The threats to freedom of thought aren’t coming from the government these days, but from corporate America, says a columnist in the Wall Street Journal.
Kind of a groupthink, which Psychology Today speaks of as the result of members of a group valuing “harmony and coherence over accurate analysis and critical evaluation.”
“It causes individual members of the group to unquestioningly follow the word of the leader and it strongly discourages any disagreement with the consensus,” the group explains.
It’s Mark Epstein who is noting Google and Facebook account for 84 percent of all digital advertising outside China. This, he claims, gives the companies enormous leverage to censor content.
Indeed, websites which are reliant on Google’s ad revenue have even removed articles after receiving warnings from the company, according to the Journal.
The dependence on Google ad revenue is also creating perverse incentives for “clickbait” and draining traditional news producers of the revenue needed to invest in serious reporting at news sites.
As Epstein points out, the news industry itself is being transformed by social media companies.
More than two-thirds of Americans get at least some of their news on social media platforms, according to a poll from the Pew Research Center. And the number of social media companies utilized by most Americans is vanishingly small.
Facebook, Instagram (now owned by Facebook,), YouTube (owned by Google) and Twitter (which has a partnership with Google) account for 95 percent of news consumption on social media.
Such power means Google, Facebook, and Twitter can openly display political bias without worrying about angering customers who have nowhere else to go, contends Epstein. Because social media companies by their very nature only work if the other people you want to communicate with are already on them, it is difficult for competitors to emerge.
The result allows a political bias against conservatives and Christians which is likely to increase in the future, he said.
Recent events show Epstein’s critique may have merit.
A WND investigation in 2016 found the algorithms used by Facebook systematically discriminate against conservative websites.
And former workers at the company have said they routinely suppressed conservative news.
Google’s search engine, used in more than 90 percent of American online searches, also shows political bias. According to a 2016 experiment during the presidential campaign by Robert Epstein of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and Robert Robertson of Northeastern University, Google returned twice as many pro-Hillary Clinton articles as did Yahoo, suggesting Google’s algorithms have a built in bias.
Google’s property YouTube also has a long record of political bias.
A YouTube employee caught in an undercover investigation admitted the site deliberately tries to ensure leftist videos are “trending,” thus enabling them to be seen by far more people.
Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is clearly aware of the political bias and specifically cited some of these incidents in a recent hearing on the abolition of net neutrality.
However, there has been no move to break up some of the online giants which have established such power over free speech online.
He suggests if the power of companies such as Google and Facebook is maintained, conservatives and Christians will likely find themselves unable to get their message out – and become an increasingly hated minority in a ever-more repressive media dominated culture.