Signal and Bitcoin: Twenty-First Century Tools of Personal and Economic Freedom

periodic table of commodity returns updated with closing 2020 data

Key Points:

  • Social media’s suspension of President Trump’s social media accounts should be troubling to everyone, whether you support him or not. Recall Ben Franklin: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
  • Privacy seekers are downloading Signal to replace WhatsApp.
  • Biden’s proposed relief package, at $1.9 trillion, is expected to boost investor demand for real assets, including gold, Bitcoin and Ethereum.

In my final commentary of 2020, I wrote that the U.S. media has a major trust issue. According to recent polls, most Americans put little faith in what they see and read on TV and the internet.

These negative sentiments were probably not improved much by big tech firms’ decision to suspend President Donald Trump from their platforms.

Twitter was the first to announce a permanent ban last Friday, following Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol. In the blink of an eye, more than 88 million followers could no longer visit the U.S. president’s account.

Other platforms soon followed suit: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, Pinterest.

The decision to muzzle Trump may not technically be unconstitutional—it was made not by the government but private corporations—but it’s highly problematic.

Even Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admits as much. Defending his company’s deletion of Trump’s account, Dorsey tweeted that such bans “fragment the public conversation” and “limit the potential for clarification, redemption and learning.” He added that it “sets a precedent that I feel is dangerous.”

Many of Trump’s overseas critics agree. German chancellor Angela Merkel, who’s often shared an icy relationship with her U.S. counterpart, called Twitter’s move a breach of Trump’s “fundamental right to free speech.” Clément Beaune, France’s minister of state for European affairs, told Bloomberg TV that silencing an elected official “should be decided by citizens, not by a CEO.”

The crackdown isn’t limited to Trump. Parler, a networking app favored by Trump’s supporters, hit roadblocks this week when Apple and Google removed the app from its online stores. The service, which is financed in large part by hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, finally went offline after Amazon dropped it as a web hosting client.

I acknowledge these actions were prompted by a need to root out extremism and violence. I join others in calling on social media companies to do a better job at preventing extremism from flourishing. At the same time, there has to be a more equitable solution than permanently shutting down entire channels of free speech.

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin said it best: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Coinbase learned this lesson the hard way. In late September, the digital currency exchange instated a companywide ban on talking politics of any kind at work. Within days of the announcement, as many as 60 Coinbase employees had resigned.