That some of the biggest tech companies in the world are pursuing a far-left political agenda hardly seems debatable anymore.
Advertisement - story continues below
It was Brexit advocate and British politician Nigel Farage who recently pointed out that Facebook was "doctoring" the news to conform to CEO Mark Zuckerberg's "personal political views."
But there have been several developments that, together, suggest strongly that there's more going on than just a single, albeit large, company's anti-conservative agenda.
Item: In March, National Review reported Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, accused Twitter of "censoring" tweets by the highly influential Drudge Report.
"Several tweets were blocked from view with a paragraph explaining they contained 'sensitive content,'" National Review said.
The clampdown on Drudge's speech came at a time, the report said, when Twitter had been "on the receiving end of conservatives' ire for allegedly censoring other content as well."
Advertisement - story continues below
Next item: Just this week, a "deceptive site" warning appeared in some browsers trying to access Rush Limbaugh's popular website.
"As you know, we're in a fraughtful time, Facebook, Twitter doing everything they can to deemphasize conservatives in their websites to mischaracterize conservatives as hate-filled and dangerous and so forth and so on," he said.
"It's getting tougher and tougher for conservatives to have a presence," said Limbaugh.
Next item: The Daily Caller reported four of the biggest tech platforms, Facebook, Amazon, Google and Twitter, have adopted a cooperative plan with the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Advertisement - story continues below
The wealthy far-left organization, which has hundreds of millions of dollars in its reserves, has become famous in recent years for its extreme positions. Those who don't align with its positions on homosexuality, radical Islam or abortion are designated as "hate groups"
That's why Floyd Corkins targeted the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., with a terrorist attack, which was stopped by a security guard. SPLC also was admired by the attacker who tried to kill Republicans at a congressional baseball practice last year, seriously wounding Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.
And it was SPLC that classified Dr. Ben Carson as a "hater."
The Daily Caller News Foundation said the tech companies "have working partnerships with a left-wing nonprofit that has a track record of inaccuracies and routinely labels conservative organizations as 'hate groups.'"
Advertisement - story continues below
"The SPLC is on a list of 'external experts and organizations' that Facebook works with 'to inform our hate speech policies,'" Facebook spokeswoman Ruchika Budhraja told the Daily Caller.
Amazon, the report said, gives SPLC the most direct authority, granting it virtual control over its promotional Smile program, with permission to kick out of the system Christian organizations that defend civil and religious rights.
"Twitter lists the SPLC as a 'safety partner' working with Twitter to combat 'hateful conduct and harassment," the report said. "And Google uses the SPLC to help police hate speech on YouTube as part of YouTube's 'Trusted Flagger' program," the report said.
Among SPLC's recent fixes, the report said, was the retraction of four articles in March and April, including three related to Russia.
SPLC also took down a controversial "anti-Muslim extremist" list in April, after British Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz threatened to sue over his inclusion on the list. SPLC had accused the supposed-extremists of inciting anti-Muslim hate crimes.
"Somali-born women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali also made the list," the report said. "Ali, a victim of female genital mutilation who now advocates against the practice, is an award-winning human rights activist. But according to the SPLC’s since-deleted list, she was an 'anti-Muslim extremist.'"
Following a backlash, SPLC eventually removed Carson from its hate list, too.
WND CEO Joseph Farah, who previously collaborated with Limbaugh on a best-selling book, wrote recently about the agenda driven by progressives in web giants.
He noted Hillary Clinton was asked which company she would like to lead, and her answer was Facebook.
She said at the time: "I just wanna add, it's the biggest news platform in the world. Most people in our country get their news – true or not – from Facebook. Now Facebook is trying to take on some of the unexpected consequences of their business model, and I hope they get it right because it really is critical to our democracy that people get accurate information on which to make decisions."
Farah wrote: "Of course, Clinton has blamed the influence of fake news and Russian bots on Facebook, among other factors, for her loss of the 2016 presidential election.
"Still the gatekeeper, Clinton recognized an opportunity to control the flow of information when she saw one. She would still like to have the power to determine which news is true and which is not. Don't be surprised if she gets her wish, because Facebook – along with Google, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon – represent a new 'Censorship Cartel' seemingly determined to limit, restrict, define, regulate, inhibit, reduce and restrain the free flow of political speech despite its constitutional protection in the First Amendment."
He said: "If Hillary Clinton ever got the job of truth gatekeeper at Facebook, it would only be a matter of making things official. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder, chairman and current chief executive officer, is doing a fine job constraining political speech on perhaps the world's biggest and most important forum for the exchange of ideas. And when you combine the reach and power of Facebook with the like-minded corporate cultures of Google, Twitter and Amazon, you have an unofficial 'Censorship Cartel' that is threatening to render the First Amendment effectively null and void."
