“Tyranny in democratic republics does not proceed in the same way,
however. It ignores the body and goes straight for the soul. The
master no longer says: You will think as I do or die. He says: You are
free not to think as I do. You may keep your life, your property, and
everything else. But from this day forth you shall be as a stranger
– Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Imagine a future where a benevolent all-seeing and all-powerful censor
quietly manipulates everything you see, hear and watch; tracks and
limits everyone you communicate with and determines what information
is spread, and what is suppressed. No form of communication exists
which does not pass through the filters of the censors.
So powerful are these censors that they can suppress not only information, but people too. No one is immune from this gentle yet persistent form of
persecution, and even the most senior in government are routinely
‘non-personed’; though they still live, they are rendered voiceless.
This is not the theme of some 20th century dystopian novel, but the
world we inhabit in 2021.
The spotty tech-geeks of Silicon valley have accrued, along with their
billions and our indifference, an overwhelming monopoly over
communications during the past decade. They have now matured from
adolescent cyber-nerds tinkering with their early IT systems into
greying and sinister tyrants who mouth slogans like “Don’t Be Evil” as
they continue to consolidate their domination over the most advanced
tool of social control ever built; the centralised internet.
We have been sacrificing our privacy and free expression in return for
centralised convenience online for some time, but 2021 is already
proving to be the year when the libertarian pretensions that typified
the early internet are finally falling away like dross, leaving behind
the glistening ore of raw power. While the rest of us spent 2020
largely muzzled, in 2021 their mask has slipped.
So complete is their monopoly that they can now silence even the most
powerful man in the world; the President of the United States.
Since protestors broke into the US Capitol Building, Facebook and
Instagram have blamed the President Trump with inciting an
‘insurrection’ and banned the President from communicating with the
public indefinitely. Twitter has permanently banned the President from
their platform. YouTube have introduced a removal policy for accounts
that question the US election results, and regularly bans dissenting
Tiktok have cancelled Trump-related hashtags, claiming that
‘Hateful behavior and violence have no place’ on the Chinese-owned
platform. Reddit has removed Trump-related Subreddits. Shopify has
cancelled Trump’s online stores. Google and Apple have removed
alternative social media competitors from their app-stores, and
Amazon, claiming that they “pose a very real risk to public safety”
has ceased web-hosting such rival platforms as Parler, effectively
removing it from the internet until it can rebuild the site, as
Parler’s CEO John Matze said, “from scratch” with another host.
Why is this happening?
In 2016, the tech-giants were blind-sided by the democratising force
of their social media tools, which allowed an outsider like Donald
Trump to steamroll the traditional candidate selection process, speak
directly to the electorate rather than through mainstream media
channels and, over a few unusual months which are now unlikely to ever
be repeated, attain the presidency itself.
The forces they had unleashed during the 2011 Arab Spring, which
allowed free social media communication between dissidents and crowds
to overthrow many Arab governments, was used in the USA in 2016, and
not in their favour. They didn’t like it, and have worked hard to
ensure it would never happen again.
This final act of censorship, the cancelling of the US President, is
the culmination of Big-Tech’s campaign of vengeance for the events of
2016, and 2021 has already shown itself to be the year of the final
consolidation of their victory. After all, where else are you going to
Yet such blatant and obvious forms of control like directly censoring
the President of the United States are simply the visible tip of a
much larger iceberg, and, because they are detectable, they are less
influential than the more insidious forms of control they have been
busy building into the structure of their platforms for many years
The powerful personalised algorithms which underly these platforms,
and which sort everything we see, hear or read to appeal to our
individual consumer profiles, have now developed well beyond figuring
out which Amazon trinket you are most likely to buy next, to moulding
your political perspectives and correcting your “wrong” opinions.
“Machine Learning Fairness” algorithms now artificially warp objective
reality to match what you consume online with the procrustean
political persuasions of their designers; the Big-Tech giants.
According to Google, using algorithms to give users what they want,
rather than what is good for them, can “impart the wrong lessons”, and
basing their algorithms on objective user data is a form of “Garbage
in, garbage out”, with the Garbage in this case referring to society’s
“wrong” opinions, which they now vet and modify to suit their
ideological definition of “fairness”.
Even more insidious than this gentle and unnoticed yet persistent form
of censorship is the now total surveillance of every aspect of our
lives by Big-Tech, from our political opinions, social networks and
location data to even our heart rate and, soon, blood pressure.
The revelations of Edward Snowden, now forgotten, illuminated the US
government’s (and by extension, the Five Eyes Nation’s) PRISM program,
and the extent to which Big-Tech has actively collaborated with
government institutions to routinely share our most intimate data,
which we, in turn, willingly share with them. Snowden has since
described us as living in a state of “Turn-Key Tyranny”, in which the
structure of totalitarian control is so primed and complete that all
it would take is for those in power to simply decide to turn a key and
we would be powerless to oppose it. In 2021, we can already hear the
melancholy long withdrawing roar of that key turning.
Donald Trump’s attempts to reign in the power of Big-Tech’s censorship
through his anti-trust suit against Google, the Senate hearings with
Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey and his other attempts have failed.
With a Democrat president in the Whitehouse, their continued supremacy
is sure to be consolidated over the next four years.
Julian Assange, in his 2012 book Cypherpunks, said that there would be
only two types of free people left in the Brave New World of Big-Tech;
those who can resist the insidious powers of technological control
through their rejection of centralised platforms and use of encrypted
communications, and neo-luddite cave dwellers or Kalihari tribesmen,
whose lack of presence on the internet renders them free, but wholly
He has since updated this perspective to say that this will be the
“last free generation” in history.
With Big-Tech taking advantage of our complete reliance on their
services, and with the key of tyranny turning, we can see that the
prospects for a reversal of this consolidation are slim.
In the words of De Tocqueville,
“It is indeed difficult to imagine how men who have entirely renounced
the habit of managing their own affairs could be successful in
choosing those who ought to lead them. It is impossible to believe
that a liberal, energetic, and wise government can ever emerge from
the ballots of a nation of servants.”
By using their services we are now their servants, whether we like it or not.