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BIG TECH’S TYRANNY: TIME FOR ‘DUCK DUCK GO’ AND ‘GAB’

I wrote this months article for Evangelicals Now a few weeks ago – it’s almost as if I knew that Facebook were going to ‘defriend’ Australia?

BIG TECH’S TYRANNY: TIME FOR ‘DUCK DUCK GO’ AND ‘GAB’

Imagine Martin Luther without the printing press? You would never have heard of him.

Figure Image

In the providence of God, Luther came to prominence just at the time that the Gutenberg printing press was invented. His 95 Theses was one of the first printed books. As a result, the Reformation doctrines spread throughout Europe. No matter how much the court and church in England tried to prevent the new ideas coming in – they could not be prevented. Through the ports of Eastern England and Scotland, ships from Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and the Baltic states brought in Lutheran books and pamphlets. The ‘virus’ of Christianity could not be contained – through the traditional methods.

Fast forward a few centuries. When mainstream media were increasingly seeking to shut out and shut down any manifestations of Biblical Christianity, along came the Internet. Like the printing press it came with curses as well as blessings. Pornography, heresy and evil were enabled – but so was the preaching of the gospel. If the printing press had been entirely controlled by emperor, king or pope then the dissemination of the Reformation ideas would have been hindered if not halted. The Lord in His sovereignty overruled and the printing press became a primary means of spreading the gospel.

Today the Internet started off as a platform which anyone could use. It has now developed to the stage where for most of us it is an essential utility – like electricity or water. Along with the Internet came the development of the biggest and most powerful corporations the world has ever seen – the Big Tech quintopoly of Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple and Alphabet (Google). As Amol Rajan, BBC journalist, asked; ‘They are the editors of the Internet. They have more power than any politician or journalist in history. The question that matters is not have they made the right editorial call, but rather is it right that a handful of Californian billionaires should hold such sway over the 21st century public domain?’

They have been able to amass this incredible wealth, influence and power (as I write, for example, Google are taking on the Australian Government – it is a fight in which the government is seen as the ‘David’ in a David and Goliath struggle). Much of this has developed due to the 230 exemption in US law. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 provides legal protection for any website provider – and ensures that they are not responsible for the content. In effect the Big Tech giants were handed legal immunity. They cast themselves as providers, not publishers. In old-world terms, they provide the paper and the ink, they do not publish the books.

Now that they have amassed billions in resources and a virtual monopoly on social media on the Internet, they have changed their tune. Suddenly they have decided that they are responsible for at least some of the content – although conveniently for them – not legally. This has all come to the forefront when these companies all decided to ban President Trump and then go even further by blocking one of their smaller rivals, the Parler platform. Why does this matter?

Why Donald Trump’s Twitter Ban is Bad News for Christians

Because all of a sudden, we have non-elected, non-accountable billionaires determining what is moral for the whole world – influencing our politics, economies and education and health-care systems. If you want to know in detail how this works then can I suggest you read Shoshana Zuboff’s Surveillance Capitalism, which is a detailed, heavy and fascinating exposé of Big Tech.

What disturbs me is how blasé so many Christians are about this – and how unaware of the dangers. There are those who argue that ‘they are private companies; they can do what they want – the market will decide’. But that does not work when they are the market and when they are not subject to government legislation – or are the ones making that legislation. ‘Well, if you don’t like it – then go form your own social media platform’ is the trite answer. People have tried. Parler was a growing example of a platform that was taking on Twitter. So they got together and shut it down. It was quite depressing reading some Christians saying ‘Well, it was right wing and enabled violence, so they should have shut it down’. These Christians only knew it was ‘right wing’ because Big Tech told them so – and conveniently ignored the fact that the Capitol Hill riots were planned on Facebook and Twitter!

Do we really want to live in a world where woke Californian billionaires tell us whether we can preach the gospel on the Internet or not? Where godless unbelievers and idolaters can tell us what we can publish and if and how we can broadcast our services? Imagine if en was subject to an atheistic monopoly publisher who would only let us print if we fitted in with their ‘community standards’? It’s time for us to wake up and smell the disappearing ink. We need to seriously be considering alternatives and making sure that there is an alternative to the One World Internet. Personally, I’m getting out of Big Tech as much as I can – Duck Duck Go as a search engine, and Gab as a replacement for Twitter seem to be working so far. But we need more. Perhaps to be free of the power of Big Tech the church needs the equivalent of its own printing press?

Censoring the internet – A plea from John Milton

Dear Twitter – Why Have You Banned Me?

