A recent PragerU documentary, Restricted: How Big Tech Is Taking Away Your Freedom, features an ex-senior engineering manager at Facebook who talks about how he was labeled a “hate monger” by his coworkers after he started challenging the company’s policy on “hate speech,” which was “subjective” and kept broadening over time. Brian Amerige, a former senior engineering manager said in PragerU’s new documentary, Restricted: How Big Tech Is Taking Away Your Freedom, that he saw “activist employees” pushing the company “toward a policy that was vague and subjective,” and that the definition of so-called “hate speech” broadened over time “as different identity groups asked Facebook to broaden it.” “The executive team at Facebook had a real hard time pushing back against them — saying ‘no’ to them,” Amerige said, adding that when he “started challenging what was happening,” his coworkers called him a “hate monger.” SumOfUs erected a 7ft visual protest outside the US Capitol depicting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg surfing on a wave of cash, while young women surround him appearing to be suffering, September 30, 2021, in Washington. (Eric Kayne/AP Images for SumofUS) “Even the people who did agree with me were very clear in saying, ‘But I am not willing to actually say anything to anybody else in the company about it. I’m afraid to talk about this, because I think my career’s on the line,'” he said. “I don’t want to name names — somebody in the C-suite at Facebook had a conversation with me where they made it very, very clear they understand my argument, and they disagree. And it’s not going to change. This is the direction they’re going, they’re committed to it,” Amerige added.
The former senior engineering manager also said that Facebook’s “perspective is that people will listen to experts, and we — the very smart, often Ivy League-educated people at these companies — can figure out who the experts are.” Amerige said that Facebook employees believe that if they “connect the experts with the people, the people will listen to them, and then they will know it’s true.” Meanwhile, Big Tech companies appear to be actively suppressing content they disagree with. PragerU CEO Marissa Streit says she remembers the day in 2016 when she walked into the office “and got a bunch of emails, mostly from students, who were saying that they were looking for our videos on YouTube, and they couldn’t find them.” YouTube Boss Susan Wojcicki is all smiles ( Justin Sullivan /Getty) “I thought it was just some giant glitch in the system, a big mistake,” Streit continued. “So we wrote in to YouTube, saying, ‘What is going on? Why can’t students find our videos anymore?'” “Once we got a hold of someone there, they responded that they’ve been reviewing our videos, and that PragerU videos are deemed inappropriate for young people, and that’s why they’re being restricted. It was shocking,” Streit said. PragerU has been saying for years that YouTube places many of its videos in “restricted mode,” which means the videos are censored from all users that have enabled the website’s restricted mode feature, which typically include libraries, schools, public institutions, or in any setting where viewers may belong to a younger demographic.
The restricted mode feature is used in order to block videos that have been deemed inappropriate, such as pornography or violence. In 2019, PragerU said YouTube placed in restricted mode a video of Candace Owens’ powerful testimony before the House Judiciary Committee hearing, which had created several viral moments, one of which became the most-watched C-SPAN video of a House hearing on Twitter. PragerU has since filed multiple lawsuits against Google — which owns YouTube — accusing the company of censoring conservative viewpoints by “engaging in unlawful, misleading, and unfair businesses practices,” but Streit says the situation has only gotten worse. “Since we filed our lawsuit against YouTube, Google, things actually got worse,” she said. “I feel like we’re being punished.” “Not only are our videos restricted, now we’re actually getting these little editorial pieces that they add on our videos, where they mention other opposing views and other websites that people should look at in order to refute the points that we make in our videos,” Streit added. Rachel Bovard, senior director at Conservative Partnership Institute, noted that whenever people are unhappy with online censorship, they are always told to build their own company.
They are told, “Hey, if you don’t like Google, you should just build your own Google.” Parler Chief Policy Officer Amy Peikoff said that “at Parler, we made our own platform.” The social media company — and its users — then watched in real-time as Amazon, Apple, Google, and others crushed Twitter’s competition. In January, many conservative users were flocking to Parler after Twitter permanently banned then-President Donald Trump from its platform, and after Facebook and Instagram “indefinitely” locked the president out of his accounts. At that point, Amazon, Google, Apple, swiftly moved in to exclude Parler from app stores on Android and iPhone smartphones, and knock the site offline entirely — under the guise of concern for public safety. “We saw, first Amazon, and then Apple, and then vendor after vendor leave,” Peikoff said, noting that this only happened when Parler’s business was set to skyrocket. “They were allowing us to coexist peacefully before, and then not later, I think it’s because we became a serious threat,” Peikoff explained. In a legal filing that followed, Parler said that a representative from Amazon Web Services (AWS) had “repeatedly asked whether [President Trump] had joined or would join Parler now that he was blocked by Twitter and Facebook.” And it’s not just Big Tech itself that engages in such behavior. Politicians “beg Big Tech to de-platform people they don’t like,” Bovard said, noting that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has even asked Twitter to “remove old tweets that were circulating, or hashtags that criticize her.” “They are using Big Tech to silence views they don’t agree with, to censor speech activity that if the government did it,” Bovard said. “It would be unconstitutional. But they’re outsourcing that censorship to a private company.” Watch PragerU’s new documentary Restricted: How Big Tech Is Taking Away Your Freedom here.
You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.
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