Future Politics: What Happens to Free Speech When the Public is Too Afraid to Speak?

Photo by Adrian Infernus on Unsplash

By Arthur Fairgail

This is not a conspiracy theory, it’s just an examination of what we have to lose from an inability to communicate, and what others have to gain from keeping that dissent quiet.

I think it’s very likely that anyone who rejects the status quo of social media and big tech’s dominance in the marketplace will be on the receiving end of the same types of smear tactics that have defined mass media castigation for decades, only in these cases the private details of these dissidents’ lives will be fodder for those who have a vested interest in ensuring governing bodies lack the cohesive ability to operate effectively to break up monopolistic or corrupt behavior.

Even if the heads of these companies aren’t behind the abuse of leaking such information, those in the lower rungs of these corporate ladders whose stocks have yet to increase in value will be interested in ensuring the continued growth of their companies so they can afford the extra beach house they were hoping to buy with the increased valuation of their company holdings.

What keeps a mid-level manager at a major social media company from diving into the data of a technological dissident from fifteen years ago and leaking messages anonymously on 4chan? And who could even tell if they were real? How easy would it be for that mid-level manager to adjust that information without any trace of revision to include some decontextualized comment that would destroy public opinion of that person?

We currently act as though public revelations of individual politicians and corporate leaders’ private motives are a huge cultural boon to discovering the hidden malice these people cover up behind their well-polished public exteriors, but consider that this weapon will be more readily available against union leaders, activists, and political dissidents than against those already entrenched in the establishment of society, and the freedom we enjoy relies on the ability of those voices to be heard without fear of retribution.

Imagine a future where someone’s entire internet search history is publicly released as a presidential candidate, or where the highest office in the world is decided based on the public’s judgement of their pornographic viewing habits from twenty years earlier.

Without the ability to audit our own data and the data of these companies, the capacity for political abuse of this information is incalculable when hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake.

When out-of-context outrage or blatantly false statements derail the political careers of those who speak out against the technological monopolies, I shudder to think of the number of good people who will be held back from seeking public office because they don’t want to get down into the political filth of future smear campaigns.

Unfortunately, the only way to override this will be a general change in the way we treat these types of revelations.

If the motive of leaked information can be tied to someone speaking out against the tech sector, we must proceed with extreme caution.

We need to allow people the capacity to change, we need to start accepting public apologies when they are well-intentioned, and we need to have a bit of pause when the realistic imperfections of human beings come to light.

Only those who profit from the status quo have anything to gain from the inability of our government to adjust to the needs of the modern populace and I propose we as a public need to do the following:

We should demand that our data be wiped from these companies’ servers (and the servers of the NSA) every seven years in the same way that tax information is not expected to be kept after the same period, we should expect that our data not be labeled with personally identifiable information to protect us from possible malicious third-party behavior, and we should establish multiple consumer watchdog organizations with the capacity to audit these companies’ behavior and usage of data.

It’s probably necessary to form a Department of the Internet as a completely separate branch of our government, and we should consider restricting certain regions of IP addresses from accessing and influencing our political process.

As the beacon of global civilization we have the most to lose from the degradation of our political values, and it will be essential to the future of our society that we are not collectively duped by the manipulated media of the future.

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