The Social Dilemma – A Film Everyone Needs to See – CT

Reflections on the Heartbreaking Fall of Ravi Zacharias – EN

19 comments

  1. Totally agree with this

    I’ve deleted Twitter and FBook……….they are anti-Christian

    Using DuckDuckGo as my default Search engine…..pretty good….can still use another if I wanted to check the results

    Even better, now using Brave as my default browser………instead of Safari, Edge, Chrome. It’s faster as the ads are blocked. Looks and feels a bit like Safari

    Parler had some very poor stuff in it……but it just showed that the world is certainly full of sin……from all points in the political spectrum. I’d rather have that on full display, for all to see…….showed very clearly the sin of the world and why Jesus……..FBook and Twitter are no better.

    If Parler is to be deleted, then so should FBook and Twitter.

  2. “Do we really want to live in a world where woke Californian billionaires tell us whether we can preach the gospel on the Internet or not?” Obviously not but this is the world we live in, just as it was for the apostle Peter after the day of Pentecost wiht religious authorities telling him not to preach about Jesus and doing so eventually costing him his life.

    Thankfully for most of us in the west, doing so won’t result in fatal consequences. For now.

    Plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose.

  3. This has been building up for many years. Amazon or Google not paying enough tax? Ah well, lets see. That nice new distribution centre we were building just outside of Cardiff. How about we move it to Turkey instead?
    Oh ok, how much tax would you like to pay this year?

  4. then go even further by blocking one of their smaller rivals, the Parler

    Get your facts straight.

    It was not ‘shut down.’ Their service provider stopped carrying them (because it didn’t want a client who enabled/encouraged political violence). They were free to get another provider, which I think they’ve now done and are back up again.

    Go to Gab. Use Parler. Whatever. Have fun. No one’s stopping you, or do you just like playing the victim?

    1. Always love it when ‘liberals’ attempt to justify their illiberalism and defend corporate capitalism! Yes – they were shut down. The inconsistency of your remarks shows the level of your prejudice. Parler no more enabled or encouraged political violence than FB or Twitter (the Capitol Hill riots were largely planned on these) – but you don’t argue for them to be shut down. You just want those who disagree with you to be shut down – what a champion of free speech!

      1. They’ve not been shut down. I type parler.com into my browser’s address bar and up it comes giving me the option to subscribe. Shut down is when you’re in Thailand, enter dailymail.co.uk and get a blank screen because the government has blocked it.

  5. Duck Duck Go search engine would seem to be as guilty (unwilling, un-wittedly, coerced or complicit?) of skewed search results as Google, Yahoo etc.

  6. One of the issues with startup social media platforms is new users are impatient. They won’t stick with new platforms because “all my friends are on Facebook so there’s nothing happening here…”

    Rather than do the hard thing and build an alternative social network, we’ll stay on Facebook because it’s easier to gripe and moan than to start something new.

  7. As a trainee history teacher, I think some of your rather exaggerated language is unhelpful. For example, I’m sure the Medieval Roman Catholic Church and the popes in that time wielded far more power than big tech nowadays.

    Also, note that Martin Luther didn’t go on some crusade to democratise the printing press. He, at his best, focused on the gospel. We would do well to do the same.

    Do we need Google Ad Words to share the gospel? Not really. Like John Wycliffe’s followers we can just low key take the gospel to our communities. I know lockdown makes that difficult, but as long as we focus on the gospel rather than the problems in seeking to share it, we will find opportunities to share it.

    Our focus should not be to be polemic against the RCC, big tech, or whatever else. Our focus should be to share the gospel in whatever way we can, even as the RCC and big tech try to silence us.

    I think the internet is overrated in terms of sharing the gospel, as the printing press could be as well. They’re useful, by all means. But unless people read the printed word, or click on the link, they’re not going to read our gospel. The most effective way of sharing the gospel I believe is face to face (difficult behind a mask at 2 metres distance I admit!).

    When God sent us good news, He didn’t send us a book or a website, He sent us Himself. When God commissions us to share the good news, our primary calling isn’t necessarily to write books or have a blog, but to go out into the world and share good news face to face. Again, I admit that this is difficult under the current locked down circumstances.

    1. You don’t give any examples of ‘exaggerated’ language. So I guess that just means you don’t like it?

      Luther used the printing press to communicate the Gospel.

      No one said we need Google ad words to proclaim the Gospel.

      No one said that our focus should not be on the Gospel.

      God did actually send us a book (its called the Bible – actually 66 books) to tell us the good news. You are trying to be wiser than God. It sounds super spiritual but its nonsense.

