There has been much celebration from liberals and many segments of the left over President Trump’s recent suspensions from Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, and Spotify1and presumably Letterboxd and Grindr too—as well as Reddit groups associated with him. This came after his supporters stormed the capitol on January 6th, leaving six people dead, including one woman who seems to have been summarily executed by Capitol police. Many have defended or even praised the companies—especially Twitter—on the basis that the President has repeatedly violated their terms of service. However, it is important to note that the suspension did not come until now. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the Presidential election results which declared Joe Biden the winner were finally certified, the precise thing his supporters were trying to stop, meaning that Trump is officially on his way out the door, and does not have time to use state power against them in retribution. The second is that the storming of the capitol itself was an unprecedented event in American history. Although the protestors came from a mix of reactionary and often outlandish political views, what they hold in common—apart from their support from Donald Trump—is that they reject the legitimacy of American Democracy, an institution that serves Silicon Valley much better than it serves the rest of us.
The corporate discipline did not stop with Trump’s accounts. Parler, a Twitter-esque platform that emphasizes (in its own words) “Free Speech,” and has a largely right-wing user base, has already been removed from the Google and Apple app stores after being given 24 hours to implement stricter moderation policies. It is also being booted off Amazon’s web hosting service and will be shut down today unless it can find another company to take it on. This is a direct and coordinated intrusion of the technology industry into the political sphere. But why? Despite the absurdity and indefensible nature of the Q-anon Conspiracy Theory and other far-right currents within the Trump movement, it is undeniable that this political force is a greater threat to the stability upon which the speculation-based technology industry depends. Corporations are not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, a disdain for fascism, or a love of democracy. Twitter, Facebook, and Apple would gladly support a more stabilizing and coherent form of fascism if bourgeois liberal democracy started producing results that might threaten their bottom line.
The links between Silicon Valley and the National Security State have always been clear, and in a post-Citizens United World, the tech industry can buy any election they want. It should come as no coincidence that Big Tech donated record-breaking amounts of money to the Biden campaign, which will soon take office. People are increasingly making demands of technology companies, pushing them into becoming “more socially responsible,” by moderating their sites or forcing their employees to sit through HR sessions filled with academic jargon seemingly designed to make them nervous and distrustful of their co-workers.
More likely though, is that in an increasingly monopolized economy there is no difference between state and corporate power. The neoliberal project has not been so successful that the state has withered away and been replaced by business, but rather big business has melded with the state. Increasingly, people are turning to corporations to fulfill basic state functions and pressure them to enact social change, or at least pretend to. Meanwhile, the state fulfills the needs of the corporation. Corporate censorship is tantamount to government censorship in a society where the powers of the state and big business are so totally intertwined. To excuse one but not the other is to mystify this reality. It is dangerous and short-sighted. A populist left is badly needed and would not only stabilize the market but also directly target the new robber barons of the technology industry. But after witnessing many self-proclaimed socialists encourage the political interference and corporate power flex of the last few days, it is difficult to imagine one coming to fruition any time soon.
|↑1||and presumably Letterboxd and Grindr too|