Short History of the Left’s Tech Efforts to Shut Out the Right

Crying and pitching a fit works.

By William M Briggs Published on September 5, 2017

The left’s campaign against conservative speech on tech platforms is much farther along than you think.

In the early days of our interconnected world, when people carped at each other over whether spam was legal on Usenet, there were things called flame wars.

Flame wars generated a lot of heat, a great deal of abuse, but little resolution. They involved such scintillating questions as: Which is better, MINX or Linux? (Obviously, it’s Linux.)

After the glory of Usenet faded, one species of soldiers from these battles migrated to web-logs, a.k.a. blogs, to carry on their search for e-blood: flamers, a.k.a. trolls.

Trolling

A troll would show up at a pro-life blog. He start hurling insults and irrelevancies and would do his best to make a nuisance of himself and distract regulars from the point at hand: the life of the unborn.

Some trolls were so effective they found paying work astroturfing. That is, they made it seem that identical counter-arguments showing up at blogs and website comment boxes were spontaneous grassroots efforts.

Enter the Social Justice Warrior

There was always an organized left. But it was about this time Social Justice Warriors recognized themselves as a force. SJWs were younger and more militant than old-guard leftists. They began to use doxxing as an official tactic. To “dox” is to reveal the personal information of a heretofore anonymous online entity.

Yet as a strategy to silence the right, trolling and doxxing were limited and slow. SJWs realized this just when social media sites exploded in growth.

There were, and still are, SJW trolls on sites like Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and even YouTube. But hardcore SJWs took a new tack. They focused their energies on the leadership and infrastructure of these companies.

Outright and Shadow-banning

They lodged false and nonsensical complaints of “abuse,” “offensiveness,” and “hate.” Large mainline (that is, left wing) sites began to close their comment boxes, since they were too hard to police. And it led some conservatives to lose or be locked out of their accounts. It also led to shadow-banning. That’s where a group is allowed to keep its account, but the community at large can’t see its activities.

The Fix is in

Then searches began to be censored. This expensive solution requires live staff working at internal Ministries of Truth. This is because no person or algorithm can predict what new hashtag or phrase will become popular on the right.

Searches were also modified to promote SJW fancies, such as their obsession with race. For example, contrast the Google image search “white couples” versus “black couples.” Or try “American inventors.”

It’s impossible to show results that have been purged. But all the best sites censor.

The next escalation was clever. It’s fine to get right-wing users kicked off of Facebook. But what do you do when these right wingers have their own website? Complaining to the site owners is useless, and trolling is passé.

Why not go after the website’s hosting and domain name services?

Kill the Host

All websites, like this one, are served by a host, i.e. a suite of computers that feed requests like the one you just made asking to see this page. But your computer first has to know where the host is. You typed in “stream.org.” That request was mapped by a domain name server to an Internet protocol address, which a string of numbers like a zip code. That told your Internet hosting company where “stream.org” lives.

Take out the host or the DNS and you can shut down a site, even though you can’t touch the site itself.

That is just what SJWs did. They began lodging complaints of “hate,” “abuse,” copyright violations, and so on with hosting companies and DNS services. Example: the mercurial Catholic Anne Barnhardt was kicked off her host for vague reasons.

Some SJWs probably juice complaints. That is, they pose as real users and post material that violates service agreements, as might have happened at the Twitter free speech alternative Gab.

These techniques worked because hosting companies did not need the grief of being called “racist” or “X-ophobic” by (easily) enraged SJWs.

Yet personnel at some hosting companies were made of sterner stuff, or were offshore, and thus beyond the reach of SJW cyberbullies.

Hit Them in the Wallet

The next step was to hit payment processors — and so deny outside or crowd-sourced funding for right wing sites and people. For example, GoFundMe shut down solicitations for Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery that refused to service an anti-Christian gay “marriage.”

The offshore-account-holding Southern Poverty Law Center, which called the Singing Nuns, Catholic Sisters and members of the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen, a “hate” group. That’s been particularly useful in the culture wars for the Left.

Groups that they label “hate” are being banned by their payment processors. Examples: Vanco shut down the Ruth Institute, a pro-family anti-Sexual-Revolution organization; and PayPal cut off VDare, a right-wing immigration site.

More typical examples: Google threatened to cut off all advertising payments to The Liberty Conservative unless that site removed an article SJWs at Google found offensive. And the Stream’s own Michael Brown saw hundreds of his YouTube videos demonetized, many for no known reason.

SJWs are also working closely with cell-phone operating service providers, like Apple and Google, to force them to cease carrying apps that do not meet SJW tests of ideological purity.

Hidden in plain sight

The Right is in turn using technology to thwart SJW efforts, by removing themselves to less timid hosting companies and by using crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, which do not require third-party payment processors.

Crypto-type-methods can also be used to distribute sites and apps. And there has also been work on free speech crowd-funding programs. Though in each of these cases, the software is not quite there yet.

This brings us up to date. What do you think will happen next?

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