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Op-ed Placement

Twitter’s Arbitrary Censorship is a Bad Business Model

Originally Published in The Washington Examiner on 10/16/20.

Twitter and Facebook’s recent decision to censor the New York Post’s story on Hunter Biden’s ties to Burisma may very well be a tipping point in the fight over Big Tech. Conservatives have a clear reason to be concerned that companies such as Twitter and Facebook, among others, are essentially engaging in election interference. It is no surprise that conservatives are leaving in droves to alternative platforms.

What Silicon Valley has failed to grasp in the past few years is that it is better to be neutral in the political space than to favor one side over the other. By favoring left-leaning individuals and causes, Big Tech has created their own problems.

Ironically, Twitter is no stranger to downplaying bad news. After hitting its user peak in the first quarter of 2018, Twitter’s usership began to decline. In 2019, the social media giant stopped publishing its monthly user count after its count had fallen for three quarters straight, instead opting to publish the daily numbers in an attempt to hide their losses.

User growth has slowed or flatlined for Twitter, while platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat, and even Parler have seen record growth. While these platforms are not all comparable, it does show a changing market dynamic, one which Twitter may soon no longer dominate. Most importantly, platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, and Parler do not take part in the same arbitrary censorship displayed by Twitter and now Facebook.

Big Tech’s misstep of kowtowing to left-wing activist groups will almost certainly continue to harm their usership. After this most recent egregious instance of censorship, the chickens may finally have come home to roost. Sites such as Parler have seen a major increase in traffic over the past few months, and Thursday saw some of the greatest increases ever. Parler is now growing at a record pace as conservatives are leaving Facebook and Twitter for platforms that refuse to partake in arbitrary censorship. We are watching consumers react in real-time to big tech’s censorship en-masse — the free market at work.

Conservative groups such as FreedomWorks have forged powerful connections with their communities through Twitter and Facebook. FreedomWorks itself was an early adopter of Facebook, with great success. But in response to increased censorship, we have watched our community leave in droves for alternative sites such as Parler. FreedomWorks’ connection to its online community is only growing, while Twitter continues to hemorrhage users on a daily basis because of perceived and, too many times, real allegations of bias.

Big tech firms should rethink their positions on arbitrary and hypocritical censorship. If they’re worried about misinformation, the solution to inaccurate or even hateful speech is more speech and the free flow of ideas, not platforms serving as the “arbiters of truth,” as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg claims he doesn’t want to do.

Twitter and Facebook would be wise to consider that driving away conservatives via this sort of censorship may have the consequence of simply driving away a significant portion of their customer base. What sort of business in its right mind would actively continue to drive away a subset of its base? This is a poor business model doomed to failure.

Adam Brandon is the President of FreedomWorks.