There seems to be a lot of confusion on what’s going on with technology, censorship, and big tech companies and how people, platforms, and apps can get around the unprecedented situation that we find ourselves in at the moment. So I wanted to take a moment to write a very simplified post in as non-technical terms as possible to help you get your head around the what and how of it all. Again, I am simplifying it to ensure that most people can understand the predicament we are in right now in the world, and how it works, so if you are a geek, no need to jump in to correct me on technical details. You already understand all of this and this post is NOT for you.
Much of the information I am going to explain will be directed toward the average PERSON, so I may also write a piece that relates portions of these details toward businesses and the ramifications of what’s happening down to the business level, and what your small and mid-sized business should be doing to minimize the impact on your company.
This post will NOT get into my views on censorship or the canceling of people, groups, ideas, or sites online, but rather focus on the technical side of how it works when it is being done.
Defining Some Terms
First, it’s important that we define a few things, so as I detail the game board in all of this you can understand the pieces involved. Again, I am simplifying the terms and definitions so that anyone who reads this post can get their head around the situation.
Social Networks – Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Parler, Gab, etc.
Mobile Networks – Networks that provide mobile connection services such as Verizon, Tmobile, AT&T, etc.
Mobile Device Ecosystems – Mobile phone companies such as Apple and Google Android who manufacture phone hardware devices, the operating systems which run on mobile devices, as well as the infrastructure that the phone apps require to be installed, used, and updated on said devices. For example the app stores, etc.
Internet Service Providers – Services that provide internet access from your home, as well as mobile networks that also use service providers to give you access to the internet from your mobile phone.
Internet Backbone Infrastructure – The providers and technologies that are the pipes form service providers, mobile providers, and others that allow access to the internet around the world.
Web Hosting Companies – Provide internet website servers and other critical infrastructure to house websites and domain services. The place where your website resides and is accessed by visitors.
Private Internet Properties – Websites that are created by private people or companies that they control themselves, but that are still dependent on some of the other providers mentioned above in order to stay accessible to others.
Who or What Is Big Tech?
In general, “bigtech” is comprised of the largest technology and online companies who control or facilitate most of what we as internet users access online. These companies include Google, Google Android, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, among others.
Online Control Of People, Apps, and Sites
I am going to outline the what and how these companies are able to control, cancel and censor users, companies, and even politicians online. I will detail how it works, why it’s not easy to circumvent, and most importantly why it is a big deal.
Social Network Control, Blocking or Cancelling
As private companies, social networks have the right to control whatever they want on their platforms. They create the rules. Therefore they have the right to remove content, people, or posts as they deem fit. In a perfect world, these rules would be clear and understandable and applied to all people and content equally. The biggest frustration that many have at the moment is that the rules have not been applied the same to all ideologies and therein lies the frustration.
Controlling Mobile Apps via Blocking, Shutdowns etc.
Mobile phone companies, their networks, and mobile device ecosystems can control who and what resides on their systems, app stores, and even web browsers within their devices (mobile phones). Therefore Apple and Android can remove apps from their app stores that they do not agree with (per their terms of service or for any reason they choose) and shut down their ability of their users to access them on their devices.
Furthermore, if an entrepreneur decides to make a better, competing app/website that does the same thing that one of these mobile device, mobile network or mobile ecosystem companies has removed or de-platformed, they will ultimately also be removed when and if the mobile device company realizes they are similar.
So for an app to have access to the Apple or Android mobile device is controlled by Apple and Google (Android). They are private companies that can choose who or what they allow on their devices. But you can’t just create another app and think that you will not meet the same fate. The two main mobile device companies and their infrastructures control what apps you can have, download or use.
How Is Big Tech Shutting Down Websites?
Here is where it gets interesting, and likely one of the things that average people who are not technical are having the hardest time understanding. How is big tech able to shut down an actual website?
Recently, you may have heard that Amazon has shut down one of the fastest-growing, and free speech social networks, Parler. You may have asked yourself how can an e-commerce company like Amazon do that? Well, let me explain it to you.
Amazon AWS – Amazon is not just an e-commerce website that you spend a lot of money with on food, electronics, and other consumer goods. It also has a division called AWS, which stands for Amazon Web Services. AWS provides website hosting and high-end domain infrastructure services for larger website domains. In other words, many of the big company websites you know and use are actually residing on Amazon’s internet infrastructure, providing bandwidth, hosting, and security services to these brands. The reason many brands select to use AWS is that it is extremely expensive to create a large infrastructure of web servers, equipment, and bandwidth to handle a growing internet brand and the user traffic that comes with all of it.
So if Amazon, along with other bigtech companies decides that they do not like you, they can cancel your hosting contract and effectively remove your website from the internet. That’s what they have done to Parler. Parler is now forced to find an alternative source to house its website and all of the services and infrastructure required to operate online.
This can happen to ANY company using Amazon’s AWS systems, at any time.
How Far Can Internet Control, Censorship, and Cancelling Go?
At this point, we have discussed private companies and what they have control over related to what you can see and share online. In normal environments, consumers can just choose to shop somewhere else and avoid a company doing things that they do not approve of. But with big tech, they have dominant or even monopoly control over systems, platforms, and access that largely removes choice from people.
From here things get pretty dicey. I say that because control, censorship and cancelling can go much further. for example, your local cable/internet provider could also get in the game and start removing access to certain websites you want to visit. Next, the internet backbone companies which your internet providers use could do the same and so on.
I hope this helps you understand the technical side of the slippery slope we have now realized in the world. A small handful of companies now control what you are allowed to read, say, or do online and it has just begun. Making a competing app or website isn’t even a real option at this point and as you have read, now you know why. If another app or website was designed to replace ones being canceled and shutdown by big tech, they will also be targeted and canceled. This is how it works and where we are at today.