Protestors once stood on street corners to challenge the government. “Stop the war.”

The government didn’t care. Most of the time, you could say it yawned. If the protest was peaceful, police stood by and collected over time.

Why didn’t the government care about an anti-government message?

A sign on a stick didn’t work very well. People who passed by weren’t looking for it. The message was limited to a few words.

Signs were so ineffective the people holding them looked a little crazy. The public began to ignore them just as the government did.

Then came social media.

Social media took holding a sign in the public square and perfected it. The message could be longer than a few words. Protestors could add pictures, videos, links. Unlike the street signs of yesterday, people actively looked for messages on social media.

The government started to care.

Protests were no longer seen as harmless. Protestors began getting censored. The speech could be about anything; the pandemic, elections, civil liberties. Anyone too critical of official government positions lost their social media access. Later, evidence surfaced that the government was involved in censoring the speech of its citizens.

Tech companies had promoted social media as a way to give people a voice. Now, tech companies lead a movement away from free speech. What changed?

In the 21st century, citizens are still peasants. The peasants are getting through.

This blog post first appeared at The Deleterious.

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