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Why the UK should be worried about the standoff between Facebook and Australia

The saga shows how technology giants, with their almost limitless power, can warp our democracies

By Mathew Lawrence  

Google threatened to remove its search engine while Facebook banned publication of news and media on its platform in Australia. Photo: Pat Benic/UPI Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

A spectre is haunting British politics; the spectre of no-platforming. The Secretary for Education has recently warned darkly about “the chilling effect on campuses of unacceptable silencing and censoring.” So-called “free speech activists” conjure up apparent threats to foundational principles of democracy while column inches are filled with prophecies of liberties fatally eroded.  

They are right to worry, but wrong in their target. There is a threat of no-platforming and the erosion of foundational rights to speech and assembly—and it takes the form of the giant tech platform monopolies that now occupy the commanding heights of the digital economy.   

The…

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