He noted there have been reports of Facebook "news curators" being told to hide conservative content from the "trending" section.
He continued: "Google's corporate culture is no different. Google fired engineer James Damore for criticizing the company's 'Ideological Echo Chamber.' The company claimed he was fired for 'advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.' Damore is suing Google, saying it mistreats whites, males and conservatives."
Farah also noted Google has censored a Christian site because it references "Jesus" and "the Bible."
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has called the tech giants a "clear and present danger to our democratic system."
Last month, the Republican National Committee and the Trump 2020 campaign wrote to Facebook and Twitter requesting answers to questions about their efforts to prevent political bias on their platforms.
"The letter comes amid concerns about the censorship of conservative speech online," the report said.
The letter from RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale "expresses alarm at allegations that the sites have blocked conservative content and users."
"We recognize that Facebook and Twitter operate in liberal corporate cultures. However, rampant political bias is inappropriate for a widely used public forum," the letter said. "What’s more, the consequences to our democratic society are profound. That is why special attention is necessary to address issues such as Facebook’s use of liberal organizations to fact-check content, the access to user profiles it gives to some employees, and Twitter’s manipulation of content that appears for the site’s users.”
At Boar blog, a commentary noted that Zuckerberg admitted to Congress he was aware of the left-wing bias in the Silicon Valley.
The blog noted that former employees "told the technology blog Gizmodo that they routinely suppressed news about prominent conservative figures (most notably in the 'trending' section of the website). They also claimed stories by outlets like Brietbart or Newsmax were dismissed unless The New York Times or CNN covered the same article, in which case the more left-leaning publications were promoted."
Farage explained Zuckerberg's "personal political views, and no doubt those of his close colleagues in Silicon Valley, may help to explain why in January this year Facebook announced its algorithms were going to change."
Farage noted the tech giant said it was going to "de-prioritise" news publishers and their posts in Facebook users' news feeds.
"In other words, it was going to doctor the kind of news to which Facebook's 1 billion users were exposed," he said.
"And this is exactly what it has done."
Farage said the "impact of this decision has been swift and brutal."
"According to analysis of Facebook engagement data using various tech programmes including BuzzSumo, conservative publishers like Breitbart and Fox News (for whom I work as a contributor) have seen a significant decrease in the numbers visiting their websites and engaging with their messages via Facebook. It is estimated that traffic to certain right-of-centre sites and commentators driven by Facebook has fallen by 25 per cent or more," he wrote.
Consequently, opinions and reports by conservative news sites are being censored by Facebook, he said.
WND CEO Joseph Farah has written an open letter to President Trump regarding the issue.
"That two companies – Google and Facebook – now control 75 percent or more of the digital advertising marketplace is of even greater concern because it threatens the very spirit of the First Amendment in an increasingly nationalized media environment," he warned.
"Not that long ago, the federal government routinely reviewed media cross-ownership efforts in individual local and regional markets to ensure that news and opinions were not controlled by a single company and a single political and cultural point of view. Yet, today, Google, its wholly owned subsidiary YouTube, and Facebook have become the principal source of news distribution – a powerful gatekeeper, with a common leftist worldview, that actively shows contempt for dissenting voices, especially those on the right as well as faithful Christians and Jews.
"If not checked during your administration, America may never regain its diversity of media voices as many independent efforts like my own pioneering effort in the online world will be strangled by these entities' systemic, organized campaign to destroy us.
"As you know, the independent media played a significant role in the 2016 election in bringing forth viewpoints that were scarcely heard elsewhere among the din of Hillary-mania. Since your election, Google, YouTube and Facebook have waged an unrelenting war of unfair trade practices against the independent media that threatens its very existence," he said.
"Congress and regulatory agencies have shown little understanding and awareness of just how serious this threat has become. With dissenting media voices out of the picture, America's heritage of free speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion will be reduced to little more than well-intended but meaningless words on parchment."
The power of the online manipulation was seen perhaps most clearly in Ireland's recent vote to allow abortion.
The traditionally conservative and religious nation had banned abortion in its constitution.
But Facebook and Google then restricted advertising that was likely to oppose the pro-abortion vote.
And the abortion ban was struck down.
In Congress, Nunes has suggested Google may need to testify "after the company's search engine showed results linking Republicans to 'Nazism.'"
"I think there's a free market solution here if somebody can compete with Google. If they can't, then ultimately we're looking at monopolies and then that brings in a whole other set of circumstances is — are these companies; Facebook, Twitter, Google, apple, etc.; are they monopolies and should they be reined in," Nunes said.