It’s no secret that powerful entities are collaborating to censor conservative speech.
But while many leading brands are silencing debate, some companies are bucking the trend and affirming the importance of free speech.
Last week, multinational computer software company Oracle announced its decision to part ways with the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), a foreign activist group which blacklists conservative news outlets in order to deny them advertising dollars.
The Global Disinformation Index had compiled over 2,000 websites on its blacklist. GDI dubbed right-leaning news outlets including American Spectator, Newsmax, and The Federalist the “riskiest” for so-called “disinformation” while left-leaning outlets like NPR, Buzzfeed News, and HuffPost were deemed safe. And a recent series of investigative reports in the Washington Examiner showed that a nonprofit organization almost entirely funded by the U.S. State Department has been funneling hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to GDI, which in turn threatened Americans’ freedom of speech.
But GDI’s biased list will no longer be used for Oracle’s decisions. A spokesperson for Oracle told the Washington Examiner that the company intends to uphold freedom of speech in its practices moving forward:
"After conducting a review, we agree with others in the advertising industry that the services we provide marketers must be in full support of free speech, which is why we are ending our relationship with GDI," said Michael Egbert, Oracle’s vice president for corporate communications.
As the Examiner reports, Oracle’s announcement comes shortly after Microsoft’s advertising company Xandr temporarily cut ties with the GDI.
It’s good news for every American when companies correct course and stand up for free speech. The Internet should be a place for free discussion, not an echo-chamber for government-approved messages.
But we still face an uphill battle when it comes to safeguarding speech. In March, two journalists presented evidence in a House Judiciary Committee hearing that government officials partnered with publicly traded tech giants behind the scenes to limit Americans’ freedom to communicate in the digital sphere. And the House Judiciary Committee is also investigating the World Federation of Advertisers’ coordinated effort to censor and demonetize conservative content among more than 60 blue-chip advertisers and leading social media platforms such as Meta, YouTube, TikTok, and LinkedIn.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys recently filed a friend-of-the-court brief in State of Louisiana v. Biden, a lawsuit aimed to hold the Biden Administration accountable for working to silence American citizens online. But despite widespread evidence of collusion between tech companies and foreign and government actors, most companies refuse to disclose the requests they receive to censor speech from outside entities. Of the 50 companies we surveyed in the Viewpoint Diversity Score 2022 Business Index, none were sufficiently transparent about government requests to suppress users or content. This included Big Tech conglomerates Meta (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), Alphabet (Google), and Twitter.
Oracle’s decision is a step in the right direction. Breaking the cycle of censorship will require that more companies like Oracle reject efforts to censor and embrace policies that respect the free speech of their users.
Social media and advertising companies can continue to buck the harmful trend of censorship by adopting the Viewpoint Diversity Score model policy preventing unclear and imprecise terms like “disinformation.” Companies can also rebuild trust by participating in the survey portion of Viewpoint Diversity Score’s annual Business Index, which provides transparency into whether government agencies or other third-party entities are playing a role in content moderation on their platforms.
Freedom of speech is a God-given right and is the bedrock of a free society. And the companies that benefit from operating in free society have an obligation to respect that foundation.