It is the ultimate irony.
When our founding fathers drafted the Constitution, they did so with a goal of using democracy to protect freedoms that they perceived to be the inalienable rights of every American citizen, guaranteeing freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press, among others. And yet here we are, 234 years later, and democracy has been turned from a protective shield into a weapon of mass destruction and used to undermine the very foundations of this country.
American voices, particularly religious ones, are being stifled by those who wield democracy as a sword, cutting down those who dare disagree and leaving would-be dissenters afraid to speak up for fear of retribution. The underlying threat of being cancelled and being banned from online platforms is real and comes with a significant price tag, one that can ruin political careers, destroy businesses and eradicate a lifetime of accomplishments.
Having feared for years that it would be Communist forces emanating from Russia attacking all that we as Americans hold dear, it is all the more shocking to realize that the dangers we face come from within our own ranks. Big tech has taken over, controlling relationships at the highest levels of government so that it has free reign and can ban anyone who speaks out against its interests, whether they be private citizens, businesses, elected officials, or as we saw so clearly over the last few months, even the president of the United States.
The silence as this reign of terror continues has been deafening as we witness democracy being hijacked, has been deafening. While Bernie Sanders, the ultimate liberal, has expressed concern about what he termed an excessive abuse of power by Silicon Valley, most are afraid to speak up for fear of losing a lifetime of contacts and followers on social media, which could be devastating to their businesses or careers. To date, only Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has managed to successfully stand up to the high-tech companies who are calling the shots in Washington D.C., signing a bill on May 24th allowing the state to penalize social media companies who ban political candidates in an effort to drive transparency and ensure that Floridians have the ability to access and participate in online platforms. The first of its kind in the country, the bill could have social media companies facing $25,000 and $250,000 fines for permanently deleting or banning a candidate from its platform.
“If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistency, to discriminate in favor the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable,” said DeSantis.
“What we’ve been seeing across the U.S is an effort to silence, intimidate and wipe out dissenting voice by the leftist media and big corporations,” added Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez.
According to The New York Times, more than 100 bills targeting social media’s moderating practices have been filed this year although most have fizzled out, with the exception of a proposal still under debate in Texas, another Republican stronghold. But according to Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce CEO and founder Duvi Honig, it is clear that the issue of censorship is a bipartisan one that speaks directly to the constitutional rights of every American.
“What is going on here is a catastrophic situation,” said Honig. “Silicon Valley has the government answering to them on every level. It is as if we don’t have a president anymore - Amazon, Google, Twitter and the tech companies are our president, our Senate and our House of Representatives, setting laws that bypass all levels of government, holding figurative guns to politicians’ heads by threatening to delete their lives’ work by shutting down their social media accounts. We need to speak up now because big tech is making decisions at the highest levels that affects and controls us all directly.”
The Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce has been taking a leading role in the effort to encourage responsibility in social media and was a dominant voice in a coalition of Jewish groups that sent a letter to Facebook last August asking the social media giant to incorporate the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism into its hate speech policies. Honig received a reply from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg thanking him for the coalition’s efforts and inviting him to further discuss the matter with the company’s policy directors, but while the response was gratifying, he took the opportunity to strongly urge Facebook to prevent Holocaust denial on its pages, noting that he had no doubt that posts suggesting that slavery or segregation in the United States had never happened would be automatically removed.
The past few months have seen further attempts by big tech to wield its power. Employees of both Amazon and Google have been pressuring their companies to sever all ties with the IDF, claiming it is complicit in abusing the human rights of Palestinians and Facebook recently shut down the pro-Israel Jerusalem Prayer Team page which had nearly 76 million followers, freezing out its Christian-Zionist founder, Dr. Michael David Evans, while allowing Ayatollah Khomeini to remain on its platform. Facebook retaliated against the Australian government’s plan to force social media sites to pay news outlets by taking the unprecedented step of blocking all news on its platform for several days. Honig himself had a similar experience after writing a LinkedIn post supporting Yeshiva University’s right to freedom of religion and religious education in not recognizing an LGBTQ student group, noting that democracy protects religion and that obviously one cannot demand Christian prayers in a Muslim school. LinkedIn deleted Honig’s post, informing him that it was not in keeping with the platform’s professional community policies.
“I applaud Governor DeSantis for taking a stand against censorship because we are living in a time where our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and religion are being violated and our country is looking more and more like a communist state,” said Honig. “The very foundations of this country are under attack and when we see that there are entities who are above government it is clear we need to do a reset. I urge everyone to follow Governor DeSantis’s lead and to put partisan differences aside by speaking out against these injustices that threaten our business, our politics and even our very lives.”
The Orthodox Jewish Chamber Of Commerce is a global umbrella of businesses of all sizes, bridging the highest echelons of the business and governmental worlds together stimulating economic opportunity and positively affecting public policy of governments around the world.