Have social media and tech giants become a soft form of extremism?
Recently, (yet another) user faced a Twitter suspension for calling the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist organization.” Citing a violation of rules of conduct against “hate speech,” Twitter took the measure to censor speech that goes against the grain of “groupthink.”
The alarming rate at which these companies are acting like lord and masters of the republic raises a number of questions, including:
- Why do social media giants claim to take an active role against online extremism, but then have trouble identifying extremist groups? The fact is that Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Syria and Bahrain among other nations, have designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terror organization. However, American innovators still struggle to draw a line in the sand, which is why American policy is generations behind other nations when it comes to countering violent extremism.
- Why can’t these world class American corporations distinguish between free speech and hate speech? When they can’t make necessary distinctions, they dangerously confuse free speech as hate speech and hate speech as free speech.
Failing Progressive Muslims
The question of the hour is whether social media giants are becoming another soft branch of extremism. When tech giants like Twitter, Facebook and or YouTube cannot discriminate between Islamist extremism and anti-Muslim hate, it undermines the work of genuine anti-extremist activists like Muslim pluralists, reformers and human rights advocates. For every 10 steps forward progressive Muslims take against Muslim-on-Muslim hate, measures that punish free speech and critical dialogue in the cyber world, push these efforts back by 11 steps. It brings to mind the phrase, “If you’re not working with us, you’re working against.” In this case, social media giants are working against Muslim progressives by actively supporting the most rigid, orthodox and extremist branches of Islam.
Failing Professionals in the Field of Countering Violent Extremism
Despite the occasional conference or memo, tech giants are also not working in support of countering violent extremism professionals in a meaningful capacity. It is not possible to work meaningfully against extremism, yet not understand the full spectrum of ideological faith-based extremism — and then go further by protecting ideologically-supremacist faith-based groups. In this vein, social media giants are not make the effort to be informed by professionals who work countering violent extremism; in fact, they’re working against them.
The Question Is ‘Why?’
It’s no secret that Silicon Valley is a soft playground for Islamists. Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are among social media tech giants that have side-swept users’ First Amendment protection (which are only guaranteed by government and not private businesses) by becoming the largest publishing organism with the widest-reaching censorship ability in human history.
But it doesn’t stop there. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the largest philanthropic arm in the United States, routinely gives sizable donations to Islamist organizations like CAIR and Islamic Relief.
Most people also familiar with James Damore’s memo against Google’s ideological echo chamber. He has now brought a lawsuit against them which continues to expose a corporate culture that expects conformity.
The ironic fact is that when companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube attempt to prune dialogue until it more closely resembles their own ideology, these organizations end up embracing forms of extremism they claim to serve as champions against.