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Deplatforming, also known as no-platforming, refers to a form of Internet censorship in which social media and other technology companies suspend, ban, or otherwise shut down controversial speakers or speech. The term also refers more generally to tactics, often organized using social media, for preventing controversial speakers or speech from being heard. Deplatforming tactics have included disruption of speeches, and attempts to have speakers disinvited to a venue or event.
Social media deplatforming
As early as 2015, platforms such as Reddit began to enforce selective bans based, for example, on terms of service prohibiting "hate speech". According to technology journalist Declan McCullagh, "Silicon Valley's efforts to pull the plug on dissenting opinions" began around 2018 with Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube denying service to selected users of their platforms, "devising excuses to suspend ideologically disfavored accounts."
Law professor Glenn Reynolds dubbed 2018 the "Year of Deplatforming", in an August 2018 article in The Wall Street Journal. According to Reynolds, in 2018 "the internet giants decided to slam the gates on a number of people and ideas they don't like. If you rely on someone else's platform to express unpopular ideas, especially ideas on the right, you're now at risk." Reynolds cited Alex Jones, Gavin McInnes, and Dennis Prager as prominent 2018 victims of deplatforming based on their political views, noting, "Extremists and controversialists on the left have been relatively safe from deplatforming."
Deplatforming has typically targeted individuals or organizations using free accounts on social media platforms. In February 2019, McCullagh predicted that paying customers would become targets for deplatforming as well, citing protests and open letters by employees of Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Google who opposed policies of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and who reportedly sought to influence their employers to deplatform the agency and its contractors.
Supporters of deplatforming have justified the action on the grounds that it produces the desired effect of reducing what they characterize as "hate speech". Angelo Carusone, president of the progressive organization Media Matters for America, pointed to Twitter's ban of Milo Yiannopoulos, stating that "the result was that he lost a lot.... He lost his ability to be influential or at least to project a veneer of influence."
Twitter suspensions and bans have long been criticized for Twitter's failure to provide details of the underlying alleged policy violations. Twitter has also been described as vulnerable to manipulation by users who may falsely flag politically controversial tweets as violating the platform's policies. In February 2019, Canadian journalist Meghan Murphy filed a lawsuit against Twitter for permanently banning her based on its policy against misgendering, which Murphy called "viewpoint-based censorship".
Deplatforming of invited speakers
Controversial speakers invited to appear on college campuses have faced deplatforming in the form of attempts to disinvite them or to prevent them from speaking. The British National Union of Students established its No Platform policy as early as 1973.
In the United States, recent examples include the March 2017 disruption of a public speech by political scientist Charles Murray at Middlebury College by violent protesters. In February 2018, students at the University of Central Oklahoma rescinded a speaking invitation to creationist Ken Ham, after pressure from an LGBT student group. In March 2018, a "small group of protesters" at Lewis & Clark Law School attempted to stop a speech by visiting lecturer Christina Hoff Sommers. As of April 2019[update], the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a speech advocacy group, documented 390 disinvitation or disruption attempts at American campuses since 2000.
Deplatforming efforts have also extended to corporate invitations. On March 26, 2019, Google announced an external advisory board to consider ethical issues around its artificial intelligence projects. The board's eight appointed members included Kay Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation. Within days, 1,600 Google employees had signed an open petition seeking to remove James from the board. Employees had stated on Google's internal message boards that a person with James' conservative views about climate change policy, immigration, and LGBT rights "doesn't deserve a Google-legitimized platform." On April 4, Google dissolved the advisory board, stating, "It's become clear that in the current environment, [the board] can't function as we wanted."
Financial service providers have deplatformed controversial speakers and organizations by denying them service, effectively limiting their ability to raise funds or do business. In 2018, Visa and MasterCard stopped processing donations to the David Horowitz Freedom Center (DHFC) at the request of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an liberal nonprofit which had controversially labeled conservative organizations as alleged "hate groups". Robert Spencer, editor-in-chief of the DPLC publication Jihad Watch, had previously been deplatformed from Patreon under pressure from MasterCard.
In February 2018, First National Bank of Omaha became the first of several companies to "cut ties" with the National Rifle Association. A month later, on March 22, 2018, Citigroup announced that it would turn away business customers and commercial partners based on a new Citigroup policy restricting sales of firearms, applying the policy to clients seeking to "borrow money, use banking services or raise capital through the company".
Deplatforming tactics have also included attempts to silence controversial speakers through doxxing and other forms of personal harassment, including via reports or complaints to third parties. Examples include attempts to have speakers fired or blacklisted from jobs and projects, and the making of false emergency reports for purposes of swatting.
In print media
In December 2017, after learning that a French artist it had previously reviewed was a neo-Nazi, the San Francisco punk magazine Maximum Rocknroll apologized and announced that it has "a strict no-platform policy towards any bands and artists with a Nazi ideology".
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- "Letters". Maximum Rocknroll (editorial statement). No. 415. December 2017. p. 8.