On Big Tech and Christian Freedom

Over the last month we have been given a glimpse of just how much power Big Tech has gained over our society. In the aftermath of the Capitol Hill riot, the corporations which have become the de facto gatekeepers of the internet acted with remarkable unanimity in deplatforming those they deemed to be responsible for the outbreak of violence… including no less than the sitting President of the United States.

For the better part of a century, POTUS has been widely considered to be the most powerful person on the planet. Yet he was summarily silenced, without a fight and without any recourse whatsoever, by a handful of corporate executives.

Of course, people are deeply divided as to whether the actions of Big Tech were justified. But everyone, I think, can agree that they were wholly unprecedented. Throughout human history there have been very few authorities capable of systematically suppressing freedom of speech on a societal level: essentially, state authority and religious authority. To this short list must now be added corporate authority.

At least in part because until a short time ago such power was scarcely conceivable, there exist virtually no checks against it. The First Amendment has no power at all over corporations. The concept of due process is utterly irrelevant. Companies can do what they please with the products they proffer.

The display of such unchecked power over even the chief executive of the most powerful government in the history of the world has therefore caused a good deal of consternation among many, including prominent heads of state who are perhaps realizing that their authority is somewhat less unrivaled than they had supposed.

And – to come to the reason why a monk is bringing up such a subject – many Christians are becoming increasingly wary that the enormous power now wielded by Big Tech may eventually be brought to bear against them as well. It is hardly a secret that Silicon Valley is not exactly well-disposed toward those expressing support of traditional Christian morality (including even the corporations most vocal in their support of internet freedom). Nor is the deplatforming of Christian voices by such corporations merely a theoretical concern; some Christian publications have already been banned by industry-leading providers such as MailChimp.

If even the ability of the President of the United States to communicate with his constituents is at the mercy of monopolistic corporations, in many important ways unaccountable to anything other than their own bottom line, what kind of defense can ordinary rank-and-file Christians possibly hope to muster?

Given how drastically dependent our society has become on Big Tech (I write these words sitting in an airport, having just witnessed a woman in an Amish head-covering walk past me with her eyes glued to her smartphone), it is easy to forget that we were able to get along without them from the dawn of human history up until approximately ten years ago. Ten years is a long time (especially these days), but not that long a time. The inescapable truth is that Big Tech has gained such immense power over us for one reason only: because we chose to give it to them. Nay, rather: because we chose to sell it to them.

There is a saying of the advertising age in which we live: “When the product is free, you are the product.” We have sold our attention, our privacy, and vast untold quantities of our time to advertising firms, in exchange for their flashing toys.

So if we don’t want them to have such power over us, there is one solution which is really quite simple: we can just stop selling it to them. Even if it means giving up some of their toys.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t actually need Facebook or Twitter or YouTube. In fact, our lives would almost certainly improve without them.

As rapidly as our society is changing, and as dystopian as it is beginning to seem in so many ways, nobody yet is close to stopping us from speaking the truth of Christ to the real, flesh-and-blood human beings in our lives. And though we so often ignore them in favor of our screens, they are still right there. They are, Lord willing, not going anywhere anytime soon.

Let’s try to build our lives around them, instead of the gadgets to which we have been busily selling our souls.


  1. Thank you, Hieromonk Gabriel. I have deleted all social media platforms as of 2021.. may I learn to see Christ in my neighbor, coworker and in that person I don’t like and try to avoid. Lord have mercy on me.

  2. Well, in this day and age most people tend to get most of their information from the Internet, so it’s kinda hard to get off of it completely. Youtube still has a lot of great content, for example Jay Dyer who, together with other Orthodox enthusiasts, has also set up an Orthodox Discord server which has currently 5,000 inquirers and catechumens.

    1. I’m not trying to say we should all turn off the internet altogether – this article itself is of course on the internet. I found Holy Orthodoxy through the internet many years ago. My point is that the internet and especially social media should not be the focus of our lives, the main way we relate to one another, or something we cannot function without – insofar as is in our power. There’s nothing wrong with using what is good online – while we can, and if the good outweighs the harm (though often I am not sure that is actually the case, and we should try to pay attention to that).

      Of course, this is just my opinion and not Church dogma.

    2. As for getting our information, I think of the verse of T.S. Eliot:

      “The endless cycle of idea and action,
      Endless invention, endless experiment,
      Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
      Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
      Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
      All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
      All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
      But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
      Where is the Life we have lost in living?
      Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
      Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
      The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
      Bring us farther from GOD and nearer to the Dust.”

      1. Thanks for sharing this T.S. Eliot poem. It captures the truth so well.

        And thank you for giving voice to this very important issue.

  3. And can I please add that we should start to save locally, and in hard copy, all important Patristic material. Access to the internet itself cannot be assumed in the time to come.

  4. It is hard to take seriously the concern about ‘deplatforming’. You say, “[President Trump] was summarily silenced, without a fight and without any recourse whatsoever, by a handful of corporate executives,” but he had a literal Press Corps, and, had he desired, the ability to send a text alert to every phone in the nation (similar to an Amber Alert or Severe Weather warning).

    One has a right to freedom of speech without government intervention, not that of the host company one is using simply because it is convenient. Our own desire to converse in the most convenient, scrollable way is the only reason this seems like a concern. If we seek only what is most convenient, then can one be surprised to find the pursuit of ease leads to servitude, in the end?

    Sending mail, calling on one’s phone, sending emails, setting up a blog, or a Discord server, using XMPP clients, Mastodon, etc — there are myriad ways to communicate, many more than at any previous time in history! This is no more concerning to me than someone being banned from all Walmart stores. They may simply purchase elsewhere. It may be that Walmart is the only major retailer within a 30 minute drive (as is the case in some rural places). Yet one really can plan out one’s trips and purchases, and be a little less reliant on the ease of modern commerce, and do it like they did in “Little House on the Prairie”. It is not a hardship to have others not want to do business with you; it simply isn’t as easy as one may like.

    A publisher should be able to refuse to publish a book they do not want to. A baker should be able to refuse to make a cake they don’t want to. And Twitter, Facebook, etc., should be able to refuse service to whomever they please. Where the content is integral to the product, one should be able to refuse service. (As opposed to, say, groceries or housing, which one needs simply by virtue of being a human being. And yet even here, there’s plenty of legitimate reasons one can be banned from a grocery store or denied a mortgage. And neither violates one’s Rights.)

    Even were all Christians banned from social media, banned from AWS hosting, banned from email marketing tools, etc. — This is so different from the persecution of the martyrs one should blush to compare the two. May it never be that we see real persecution! Until then, let us not whine about our news feeds, so that we may have some dignity with which to share the Gospel to a culture growing further distanced from reality.

    1. I think we might disagree a bit regarding the degree to which a few corporations are able to gatekeep societal discourse at the present time, but unless I am missing something we are entirely in agreement as to how we as Christians ought to proceed – which was the point of my article.

  5. If these companies’ directors think they can decide what is right or wrong they must be lost in delusion. That is what it comes down to when they ban or deplatform a nation’s president. Perhaps they are mesmerised by their own power . It seems that temptation has been given in to. All the kingdoms of the world were spread before them and they fell for the old devilish trick. They have let themselves be fooled because, of course, all the kingdoms of the world were not his to give. and plenty of national leaders will now look askance at offers to provide means of communication.

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