George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “1984,” Orwell predicts a society where human rights like freedom of speech no longer exist.
The fictional dystopian society consisting of a totalitarianism and repressive regimentation that controlled the lives, speech and even thoughts of its citizens shares an eerie resemblance to the power now wielded by big tech companies like Twitter.
Freedom of speech is one of this country’s most cherished protections under the United States Constitution.
<p>As outlined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”</p><p>Platforms like Twitter, Facebook and newcomers like Gab and Parler serve as dominant spaces where public opinion and discourse reign supreme.</p><p>But are tech companies becoming so powerful where they can dictate who has the right to speak freely on their platforms without getting banned or reprimanded?</p><p>On Jan. 8, Twitter permanently suspended the account of then-President Donald Trump <a href=”https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/suspension.html”>“</a><a href=”https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/suspension.html”>due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”</a></p><p>On Feb.10, Twitter announced that its ban on the former president will remain permanent, even if he decides to run for public office in 2024.</p><p>“When you’re removed from the platform, you’re removed from the platform,” Twitter CFO Ned Segal told<a href=”https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/twitter-uphold-permanent-ban-against-trump-even-if-he-were-n1257269″> CNBC in an interview on Wednesday morning.</a></p><p>The string of social media platforms-Facebook, Snapchat, Twitch and even Shopify- following the lead of Twitter in removing Trump off their platforms indefinitely, cemented the long-enduring public assertion that platforms can and will do what they want because they have the power to do so.</p><p>“It’s a profound statement that a private company can silence the president of the United States,” said University of Alabama Assistant Professor of Political Science Allen Linken. “It is not a matter of constitutionally right or wrong, it’s a matter of, ‘is there comfort in private companies having the ability to silence a sitting president of the United States?’”</p><p>In “1984” Big Brother has become an apt metaphor for Big Tech.</p><p>Big Brother functioned as a nucleus for the people’s feelings of fear and reverence in the totalitarian state of Oceania.</p><p>Similarly, Twitter functions as a dominant space where a person’s ability to speak freely can become constricted by the fear of being permanently banned for saying what they deem as unacceptable.</p><p><span style=”font-size: 14px;”>“I think they have too much control, I think they have found a way to control the narrative,” said Priscilla Carter, a senior citizen Twitter user who was temporarily suspended from the app. “The discussion is getting narrower because they [big tech companies]have too much control. If they continue to have control, the narrative will only be theirs and we won’t have a subjective base to determine when we’re hearing them or hearing the collective thoughts of the many.”</span></p><p>Carter was suspended from Twitter for eight hours after openly disagreeing with a public figure’s ideologies on the platform.</p><p>“My thoughts, opinions and feelings are my own,” said Carter. “But here Twitter was telling me I didn’t have a right to them because someone objected to what I thought and said.”</p><p>Social media platforms having the power to remove, and ultimately silence a sitting president, the most powerful leader in America, serves as an implied concession that platforms not only facilitate autonomy but play a role as a self-governing body.</p>
Could this power transcend and bridge with another powerful entity such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation that can be used to control the actions and monitor the speech of American citizens?
An anonymous FBI agent from the Los Angeles office said the FBI does not focus on policing speech.
“Our focus is not on speech or membership in particular groups, but on individuals who commit violence and other criminal acts. We do not police ideology.”
In comparison with Orwell’s authoritative concept of “Big Brother,” and how the protagonist ultimately conformed to Party rule, the desire to be a part of Twitter’s 330 million-plus community, has caused millions to relinquish their power to true freedom of expression.
The dichotomy of this platform lies in their mission statement: “To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”