I have been concerned for some years about how “public space” on the Internet is really just privately-owned space. Offline, there are sometimes concerns raised about how parks and other spaces, which are usually open to the public, are made less than fully open to the public by the imposition of charges, fees or conditions. In fact, there have in the past often been fees and conditions imposed on entry to parks etc, but in those cases those unable or unwilling to comply could go elsewhere. That is not always so online.
In the offline world, there are public markets and competition between marketplaces in various ways. Online, though the same may be true superficially, the reality is that a few key players operate in a quasi-monopolistic manner. Facebook, Twitter, ebay, Amazon have little real competition. The private individual is granted access to these spaces essentially at the will or whim of the proprietor. If expelled, the individual has no redress save appeal (and not by right) to the website itself. There are no means to go to law to enforce re-admittance, because the relationship between the website and the individual is one based on contract and the contractual power lies with the website.
Taking Amazon and intruding a personal note to make the argument more concrete, for 2 or 3 years (up to 2011 or 2012) I reviewed books on Amazon (at one time I owned over 2,000 books and bought one every few days). I was on the Amazon UK “Top 100 reviewers” list and the vast majority of those who voted or commented liked my reviews and found them helpful. Very few hated what I wrote but one of that tiny handful (literally about 3 or 4 people) was a Jew who objected to some of my reviews because they examined events 1933-45 from a revisionist (truth-seeking) perspective. This person trolled virtually every review I wrote, “commenting” sarcastically on each, insulting me as well as my reviews, trying to bait me to argue with him (with the obvious idea of then screaming “antisemitism!” and “hate speech” and getting me chucked off Amazon, of course. “They” do the same on Twitter etc).
After about 2 years, the aforesaid Jew (who, by the way, operated under a pseudonym, as the same sort of trolls often do on Twitter) managed to interest the Jewish Chronicle in his complaint. The Jewish Chronicle wrote about my reviews, the attention resulting in my being barred from reviewing books on Amazon. About a third of my reviews were removed. Oddly enough, those reviews were removed en bloc. Most had nothing to do with the 1933-1945 era, National Socialism, Jews, Israel etc. There was no possibility of appeal, not even to the site itself.
I then started to review books on the American Amazon site. The same occurred before long, except that this time the same Jew must have contacted Amazon directly after complaining about me under my reviews (all of them…), because all of those reviews on the US site disappeared overnight and I was barred without warning. No appeal, no explanation. So much for American “free speech”!
The above illustrates the problem. While there are other online booksellers, some of which allow reviews, in the end the reviewer, the citizen, is there as guest of the website and can be chucked off at any time. Amazon’s position is quasi-monopolistic, yet it is not merely a retailer but a provider of what amounts to a public intellectual forum.
Twitter is the same: if someone is barred from Twitter, he is effectively muzzled, his right of freedom of expression taken away. He has no redress (though Twitter itself does give a possibility of appeal). It is not good enough to say that “other sites exist”. Twitter is in a global quasi-monopolistic position.
Tellingly, the Zionists and others (but mostly Zionists) often make the point that barring someone from Facebook, Twitter etc is not an attack on free speech because those sites are “private platforms” and can get rid of unwanted authors at will.
The privatization of public online space is wrong. The solution is to give the citizen a legal right to appeal against removal from any website which has more than x number of users or subscribers. The present situation is an unwarranted extension of the economic sphere into the sphere of law and rights.