Censorship and why many people won’t ever trust cloud services

When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.

George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings

Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.

Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson

Manuscripts don’t burn.

Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

No one – not governments, not private corporations, not mothers and fathers, not political activists – censors content from a position of strength. Censorship happens when the censors fear their own perspectives and arguments are not sufficiently persuasive. China doesn’t ban content and churn out propaganda because they think their people love the Communist Party so much. Religious fundamentalist parents don’t police the young adult literature their children read because they think their daughters are immune to “hook up” culture. If they were confident they had brought up their children to know and love God, they would trust their children to have the proper emotions toward what they encounter. If there were not a perceived risk that a third party might not fall in line intellectually, censorship would never occur.

The ultimate irony of censorship, then, is that it makes the object of the censorship more desirable. The status of being forbidden can even make something that was otherwise undesirable suddenly very desirable. At the very least, censorship turns its object into a household name. Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a terrible novel, but everyone wanted to read it because it was banned. The Last Temptation of Christ is a stupid movie, but everyone had to go see it because it was censored and spawned death threats. Because of censorship, things that would have been forgotten on their own merits are now cult favorites.

But once people are triggered by something, they can’t just let it play out. They can’t stop talking about it and see if it goes away. They have to shame or hurt people who want to consume it. It’s no longer about a tasteless piece of art or an unapproved perspective. No, it is about your moral failings for even wanting to see it. They are going to get you to trust their way of looking at the world by badgering and belittling you into submission. Everyone knows this is how to be persuasive, right?

Have you ever looked at a junkie and wondered, how did they ever decide to shoot up the first time? Everyone in the world knows what heroin and meth do to people. Most people in urban areas have physically seen what heroin and meth do to people. So how does someone who lives in that environment go to a party where their friends are shooting up and not say, you know, I don’t want to end up like the guy passed out on the sidewalk in front of the grocery store? Many people will test what is forbidden once. They perversely think that step over the edge is a means of asserting control.

This brings me to the movie Plandemic. Plandemic has been the beneficiary of the new censorship culture that has taken over mega tech like nothing I have observed before.

The multi-millionaires and billionaires that run these companies are so emotionally needy that they can be endlessly bullied by political pundits and activist journalists into policing the conversations of ordinary, socially anonymous individuals who use their platforms and services. And their quest for approval has turned them into some of the most unpopular, even downright despised, personalities in the country. Carnegie and Ford these guys are not. It’s beyond pathetic. These industry titans can have every material possession in the world, but they still cannot escape the mindset of being the guy who was rejected by girls in college. The chattering class fully understands this, and so they know they can goad these individuals into behaving in ever more bizarre ways at the everyman’s expense. The only way these people could beat Trump is if they endorsed him themselves.

Those ordinary, socially anonymous individuals who hold opinions or possess curiosities that the chattering class does not approve of have zero difficulty recognizing the sort of content that will become the object of censorship. The very act of censorship has created an environment where folks immediately race to view and share censorship-prone content. “See this before Zuck takes it down!” “Bookmark this shadow-banned account and check their opinions daily to make sure you don’t ‘miss’ anything!” “Jack is going to hate this! Retweet if you agree!” Because they censor content, they play the most important role in turning it viral.

I think Jack and Zuck and the Google crowd can see that their behavior has this effect. They may not grok politics, but they certainly understand math. I doubt they care. They aren’t censoring content because they passionately want to convert some blue collar dude in a Midwest swing state to the political religion of their dinner party circuits. It’s about wanting to continue to have dinner party circuits. It does not matter to them that Joe the Plumber doesn’t think “science” says there are 67 genders or that the coronavirus is a mass extinction event. They don’t believe it either. It’s their dinner party friends who are experiencing a crisis of not being believable. But these tech executives will jump whatever performative hurdles are necessary to be wanted by the “right” people. So they become zeitgeist jihadis, shrugging as they venture down ever more irrational and repressive paths.

