“Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users. Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming. We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”
—-A spokesperson for Apple last week, following confirmation that it had removed five out of six podcasts by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, including “The Alex Jones Show” and some of his InfoWars audio streams.
This is a terrifying statement…almost as terrifying as the fact that so many Americans won’t understand why it’s terrifying. Unless one does not understand the First Amendment and why its principles are the beating heart of American democracy, or unless you are an increasingly typical 21st Century progressive, who feels that the Left should have the power to decide what kind of speech is tolerable, Apple is telling us that it is going to use its immense power and influence over the distribution of ideas to suit its preferences regarding what people should see, hear, and think.
The routine default defense of this kind of calculated ideological bias by the big tech and internet companies is that they are not government entities and thus not bound by the Bill of Rights, which is absolutely true. It is also true, however, that they currently have the power to substantially impede access to the public marketplace of ideas by those their owners, leaders and employees disagree with, and lack the ethical orientation, integrity, trustworthiness and intellect to fairly and responsibly exercise this power. The statement proves this emphatically:
- “Hate speech” is self-defining, meaning that it is anything a censor says it is. It is just speech, that’s all, but speech that someone doesn’t like sufficiently to call “hate speech” and then embrace the false assertion that such speech has less status than any other speech.
- Speech does not make anyone “unsafe.” No one needs to be made “safe” from speech. If someone doesn’t like what Alex Jones is saying, they have the remedy at their fingertips: stop listening. If someone knows what a disgusting liar he is, then don’t access his podcasts. Is this really so hard that Apple has to protect its users?
- “We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions” is pure hypocrisy. Apple isn’t respectful of differing opinions; if it were, then it wouldn’t censor Alex Jones. Being respectful of differing opinions means being respectful of really stupid and offensive opinions, or at least the right to have and express them.
Facebook and Spotify have also banned Jones. If they will do it to him, using Apple’s dishonest and unethical criteria, they might do it to you. As the news media becomes increasingly bold it its determination to manipulate public opinion rather than provide the unfiltered information needed for the public to understand the world around them, the big tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google can be counted upon to be bolder still—after all, they don’t even have the pretense of a professional ethics code to defy, and censorship of expression is just one more tool for them to achieve power and profit.
Last week, for example, it was revealed that Google, which at least had the integrity to ditch its cynical “Don’t Be Evil” motto a few months ago, is working on a search engine for China, code named “Dragonfly,” that will allow the government to censor searches. There’s a lot of money in China, after all. Besides, the censorship will keep Chinese Google users “safe” from all sorts of speech that the government doesn’t “tolerate.”