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Following Capitol Hill Riots, Big Tech Moves to Set New Regulatory Precedents

(Noted News) — In the wake of the recent Trump-backed riots on Capitol Hill, Big Tech has gone ahead with a long-anticipated purge of people, organizations, and entire platforms on the basis that they pose a threat to safety and national security. 

President Donald Trump had already had hundreds of individual tweets censored in the past, but following January 6th, his Twitter account was suspended, along with countless other influential supporters of the President. 

Trump is also banned from Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Shopify, Spotify, Twitch, TikTok, Google, Reddit, Youtube, and—surprisingly—Pinterest. Payment processor Stripe has also restricted its services to Trump.

Frustrated with the amount of censorship, many have already been migrating to alternative social media platforms. But under pressure, these platforms have now either been forced to comply with the de facto standards of Big Tech or have been de-platformed themselves.

Parler, a “conservative” version of Twitter that prides itself on freedom of expression, was essentially erased from existence when Amazon removed them from their hosting service, and then both Google and Apple removed them from their app stores. Parler CEO Jim Matze told Fox News that continuing operations will be “basically impossible,” and accused Amazon of “trying to remove free speech from the internet.”

Amazon Web Services (AWS) said in a statement: 

“AWS provides technology and services to customers across the political spectrum, and we continue to respect Parler’s right to determine for itself what content it will allow on its site. However, we cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others. Because Parler cannot comply with our terms of service and poses a very real risk to public safety, we plan to suspend Parler’s account.”

Apple made a similar statement after removing Parler from their app store.

“The processes Parler has put in place to moderate or prevent the spread of dangerous and illegal content have proved insufficient. Specifically, we have continued to find direct threats of violence and calls to incite lawless action in violation of Guideline 1.1 – Safety – Objectionable Content.”

Parler had previously taken action to remove a post from Trump supporter Lin Wood who was calling for vice president Mike Pence to be executed via firing squad

DLive, a videogame-live streaming service that became a safe-haven for previously censored right-wing hate speech, removed the account of Nick Fuentes, who was their most popular streamer.

“DLive believes and encourages freedom of expression, providing it abides by US law and our own Community Guidelines,” DLive said in a statement. “On January 6th, 2021, the following channels were found to be inciting violent and illegal activities and have been suspended indefinitely with their lemon balances frozen.”

The calls for stronger restrictions on online speech have spread into Europe, which already has tougher laws than the US. 

Thierry Bretton, the European Union’s commissioner for the internal market, penned an article at Politico calling for strict and concrete regulations on what can and can’t be said on the internet, citing the Capitol Hill riots. 

“Why did they fail to prevent the fake news and hate speech leading to the attack on Wednesday in the first place? Regardless of whether silencing a standing president was the right thing to do, should that decision be in the hands of a tech company with no democratic legitimacy or oversight?”

Bretton goes on to say that European authorities need to come up with clear legislation on what standards online platforms hold their users accountable to.

“Our European laws and courts will continue to define what is illegal, both offline and online—from child pornography to terrorist content, from hate speech to counterfeiting, from incitement to violence to defamation—through democratic processes and with appropriate checks and balances. But currently, online platforms lack legal clarity about how they should treat illegal content on their networks. This leaves our societies with too many questions about when content should or shouldn’t be blocked.”

Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, added a counterweight to Bretton’s arguments and vocally disagreed with Twitter’s decision to ban Trump, calling it a violation of the “fundamental right to free speech” and saying that the US should take note of Germany’s strategy of having clear, government-mandated laws on free speech rather than leave it up to tech companies. 

Following the wave of bans, Twitter’s share price dove nearly 10%, possibly in anticipation of a large number of users leaving the platform.

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