The only thing that makes any of this interesting is the apparent lack of limits big tech firms have in this endeavor. The rest of it is just silly. Talk radio – a medium from the 1930s – remains more influential from a practical perspective than whatever idiocy Jack and Zuck “believe” at the moment. It is certainly more influential than the chatterboxes at legacy media companies who push big tech’s buttons as their viewership trends toward non-existent. And if you don’t like getting censored on Facebook or Twitter, you can stop using Facebook and Twitter. I have, and I can confirm it feels fantastic not to lose another second of my one precious life to scrolling through that toxic nonsense and the manufactured outrage du jour. People ask me how I read so many books. Not habitually screwing around on social media is how.

But the humiliation that Plandemic keeps popping up has pushed Google into destroying a client’s PERSONAL PROPERTY stored on its platform. Now that’s really something! Google and its competitors have been trying to convince the American public to trust them with the ultimate leap of faith of data storage. Don’t rely on personal devices, which can be corrupted and fail and which have limited space, they say, let our server farms store your data. We will protect it for you and keep it safe. Unless you engage in wrongthink, that is.

Yep, that has now happened:

Ever since Big Tech platforms started cracking down on what they deem to be coronavirus misinformation, the media has been willfully flagging alleged violations to social media companies and getting content taken down.

And now the file storage and sharing service Google Drive has started to take down users’ files in response to media complaints about them containing coronavirus misinformation.

In an article reporting on the takedown, The Washington Post’s Silicon Valley Correspondent Elizabeth Dwoskin complains that after the coronavirus documentary Plandemic was censored on social media, some YouTube clips were telling users how to access “banned footage” from the documentary via Google Drive.

She then notes that after The Washington Post contacted Google, Google Drive took down a file featuring the trailer for the Plandemic documentary.

Dwoskin frames users sharing files containing the Plandemic trailer with each other as:

“A wave of seemingly countless workarounds employed by people motivated to spread misinformation about the virus — efforts that continue to thwart social media companies’ attempts at preventing hoaxes and conspiracy theories from spreading amid the greatest public health crisis in decades.”

Dwoskin also writes that The Washington Post reported 12 videos to YouTube, 61 Facebook posts and Instagram links to Facebook, and 24 videos to TikTok for featuring the Plandemic trailer.

In response, YouTube removed five of the videos, Facebook removed nine of the posts, and TikTok said it removed most of the videos.

The Plandemic trailer isn’t the only file that’s been censored on Google Drive in recent months.

After SpaceX and Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk linked to what Dwoskin describes as a “questionable study” about the efficacy of the drug hydroxychloroquine in March, Google blocked access to the document.

For many Google Drive users, the service is their only file storage solution and they use it to save copies of videos and posts that have been deleted or censored on other platforms.

If this precedent continues, it could mean these users have their only copy of content that has been scrubbed from social media platforms taken down because they shared a link to those files with other people.

According to Google Drive’s policies, distributing what Google deems to be “misleading content related to civic and democratic processes,” “misleading content related to harmful health practices,” “manipulated media” is prohibited with possible exceptions when the content is used in an “educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic context.”

Google “doesn’t go into details” about how those policies are enforced” or whether it scans files to ensure compliance.

The takedown of the Plandemic file is reflective of the increasingly aggressive moderation standards big tech companies are employing when it comes to what users are allowed to say about the coronavirus.

At first, these strict moderation standards applied to public posts on their social media platforms.

Now just a few months after these policies were introduced, these big tech companies are already starting to dictate which documents and files users are allowed to share with others and taking down the files when users don’t comply.

The mental image of Washington Post reporters tattling on randos is too funny. Mommy, someone out there disagrees with me! Make it stop! And they just can’t fathom why only a small fraction of the US population takes them seriously.

And then there is the implication that these tech companies are somehow scanning your data to gather information on who you are and what you believe to serve their political purposes. (That doesn’t sound like Communist China at all.) Remember when everyone thought it was cute when Facebook let users see how Facebook had tagged them politically? Let’s all compare the tattoos big tech has stamped on us! What could possibly go wrong?

Just wait until this behavior is taken to the next logical level, where Google deletes your digital existence as punishment for participating in wrongthink because instances of censorship were not enough to make you fall in line. I cannot imagine trusting the zeitgeist jihadis with any data I actually cared about after seeing them lose their marbles to this degree over a documentary their friends tsk-tsk. Your manuscript doesn’t burn unless you save it to Google Drive.

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