After the unspeakable events of Jan 6, 2021, there have been a number of companies that have decided to try and distance themselves. In this article, I am not trying to take a side or convince anyone, but instead, try and point out different points to my thoughts on Google removing Parler from the Play Store.
For those who are not familiar with Parler, it is a platform that completely embraces free speech. It claims to fame is being the “Anti-Twitter”, where they will not edit, censor, or prevent free speech. But there is a concern that allowing such free speech is helping to incite the violence that has been taking place, especially at certain riots (including the latest that happened at the Capitol on January 6th).
Before I begin I want to point out some events that have led many of your social media platforms to take action on what gets posted on their platform. One event back in 2016 involved a shooting in Dallas, Texas. Some criticized social media platforms for not doing more to police content that may have inspired and (possibly) promoted the violence that took place. After that, the response from platforms like Twitter and Facebook, who were starting to make a lot more money from ad dollars, were to censor and remove any posts that could lead to violence. That said, here are my for and against about Google, and other tech platforms, choosing sides and censoring or removing content like Parler that is controversial.
Against Google’s decision:
- With a platform like Parler people know what they are getting into. They know that people are free to say what they please so there will be posts and comments that may be bigoted, insensitive, false, and controversial. If a platform is allowing free speech then they agree to the consequences of that. The same can be said for anyone that decides to act out and perform illegal acts as a result of reading such free speech. If Google (or some other platform) censors that then what will prevent them from removing anything they do not like?
- I do not want or need Google to decide what is good/bad for me. Unless the app being installed contains spyware or any other kind of malware, I do not see a need for Google to step in and just remove an app. Instead, I think they could just make it where you have to be a certain age, and Google provides a warning (ie “this app contains content that is …….and Google is not responsible for…. Use your own risk”. Basically, Google put up the required legal statement and then allow people to be able to think and act for themselves.
- Where does this stop? Though there clearly are comments and acts that are unacceptable (ie racism, sexism, bigotry, etc) there have been movements and words that at one time were considered controversial but now are acceptable and vice versa. An example of that is BLM. A few years ago it was controversial, and now it seems like every business and company are now down with BLM. Though I know the reason Google removed Parler was because of the violence that happened on the Capitol if we allow a tech company to decide what is safe and what is controversial, it is a matter of time before something you consider important is silenced.
For Google’s decision:
- Google’s decision was made because they wanted to make sure they joined the tech companies that distance themselves from the events that took place on Jan 6th. The tech companies have already been in enough hot water over the years, this move allows them to show that “they are on the right side of history”. And make sure they are not caught up in any kind of litigation.
- 2020 and the start of 2021 saw a great deal of civil unrest. Some justified and others, eh. With a large number of people wanting to get beyond the point of bigotry and violence, any company not doing their part to remove such content would have been met with public criticism. And with the majority saying enough is enough, it would be hard for Google not to remove a service like that. Especially given that the company would likely be the new home for Donald Trump, who was just banned from Facebook and Twitter.
- Follow the crowd and cries from the masses. More and more people are wanting to see big tech companies distance themselves from Parler. Google is following the wave of people who want to see justice against all who not only took part in the violence at the Capitol but played any part in inciting the violence. With concerns about insurrection affecting the Inauguration, Google is trying to do everything they can to say they did their part to prevent it. Meaning if anything happens, Google can say point the blame somewhere else.
Any and all who took part in damaging the Capitol should be arrested and have to face justice. Protests, whether I agree with the protest or not, is a 1st Amendment right that should be protected. It’s when that protest involves violence that a line is drawn. Those committing acts of violence should be removed and arrested. When it comes to free speech, each platform can police how they see fit. And should be allowed to do so in order to protect their interests (ie a company losing dollars because of allowing certain content). But whether Google should have stepped in to remove Parler can be argued if this was taking an unnecessary step just to say they distanced themselves from what happened on Jan 6th. Considering all the apps that can be downloaded via the Play Store, is Google taking sides on this a good thing or an act of censorship?