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WaPo calls on President Biden to protect social media free speech (abroad)

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The Washington Post is urging the Biden administration to stand up to foreign governments that seek to implement censorship on US Big Tech platforms operating in their countries.

An opinion piece published by the newspaper’s editorial board effectively calls for Washington’s interventions abroad to allow these companies to work unimpeded by local law, as they protect the right to free speech.

And the Washington Post at no point sees any discrepancy in taking that stance, or simply the sheer hypocrisy of pressing for such a policy abroad, while at the same time often cheerleading in favor of online censorship at home.

Instead, the paper observes that it’s not easy to censor on the internet, and that is why many countries are going directly to Big Tech, asking them to suppress free speech themselves. When these companies comply, outside the US, the paper sees it as a “dispiriting” turn of events.

Many examples are given of how platforms like Twitter and Facebook often come under pressure because of content that is looked at unfavorably by governments around the world. In Russia, Twitter could get blocked for allowing what the authorities say are posts encouraging children to commit suicide, as well as those disseminating child abuse. (The newspaper speculates that the real reason is to silence opposition figure Alexei Navalny.)

Over in China, it’s censorship business as usual, and recently the only US Big Tech social platform available there, Microsoft’s LinkedIn, received a warning in the form of punishment meted out to the company’s local execs, a temporary suspension of sign-ups, and a future obligation to self-evaluate for banned political content, and report about it to Beijing.

In Turkey, Facebook is complying with government requests like the one from 2018 to stop users in that country from accessing the page of YPG, a group fighting in Syria.

When Big Tech complies with censorship demands, whether it’s in the US or abroad, they do it to protect their business and stay afloat in a market.

But the Washington Post thinks the US should now “push for a third way” – one where governments around the world would be “encouraged” to allow free speech, and then be “held to account” if they continue to pressure Big Tech in the opposite direction.

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, join Reclaim The Net.

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