Is the Great Deplatforming of 2021 an Assault on Free Speech?

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Following last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, Twitter permanently banned President Donald Trump from its platform, and Facebook and YouTube suspended his accounts. 

Meanwhile, Parler, which markets itself as a more open alternative to Twitter, was removed from the Apple and Google app stores, and Amazon Web Services booted the company from its cloud computing platform. 

Is the “Great Deplatforming of 2021” a genuine threat to free speech? Or, should we “think of Twitter as a Christian bakery and Trump as a gay wedding cake,as one user of the platform quipped, meaning that nobody should be able to force a private company to do business with someone it disagrees with?

Enter Mike Masnick, the 46-year-old entrepreneur and analyst behind the influential website Techdirt and the digital think tank, the Copia Institute. While others are constantly talking about how to restrict and regulate the internet and tech giants to conform to one ideological vision or another, Masnick champions protocols and practices that he thinks would lead to a more decentralized internet and culture, including expanding Section 230 immunity, the use of encryption, and tools that give end users, rather than political and commercial commissars, more power to control what we say and see online.

Nick Gillespie spoke to Masnick about what current debates over social media get woefully wrong, how free speech is simultaneously empowered and imperiled by politicians here and abroad, and why a more decentralized internet is not just possible but preferable to what we have now.

Narration and interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Regan Taylor and John Osterhoudt. Graphics by Lex Villena.

Photo: Ivy Ceballo/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Gage Skidmore/Flickr/Creative Commons; Dennis Yang/Flickr/Creative Commons; Internet Education Foundation/Flickr/Creative Commons

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