In the time since Donald Trump was elected US president in 2016 — in fact, with the rise of “fake news” across the world a quote by former US senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan has been much cited: “You are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” The fact, though, is that in the information age, everyone can create their own political reality. And the decision by Amazon, Google and Apple to suspend Parler, a microblogging app (similar to Twitter) favoured by the American far-right from their platforms is unlikely to change this trend.
Parler, with about 10 million users, does not allow cross-platform sharing and paints itself as absolutist on free speech — no posts are taken down or deleted, often even those that call for violence. The platform was used to share incendiary posts in the run-up to the January 6 violence at the Capitol building in Washington DC, and the lack of any protocols to address this led app stores hosted by tech giants to suspend Parler. The company’s CEO has said that the platform’s future is now uncertain.
Facebook and Twitter have suspended Trump’s account — but only after years of incendiary statements. Even before the internet boom, the trend of catering to only a particular segment of the population, reenforcing their biases, had taken off. News channels in the US, and beyond, have cultivated particular political demographies and vitriol is often cast about in the guise of a prime-time “debate”. Behind this business model is the deeply cynical idea that facts, like soft drinks, are merely a product and “giving the people what they want” is good for bottom lines. Banning Parler and other relatively small sites like it may help to contain the fringe. But it’s more likely the fringe will continue to move centrestage.
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