The German Perspective on Big Tech Censorship: What Can We Learn?
In the days following Trump's Twitter ban, several world leaders have shared their thoughts on the matter. This includes Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany. Considering the strained relationship that she and President Trump have had throughout his presidency, many Americans were surprised to hear that Merkel opposed his Twitter removal. She called the action "problematic." Hearing this response made me reflect on some of the conversations I had with my German professor when I was learning the German language. My last course with her was a German business class in which we discussed the cultural differences between Germans and Americans and how these can influence interactions between us.
A prominent topic of discussion was how much more open Germans are to political discourse-even with total strangers-than we are in America. It is not considered rude or offensive to strike up a conversation of that nature or to disagree on the topics of discussion. Here, however, it is generally frowned upon to do so, and political talk can become explosive to the point of ruining relationships. My professor did not understand; why it was difficult for us to have a civil political conversation in this country. We could hardly come up with a solid answer ourselves.
The news of Angela Merkel's reaction to Trump's ban from Twitter prompted me to reach out to this professor. I told her that I was curious to hear the perspective of a native-born German on the issue. She responded that despite their dislike for President Trump, the Germans highly treasure free speech, and this one-sided censorship didn't sit right with them. Germany has laws to keep Big Tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Google, and Amazon in check.
Because of this, many Germans choose not to join Facebook and other social media platforms. They see these companies as monopolies that abuse their power, and this view is one that does not depend on political affiliation. On the other hand, a politically slanted app such as Parler or any left-leaning equivalent would not be permitted in Germany unless it was strongly controlled. However, it would still not reach a point where Apple would remove the app from its platform.
In short, the Germans are not fans of one-sidedness when it comes to politics and the media. It is no mystery why they would feel this way if we look at their history. Much of the horrors that took place under the Nazi regime were made primarily due to the abundant party-controlled propaganda put forth by Joseph Goebbels. As the head of the Propaganda Ministry, he was able to gain full control of the media, taking over the newspapers, books, magazines, radio stations, movies, music, and art. This even went so far as to include public meetings.
Furthermore, the Nazis conducted book-burnings that targeted materials and authors that did not align with their belief system. Any "news" that the citizens of Germany had available to them was entirely party-controlled, causing them to become simultaneously brainwashed and unaware of many of the activities being conducted by the Nazi government. The opposition was quickly snuffed out.
After their defeat in World War II, Germany made great efforts to rehabilitate the population from the ideals that had been a common fixture of their culture for so many years. As a result, Germans are wary of censorship and one-sidedness even today. Indeed, a certain level of censorship is still carried out when it comes to what they deem as "hate speech," for example, but biased political censorship at the hands of one-sided media companies will not be tolerated. Those of them that are paying attention to what is happening in America right now are rightfully shocked.
While I won't go so far as to claim that we are on the path that Germany was on in the 1920s and 1930s, I will say that we should take lessons from that part of history. The increasing level of censorship we are witnessing ( and being subjected to ) undoubtedly can become dangerous and is, at a minimum unjust.
Political censorship being unacceptable should not be a partisan issue. Is it time for Americans to have a conversation about applying certain laws to Big Tech? That question seems to be the most divisive aspect of this conversation. While many Americans argue that it is time to intervene, many others argue that private businesses should remain untouched by the government.
Either way, censorship is an issue that we need to tackle before it spirals into a problem that has more dire consequences.
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About the Author:
Erin Fitzgerald Adair is a political commentator known as @Always.Right on Instagram. She attended college for Political Science and History, formerly hosted a weekly podcast, and recently worked on a congressional campaign. Erin is a “Cav Kid” from Georgia who now splits her time between there and Florida. She is passionate about advocating for gun rights, free speech, and our constitutional liberties while speaking out against abortion, censorship, and cultural marxism.