Was deplatforming and banning the social media site Parler the right decision?

June 4, 2021

Parler. It’s a social media site which has come under heavy scrutiny in recent weeks and months. Essentially, the premise seems very simple and positive. There is no banning of accounts and no censorship. This social media app gained over 2 million users, with conservatives flocking there to serve as a right-wing social media site. For a couple of years, Parler served as the home for right wing extremist groups such as the Oath Keepers and Boogaloo Bois, given its non-existent censorship guidelines. This festering extremism came to a peak following Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, where the Capitol riots on January 6 were largely planned on the apps by extremists.

Following the catastrophic event, Amazon banned Parler from its web services, followed by media giants like Apple and Google removing it from their app stores. And just like that, as quickly as it rose to the spotlight, Parler vanished. So, this banning was a good thing, right? Removing an avenue for extremists should be lauded, right? Well, the answer is complicated.

While in this particular circumstance, the banning of Parler was the right decision by Amazon and the other tech giants, it shows the unyielding power of giant corporations. The idea that a private corporation could end a social media giant with the snap of its fingers should worry advocates for free speech. This time, it was Parler. But what if next time it is a company undeserving of a ban? It’s unfair that such a corporation has so much power that it can essentially control the media viewers consume. This has the danger of a new type of regulation of media, which cannot be prosecuted under the First Amendment.

Social media apps are being subject to criticism over censorship in recent times. (Tomer Goldfinger (’22) and Aiden Rood (’23))

This ban of Parler lends itself to a broader topic of conversation about monopolies. Largely because of deregulation, companies over the past few decades have been able to grow into monopolies without healthy competition. The perfect example of this is Amazon. Amazon has crushed its competition so strongly that in November of 2020, the European Union filed antitrust lawsuits against Amazon with the objective of reducing its unilateral control over their market sector and providing fair competition. Corporations having this much concentrated power causes an economic problem where small businesses are given no chance to succeed. Further, enormous corporations like Amazon have large control over web services and could essentially decide which online companies succeed and fail. Therefore, the United States must consider an antitrust lawsuit to promote fair competition and no dominance by a particular company.

So, what has the US done so far? In October of 2020, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law released a report on these tech giants, claiming that “Amazon’s pattern of exploiting sellers, enabled by its market dominance, raises serious competition concerns.” This, along with its aggressive behavior in censorship, must spark government regulation to ensure that tech giants cannot have unilateral control over media and information, and ensure the sanctity of American free speech.

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