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Social Media: Disruptors likely unless culture changes in Silicon Valley

The deletion and subsequent reinstatement of the Google account belonging to prominent scholar Jordan Peterson has set a dangerous precedent regarding the treatment of individuals promoting viewpoints which are at odds with those held by leading social media and technology companies. Mostly thanks to a campaign to reverse the decision, Jordan Peterson is now back online, but with a near absence of information coming from Google, many in online communities now fear censorship from the largest internet giant of them all. Engaging in ever closer oversight of dissident voices increases the possibilities a disruptor will emerge in the market. Google should reconsider its stance on free expression to prevent this from happening.

Attracting over a billion views per month, YouTube holds enormous power over online video content, but the company has also been criticized sharply by many content providers for what they see as attempts to silence controversial opinion. Protestors state advertising revenues have plummeted and algorithms changed to prevent users from finding content even after having subscribed to certain channels. Exerting financial pressure on content creators for holding controversial views or examining divisive subjects improves the possibilities disruptors could enter the market with a model which allows improved exchange of ideas. YouTube has so far failed to realize that its own policies are doing the groundwork by building an audience who would subscribe to a disruptor company.

Belief among prominent online conservatives that Facebook and Twitter seek to suppress right wing opinion gained traction in May 2017 when a former employee of Facebook anonymously alleged the company routinely suppressed conservative news stories. Long the preserve of conservative opinion, belief that Facebook and Twitter intervene to promote certain perspectives has now spread to left-wing commentators too. Even if claims made mostly by right-wing commentators cannot be proven, the perception can’t be put away. Unless Facebook and Twitter take overt actions to show content is not suppressed, an alternative platform is bound to emerge.