Twitter as Prototype of the New High-Tech Totalitarianism

May 28, 2020 Updated: June 1, 2020


My name is Roger and I am a Twitter addict.

I have tried to break my habit, but without success. Maybe I should join a 12-step program.

Still, since my addiction is similar to millions who have become, bluntly, social media junkies (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok—pick your poison) and because, rightly or wrongly, I fear my absence would adversely affect my lit’ry career, and out of a certain kind of ennui, I soldier on.

Until today.

Now, I am more convinced than ever that Twitter is a harbinger of a high-tech totalitarian future that is already, mostly, here. Indeed, it is on the brink of being entirely here.

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s fact-checking and declaring as definitively false President Donald Trump’s tweet on a topic as debatable as mail-in voting not only was a flagrant violation of freedom of speech (yes, I know his is a private company, but still …), it was, in character, straight out of a re-upped version of the NKVD—or should I say Alinsky—playbook.

Target your enemy and take him out. He did that although Twitter is literally littered with uncensored tweets from every psychotic terrorist and paranoid crank imaginable.

When Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg waded in to say, even if the Bill of Rights didn’t precisely pertain, that companies like his and Dorsey’s should not be “arbiters of truth,” @Jack doubled down and banged his shoe, Khrushchev-style.

It was @Jack, right or wrong. He knew the facts and the uninformed rest of us—meaning the ones who chose other “studies” and/or examples on the subject than the ones he referenced—were brainwashed idiots.

Where does Dorsey get off doing this? Well, he owns the place and therein lies the problem? We are in, have been for some time, an era when Big Tech companies with global constituencies can literally do what they want. Any antitrust restraints have vanished somewhere in the cloud, figuratively and literally.

The results of this, the thought-control implications, are staggering. Who needs the Chinese communist’s Orwellian “social credit” system? We already have our own, more than one, in fact. And in TikTok, we have a Chinese variety already invading our shores in the guise of cute kitty videos. (Watch out!)

Publishers can’t do this. They are legally responsible for their contents. Not so Twitter, Facebook, and so forth, even though they clearly, like publishers, make editorial decisions.

The social media giants have been shielded from such liability by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, legislation enacted in the salad days of the internet, when few anticipated how these companies would evolve into global monopolies and concerns were different.

Now, if they wish, the social media behemoths can get away with ideological murder that, history shows us, can lead to the physical kind.

So are these companies really publishers in disguise? They publish all (or most) of us, usually for no remuneration. They function not only as the world’s biggest and, by far, most dominant publishers, but as a new form of extra-governmental organization, almost uber-governments in themselves.

How to solve this unanticipated predicament is tremendously difficult. Trump has stepped in with an executive order essentially attempting to rein in Section 230. Some Democrats, including Joe Biden, have wanted to do the same thing—at least until Trump supported it. Now, we’ll see.

Trump is obviously using his bully pulpit to convince Twitter to play fair, to be an unbiased open forum as the Communications Decency Act envisioned. If they don’t, he’s threatened to shut them down. Neither is likely to happen.

Ultimately, this is a job for Congress to address. They should, and with considerable alacrity.

Roger L. Simon—The Epoch Times’ senior political analyst—is an award-winning novelist, an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, and the co-founder of PJ Media. Several years ago, approximately 10,000 followers disappeared from his Twitter account @rogerlsimon. He was never able to figure out how that happened.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.