Author: Emanuel Pietrobon – 14/01/2021
The recent happenings in the United States have contributed to revive the debate about free speech in the epoch of virtual society. Western nations have almost no control of their e-societies, whose ownership and administration are in the hands of private big tech companies with billion-dollar revenues and limitless powers.
Some governments, most notably Hungary’s Fidesz and Poland’s Law and Justice, have recently started to enact laws targeting social networks with the goals of protecting the freedom of speech of their own citizens and, naturally, of preventing big tech companies from acting as foreign-driven fifth columns. What is going on in the US – where the owners of virtual society, from Google to Facebook and Twitter, launched a war on free speech with the pretext of Capitol Hill – is the irrefutable proof that the above-mentioned political forces have a point: social networks are far more dangerous than people used to think and their cosmic power stems from the fact they managed to enter and shape our lives up to the point they have become a basic need, just like food and clothing.
Russia has shown a prophecy-powered farsightedness as to this regard by developing the so-called “Sovereign Internet” and its own virtual society (VK, Telegram, OK, Yandex, Ozon); it is now protected from the ever-present risk of being forcibly decoupled from the Western-managed virtual world society.
But here is the question: is it just about censorship and e-decoupling? Not exactly. In the aftermath of Capitol Hill American big tech companies have given us the definite evidence of something we already knew: they are potential instrumenta regni, just like music and influencers, capable of brainwashing people. Differently from the past, it’s not about Facebook being a place vulnerable to disinformation campaigns, it’s about Facebook & co. deciding what people can think.
Trump was a mere excuse, the true goal was to silence an entire world – the Right – in the light of the big tech companies’ belonging to the liberal system. The ban on Parler, which is not a right-wing social network but a simple competitor whose guilty was to welcome users fleeing from Silicon Valley’s monopoly, speaks loud and needs no further interpretations.
Now, here is the point: social networks may not only be infiltrated to carry out psyops, in particular disinformation campaigns, they alone can be the psyop. The social network-driven opera of brainwashing takes many forms, but our concern is about two of them: shadow ban and de-platforming.
Shadow ban is a soft way to punish those users, blogs, groups and pages spreading government-unfriendly and -unwanted opinions, be they about politics or faith. Social networks don’t erase them, they lower their visibility to zero and in doing so they prevent some ideas and some wanna-be influencers from becoming popular.
Deplatforming is the hardest way to punish what George Orwell named the “thoughtcrimes”, that is the crime of having a personal opinion. This is what happened in the aftermath of Capitol Hill to Trump, his supporters – Twitter banned more than 70,000 users accused of ties with the QAnon movement – and Silicon Valley’s competitors – Parler was actually disconnected.
You may ask yourself: how could shadow bans and deplatforming brainwash people? The answer is in the question itself: in the era of virtual society, where every aspect of reality went online – streaming replaced cinemas, Facebook replaced election rallies and online journalism substituted traditional newspapers – if you erase someone (a politician, an influencer, and so on) or something (an idea, an ideology, etc) from the web, you are erasing him/her/it from the world.
There is no way out from virtual society, tech-addiction is set to grow more and more and social networks are set to play an ever-increasing role in people’s lives. The future lies in the Internet and psyops must be adapted to the new circumstances. For instance, we’ve already spoken of the pivotal importance played by the so-called influencers in the present-day era, in particular of their attractive power to young people, but we didn’t speak of how to influence their fate.
Again, in the era of virtual society, if you want to be popular and spread your thought quickly and worldly, you must be online. This is both a strength – your political activity is completely free – and a weakness – your permanence on the social network depends on the ideas you promote, that is you can be silenced at any time, along with your followers, and doomed to a damnatio memoriae 2.0.
The entire monopoly of World Wide Web is fundamental: Parler and Trump could have never been virtually erased if the ownership of the American Internet hadn’t been in the hands of a bunch of big tech companies – all of them tied by friendly relationships and strengthened by their common ideological background.
Social networks are the Heartland of the Internet: whoever controls them controls the virtual society, and whoever controls the virtual society in the time of online-life controls the destiny of nations.