Trying to steer clear of media companies which steal my information, censor my speech
If you already had Fourth Amendment concerns about government access to the information gathered about you and stored by Internet giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter, you might be even more concerned to know that the Cloud Act, passed together with the most recent spending bill in Congress, makes it possible for foreign governments to obtain your data as well.
And just how much data is collected and stored by such companies? If you think your information is not being collected, just search for an item you might wish to purchase and see how many ads for that exact product and similar products show up on your social media pages and web searches.
Or, go to Google dashboard and enter your Google account password. Unless you have previously turned off numerous Google features, you will find a detailed map with dates, places and locations you have visited with your cellphone in hand or pocket. You can see all your Internet searches, how many emails you have sent and received, your usernames and passwords to other sites and the list goes on. Essentially, Google and all those who use Google’s services to market products know an unbelievably lot about you, where you live, shop, travel, your interests, hobbies, friends, spending habits, etc.
Of course, social media companies like Facebook and Twitter gather all the same kinds of information from you. Even if you restrict who can see your content and view your posts, the social media companies have the information and apparently sometimes leak or sell it to others.
Of even greater concern to me is that some of these same companies have started to censor free speech and remove posts and videos which hold to Biblical moral standards or to Constitutional limits on government.
While not encouraging violence or hate toward anyone, I do believe I have the right to express Biblical teaching, even when it flies in the face of new social norms being forced upon us. And, in regard to political issues, I’m not ready to let the government or big business dictate what I may and may not publicly express. And it becomes especially disturbing when government or business seeks to prevent me or anyone else from expressing moral or political views which were once the norm because people still accepted the authority of the Bible in regard to religious and moral teaching and still read and held to the U.S. Constitution as the law of the land.
Some are calling for government regulation to keep such large media companies from censoring speech or promoting their own agendas, but I don’t’ really want the government to determine which speech is protected and which is not. I’d rather just choose where I do business and what services I use and don’t use.
Because Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. have started censoring religious and political speech and clearly have a moral and political agenda of their own, I’ve started the process of ridding myself of these companies by changing web browsers, removing apps and software and closing accounts where I can and using others as little as possible.
And, no, the process is not so simple as it sounds. So much Internet use is in some way connected to these giants. It’s not enough to change browsers and search engines, it takes diligent efforts to also remove and replace the use of their apps and features in other web browsers and search engines. And, it will demand the removing of photos and other stored information — some of which was uploaded without my knowledge because I failed to shut off this or that service on my phone or computer. And, it seems, even when I shut off many of these features, at least some of them seem to be back on again when I return.
Instead of looking for news items via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter where one must wade through 10 tons of worthless gibberish to maybe find that one relevant news item, I started spending my time going straight to the sources I trust for the news — and, no, it’s not the big media giants which obviously have their own political agenda. And I’ve found this to be much more productive.
Instead of spending as much time trying to promote certain articles via social media, I’m trying to gather and publish more articles and worthwhile items for readers, hoping that a better web product will draw more readers than the often meaningless likes and shares via social media.
I’ve set up a new email client to get my personal email without it passing through Google servers and hope to eventually close my Google account altogether. Rather than communicating via social media, I’m working on different ways to stay in touch with my kids and might happily have to just go back to traditional phone calls and letters. I don’t know if I can get them to join me in communicating the old way and doubt I can get them to use an encryption key and communicate via privately encrypted email, but it’s an option. Of course, phone calls and U.S. mail are also tracked but, to my knowledge, letters are not opened and read. Only the to and from is recorded. And, more importantly, my letters and phone calls are not censored by some giant media companies with immoral and political agendas of their own.
I don’t suppose my efforts to avoid using such Internet giants will have much effect in stopping their censorship activities — at least not unless a large number of users begin rethinking their use of companies which harvest private information and then try to control moral and political expression — but I feel better not letting them harvest my personal and private information for their own less-than-honorable purposes.
Randy Moll is the managing editor of the Westside Eagle Observer. He may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.