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Big Tech Prevents Free Speech; Free Speech Prevents Violence

“The First Amendment is first for a reason,” said comedian Dave Chappelle during an acceptance speech in October of 2019. “The Second Amendment is just in case the first one doesn’t work out.”

We have all heard the popular platitude that the pen is mightier than the sword. The old saying is a simple way to explain that more can be achieved through rationale and reason than can through violence. However, when the pen is stripped away, you’re only left with the sword.

Major social media platforms have taken the responsibility of arbitrating truth and limiting content for the purpose of promoting their political agenda. Anything that challenges what we must understand to be true is met with shadow bans and other efforts to limit reach. Platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have all removed users for posting and circulating misinformation and content that fails to conform with the widely promoted narrative.

In response to private efforts limiting politically motivated content, competing platforms emerged to fill the void. Platforms such as Parler and Gab grant their users access to the public through an uncensored filter.

Following Parler’s growing popularity, Amazon Web Services cut off their servers and stopped hosting the platform following the January 6 riot at the Capitol. After over a month of inactivity, Parler returned, this time not depending on Big Tech for survival.

Similarly, attacks have also been aimed at Gab, who received their most intense scrutiny following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October, 2018 after it was revealed that the lone-gunman used the platform to hint at his hate crime prior to the horrific event. Unlike Parler, Gab is crowd-funded and relies on revenue from premium memberships, donations, and sales from their online shop.

Both Parler and Gab are unavailable in Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store, though Apple is looking into reinstating Parler. Popular payment processors such as Paypal and Stripes have also ended their professional relationship with Gab, forcing the social media platform to rely on postal mail, cryptocurrencies, and lesser-known payment processors for payments.

We live in a society that values free speech, free expression, and the freedom peaceably to assemble as a means to resolving conflict over violence. However, over the course of the past decade, groups representing ideologies from both sides of the aisle resorted to rioting and looting as a means to progress their agendas. So, why all the sudden violence?

We’ve all been taught that violence is never the answer. However, violence is rarely the answer, with ‘rarely’ being the operative word. Violence is the product of oppression. Oppression occurs when an individual or group of people feel that they have been treated unfairly or cruelly for a prolonged period of time. Oppression intensifies when it’s coupled with the oppressed being stripped access to the proper communication channels to seek recourse.

While the act of oppressing does not necessarily need to be present, the feeling of oppression oftentimes results in some form of acting out in rebellion, especially when it’s government-sponsored oppression.

Disagreements are an important feature to any stable, functioning relationship. Dissent opens the door for communication, granting us access to understanding others more intimately. A society is a grouping of multiple working relationships. Recent attacks on free speech force individuals to mask their true identities, disrupting the natural flow of a functioning society.

The First Amendment isn’t just a symbolic addition to the Constitution, so why are private and public employers treating it as such? Numerous interpretations of free speech have declared that freedom of speech cannot be abridged by any government actor. However, professors from public universities continue to not see their contracts renewed when they say something that counters the currently dictated script.

The value that was once placed on the principles of free speech is slowly dwindling. Private employers continue to buckle to market pressures and remove individuals for the slightest bit of controversy in exchange for the opportunity to maximize profits. Every action taken and word spoken is under strict scrutiny by the public. While free speech used to be a value, speaking freely today could cost you your career, your friends and family, and your livelihood.

The pen is still mightier than the sword. Contrary to what they want us to believe, we still maintain the right to free speech. They will continue to try and strip you from your pen, but never allow them to force your sword. Never give them a reason to lock you up and silence you for good, unless you are left with no other option.

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