Last week was eventful not just for American politics, but also the technology space. After the storming of the Capitol, all technology giants huddled up within days to ban US president Donald Trump from their platforms. The step was a necessary one given the events of January 6, but it has also alienated many conservatives from social media platforms. The technology companies, unfortunately, have moved a step ahead since. Last week, NYT reported that Google and Apple removed radical conservative platform Parler from their respective app stores, flagging violent content. On Saturday, Amazon issued a warning to Parler to mend its ways, or they would be forced to cancel its cloud and hosting services.
The steps seem justified given how events have unfolded over the last week. But, is alienating conservative elements from access to the internet the right approach? While tech companies and social media platform have been threatening to remove radical conservative channels from their websites, there has also been a discussion amongst these groups to start their own internet. Parler was one such attempt.
However, there is also a fear that its ban may be otiose, given many more Parlers may crop up and the anti-internet and established social media sentiment may become stronger in the coming years.
The platforms are well within their rights to ban people or block accounts, but unfortunately, it is the easy way out. A ban takes away the focus from Facebook and Twitter to clean up their act and regulate content more diligently. It does not clean up the internet but kicks the problem down the road or worse moves conversations to platforms where they can take an even more toxic turn.
Social media platforms have been successful in creating echo-chambers. Watch one liberal video on YouTube, and you would know. Recommendations change instantly, and suddenly all the content would be anti-Republican. The problem is not so much the content, but how it becomes viral.
If a conservative internet and a liberal internet are allowed to be set up, we risk accentuating the problem and widening the fault lines. The left will turn more left, and the right would find more space to its right. And, the trend would not be limited to the US but will become acceptable across the world. Rather than instituting bans, there is a need to police content better and ensure that echo chambers are breached. Social media firms can tweak algorithms by allowing one liberal view for every five conservative ones, and vice versa.