What is Internet stacking? How Musk’s Twitter buy impacts online speech

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  • Big tech companies actively discriminate against other companies and those in Congress and the White House really don’t understand how they operate.
  • Sometimes other platforms in a stack can follow suit when another starts censoring

Elon Musk is expected to be named interim CEO after his deal to purchase the platform for $44 billion is finalized, CNBC is reporting.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO said earlier this week. “Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated. I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter because that is what free speech means.”  

Musk’s plans for the platform include adding new features, defeating spam bots, and “making algorithms open source to increase trust.” Many saw their followers increase substantially after the announcement, but some on the far-left were vocal in their opposition, many vowing to leave Twitter.  

Twitter is a platform that is used in internet stacking or getting content across various platforms, so its content and management play a role in disseminating speech through the social media world.

Internet stacking, how it relates to censorship and what could be done to secure freedom of speech in the future was discussed during a panel discussion at the recently held John Locke Foundation’s Carolina Liberty Conference at the Crabtree Marriott Hotel in Raleigh. 

Hosted by Locke’s Vice-President of Communications, Brooke Medina, the panel included Stephen Kent, Director of Operations, Echelon Insights, and author of “How the Force Can Fix the World,” Kara Frederick, research fellow in technology policy, The Heritage Foundation, James Czerniawski, senior policy analyst, American for Prosperity, and Peter Kaliner, talk show host, WBT-Radio. 

Stacking, in terms of the internet and social media, is an issue that has its own set of problems.

“When you think about Facebook and Twitter, they are edge providers, part of the internet ecosystem,” Czerniawski said. “The stack is the underlying infrastructure that builds up the ecosystem. When we move down the stack, we are talking about who provides your mail delivery system, then it goes down to the web hosting services like Amazon, then it gets lower than that with internet providers like ATT, Comcast, Verizon. So that is the nature of the stack of the internet itself.” 

Kaliner described a stack when a platform starts censoring, others follow suit, like what happened when Amazon removed Parler from its cloud hosting services. He said he has seen it firsthand as a talk radio employee when a small, but vocal group target advertisers to take people off the air. “That was the original deplatforming,” he said. “Corporate entities are not interested in protecting their employees. They almost took down Rush Limbaugh and it was brilliant what he did. He let everybody know that there was somebody out there who shared their views. It gave people power and encouraged them.” 

He said he was targeted by a very vocal minority who wanted to get him fired because they didn’t like something he said and didn’t want him being a voice for those with the same opinions. He said he is concerned what has been happening in recent years. “If the last two years haven’t convinced everybody that the so-called experts may not know what the hell they are talking about,” he said. “Questioning them about stuff every now and then is going to get you slapped with a misinformation label and then you are done. That’s a grave concern to me.” 

Frederick said big tech companies are actively discriminating against other companies and those in Congress and the White House really don’t understand how they operate. She also said that these are global corporations, even though they are incorporated in America. That was impressed upon her from her time at Facebook, where she started its counterterrorism analysis program for global security and its headquarters regional intelligence program. “So, when they are making policy decisions, they have to make them for their satellite offices and the countries they operate in,” Frederick said. “They don’t necessarily have apple pie and American values at the forefront of their mind.” 

She said Conservatives need to get comfortable with these tech companies engaging in non-competitive practices to stifle new entrants, the smaller competitors that are the life blood of the free market. She said there are those out there, including Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen who thinks there should be more policing of speech, not less, and that needs to be addressed. 

Kent said Bloomberg put out a piece saying that Facebook needed to have a seat on the United Nations Councils because they have as much power as a traditional country. “The world is changing very fast, and I am pro-company all the way but we cannot bury our heads in the sand about the way the corporate state is changing,” he said. 

Kaliner said while he is concerned about the censorship component, this is a great time to get your word out as a content creator doing a podcast. “Entry costs are minimal, a couple hundred dollars. If it is good content, the audience will find you and you will be successful at it. And if you are like the 99% of the other podcasts, you will just fade away.” 

“Getting news from trusted gatekeepers is over,” Kent said. “You are going to get your news from people you trust, and you also need to give them a couple of dollars while they are doing it so people can start dropping their subscription packages to cable news services that lie to you.” 

“Everybody here needs to think about how that First Amendment should be a guiding, moral standard for these tech companies,” said Frederick. “The guiding principle under which they operate. If not, we will lose our ability to have a self-governing republic that is distinctly American.” 

Czerniawski said investing into decentralization is important for the future. “I think it is important to invest in a way to make sure we have a wedge between the government trying to impose as hard as it has been on these private companies,” he said. “Let’s invest in the future and build something beautiful together. A lot of states are doing great work on this, including North Carolina.”