      Next time when you critique an article – critique what it actually says – don’t make it up. And don’t try to be wiser than the Word of God.

      1. Upon rereading, what you say isn’t as exaggerated as the journalist you favourably quote: ‘They have more power than any politician or journalist in history.’

        I still stand by my assertion that our focus should be the spiritual warfare described by Stuart Townend in his hymn ‘O Church Arise’, rather than some politicised crusade against big tech. Our battle is not against big tech oligarchs but against spiritual forces of evil. As Stuart encourages us, we need to love slaves of Mammon, but to ‘rage against the captor’.

        Our sword isn’t one which cuts down websites, but ‘makes the wounded whole’.

        As a politics graduate who’s training to teach history, I am interested in recent political history. I try not to let that get me distracted from the gospel though.

        Luther didn’t leave the monastery to become a political commentator, but to become a preacher of the gospel.

        I’m not saying we all have to be ‘full time’ preachers of the gospel, I’m just saying that whatever our official job titles, as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ, we should represent him, rather than to rail against people, even tax avoiding techies. .Jesus dined with tax collectors and prostitutes: I’m sure he wouldn’t be ashamed to be called a friend of tax avoiding Californian bigwigs. Californian techies need the gospel too! Who knows, if they get converted, maybe they’ll invest their ill gotten gains into feeding the poor!

  8. At the weekend a FB friend had commented on a post that then appeared in my feed.

    It was from a “Christian” “prophet” – arguing that all American institutions had now turned treasonous because they failed to support Donald Trump and that if the Supreme Court did not immediately restore his presidency that a military coup would be necessary. This man seemed to have a large number of followers who all seemed to think that such a statement had something to do with Christianity.

    I was quite shocked at this because I had been talking to my (wise) father earlier that day and he was worried that Trumps behavior was encouraging coups in other countries, particularly Myanmar where the military have just taken over.

    I reported the statement for both making untrue political statements (it claimed that Trump had won the election) and for violence (it was asking for a military coup and encouraging political violence in the name of Christian prophecy). FB responded to both saying that I was mistaken on both counts.

    This left me quite frustrated.

    I think that if FB is not even dealing with this example of “Christianity” then I don’t see how Christians are supposedly being censored by big tech. The three major acts of censorship that have happened recently are Twitter banning Trump (after years of him breaking their code of conduct), Fox News taking Lou Dobbs off air and Amazon refusing to host Parler. It seems to me these last two were more to do with Amazon and Fox News being worried about facing criminal action for supporting these. I can’t see that any of these three has anything to do with Christianity.

    As ever, It’s very worrying that so much power is in the hands of so few, but has it ever been any different? What difference is there been Zuckerberg and Murdock?

  9. Hi Pete
    You touch on a lot of complex issues. The close links between right wing politics and large sections of the US evangelical church are something that whilst I have no direct experience of, drifts over the pond toward us and to some extent is felt here in the UK. Christian nationalism, in a nutshell, and it is not surprising that many prophetic websites (always discern carefully!) reflect that.

    Here is a taster
    https://christiantoday.com/article/beth.moore.calls.trumpism.dangerous/136079.htm

    The obsession with Israel (also too complex for here) is striking. A plague on both your houses would be my take on it

    It is not especially christians perhaps that are being censored by big tech, although there are examples if you look for them. But it is anyone who posts a viewpoint that is out of line with the high water mark of modern progressivism. By equating opinions with ‘violence’ and ‘hate’ for example. You don’t agree with me so you hate me. It’s what children say. Your presence on my campus is a threat to my existence. You question our philosophy of ourselves so therefore you want to eradicate us. The hyperbole just ratchets up. One simple example in the UK was the local councillor who refused to vote for a financial benefit for an LGBT organisation and so was disciplined, even though she just didn’t think it was a good idea, as anti LGBT prejudice was just assumed.

    The thing to bear in mind is the progressives are simply unable to see the other side of the argument, as they are so convinced they are right, that excluding all unwelcome views is just logical to them

  10. The essence of the problem is that this is ok: (although I think it should have been ignored as chocolate eggs really have nothing to do with Easter, and if they do they shouldn’t have)

    https://www.christiantoday.com/article/over.35000.call.for.gay.cadbury.creme.egg.advert.to.be.pulled/136417.htm

    This isn’t (so we are told)
    https://www.christiantoday.com/article/christian.doctor.loses.appeal.against.sacking.over.traditional.view.of.the.family/136434.htm

    and the first instance would not happen if Easter were an lslamic festival.

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