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Last Monday, my organization, American Principles Project (APP), was informed by YouTube that our official channel had been permanently removed. No explanation, no warning, nothing but a terse email alerting us that the channel was gone. We were told that, due to “severe or repeated violations” of YouTube’s “Community Guidelines,” our organization would no longer be allowed to “access, possess, or create any other YouTube channels.

We weren’t exactly surprised. APP has been censored plenty of times before, and we’re far from the first to end up on the receiving end of Big Tech’s hostility toward free speech. lists upwards of 75 notable examples of Big Tech censorship and manipulation since the beginning of September alone. In just this time period, Big Tech has targeted or censored Right Side Broadcasting Network, Michael Knowles, Ben Stein, pro-life organization Live Action, Republican Congressional candidate Joe Kent and Ron Paul, among many others.

In our case, we were able to kick up enough of a fuss that YouTube eventually retreated, informing us that they would mercifully let us off with just a warning strike. But when we logged back in to our account, we discovered that YouTube had removed several of our videos, particularly those highlighting staff appearances on Steve Bannon’s show “War Room.” They did not say there was anything specifically objectionable in any of the clips. Instead, they declared that, in their judgment, nothing at all from the show could be distributed on their platform. Since we were unaware that Bannon was verboten, we’d be okay for now.

It’s impossible to say whether or not the clips with Steve Bannon were the original reason for the ban. There are plenty of reasons leftists in Silicon Valley might want to shut us down. Our organization is generally critical of the Big Tech monopolies, including YouTube and their parent company, Google. We have fought to protect women’s sports and save children from gender experimentation. We also just announced that our super PAC was engaging in the Virginia governor’s race. Did Democrat candidate Terry McAuliffe, who sent out a campaign e-mail about APP’s involvement the previous Friday, call in a favor over the weekend?

But let’s assume for a second that Google is telling the truth about why they banned our channel. Why is it Google’s prerogative to police the limits of acceptable conservative thought? A blanket ban of a popular conservative show, without regard for the actual content of a given clip, is an utterly unethical and un-American flex of the company’s monopolistic power.

YouTube has amassed huge amounts of popularity, wealth and power. They hold a practical monopoly on online video hosting. Their editorial and algorithmic decisions have immense influence over the hundreds of millions of Americans who use their platform each month. In recent years, they’ve taken it upon themselves to use this power to become the arbiters of acceptable political opinion. Unsurprisingly, given the political leanings of their ownership and staff, the “unacceptable” opinions have been almost exclusively on the right.

Americans should be concerned. Big Tech in general, and Google in particular, seems to have decided they are not satisfied with the American system. They do not believe that it is wise for the American electorate to speak to each other freely, gather their own information and form their own opinions. They think that, by and large, the American people are too ignorant to do any of these things. Instead, in Google’s view, the American people need to be shielded from the types of arguments, the types of people, the types of information — true or not, objectionable or not — that may cause them to come to a conclusion that differs from Google’s.

This has huge implications for our political system. To use the common rhetoric of the left, it undermines our democracy. Literally. Our system of self-government relies on the ability of the people to engage in serious political debate with one another.

YouTube and Google have absolutely no qualms about interfering in the political process. YouTube has already censored official testimony given before a committee of the United States Senate. They’ve censored the speeches of sitting U.S. senators. They’ve censored a meeting of a local school board due to an anodyne public comment questioning mask policy.

Our system of government cannot survive if the free political debate of the country is regulated by the whims of a few tech oligarchs.  A censored population is the end of a republic, whether the censorship comes from the federal government or from a private company.

If Big Tech companies are insistent on monopolizing a huge portion of the public discourse that shapes our civic life, they should adhere to a First Amendment standard for permissible speech. If they can’t do that, they should lose their monopolies. Ultimately, both things may be necessary for the survival of our nation.

Terry Schilling is the president of American Principles Project. Follow him on Twitter @Schilling1776.

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Abbreviated pundit roundup: The attacks on our democracy continue

We begin today’s roundup with sobering analysis by Barton Gellman at The Atlantic on the widespread attempts to attack our democracy at the local level: 

“The democratic emergency is already here,” Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at UC Irvine, told me in late October. Hasen prides himself on a judicious temperament. Only a year ago he was cautioning me against hyperbole. Now he speaks matter-of-factly about the death of our body politic. “We face a serious risk that American democracy as we know it will come to an end in 2024,” he said, “but urgent action is not happening.”

For more than a year now, with tacit and explicit support from their party’s national leaders, state Republican operatives have been building an apparatus of election theft. Elected officials in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states have studied Donald Trump’s crusade to overturn the 2020 election. They have noted the points of failure and have taken concrete steps to avoid failure next time. Some of them have rewritten statutes to seize partisan control of decisions about which ballots to count and which to discard, which results to certify and which to reject. They are driving out or stripping power from election officials who refused to go along with the plot last November, aiming to replace them with exponents of the Big Lie. They are fine-tuning a legal argument that purports to allow state legislators to override the choice of the voters.

Ed Kilgore has more on the fight for democracy in state legislatures across the country:

Believe it or not, for all the litigation over the election coup, the U.S. Supreme Court never squarely contradicted the sovereign-state legislature theory, instead dismissing lawsuits aimed at overturning the award of electors on procedural grounds (either standing to sue or mootness). One justice who might have gone along with the Trump constitutional theory about legislatures, Amy Coney Barrett, recused herself from a key decisionon Pennsylvania’s state-court-extended mail ballot deadline because she wasn’t on the Court when the case was originally argued.

So of the two radical constitutional theories Trump advanced to overturn his defeat, one (the unconditional power of the veep to reject certification of electors) won’t be available to him in January 2024, since Kamala Harriswill be in the seat occupied by Mike Pence in 2021. But the other, the legislative-supremacy theory, could come back with a vengeance, assuming Republicans hang on to control of legislatures in the states where Biden had the narrowest margin of victory (an easy assumption to make given the likely Republican tide in 2022 and the gerrymandering GOP legislatures are conducting to entrench their majorities). 

George Packer at The Atlantic looks at how we can and should prepare ourselves for the worst:

There is no easy way to stop a major party that’s intent on destroying democracy. The demonic energy with which Trump repeats his lies, and Bannon harangues his audience, and Republican politicians around the country try to seize every lever of election machinery—this relentless drive for power by American authoritarians is the major threat that America confronts. The Constitution doesn’t have an answer. No help will come from Republican leaders; if Romney and Susan Collins are all that stand between the republic and its foes, we’re doomed.

Mark Jacobs at The Chicago Sun-Times makes a sobering point:

Don’t count on the courts to stop Republican criminals. Coup plotter Steve Bannon was indicted on fraud charges last year, but was pardoned by co-conspirator Trump. It’s obvious that Trump has committed crimes (see 11,780 votes, obstruction of justice in the Mueller probe, misuse of funds in the Ukraine extortion plot and tax charges against the Trump Organization). In many ways, our justice system is failing to meet the moment. 

And The Washington Post editorial board sums up our grave problem:

Democracy works because people of good faith oversee the votes and respect the outcome of free and fair elections. Increasingly, the Republican Party threatens this foundational principle.

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