This title may feel . . . political? Which is odd for me because I simply don’t discuss politics much except in person.
But we are going to remove the politics of all of this and examine what’s happened on social media, and particularly Parler, and see how it might affect your small business website.
tl;dr: your website is fine. Chill.
This was not the post I had planned to write this week, but I’ve been seeing so much, for lack of a better word, insanity and fear mongering in regards to “big tech” and censorship this week that I literally can’t shut off my brain.
I also want my clients and others to understand that no one is coming for your business and you are 100% OK.
In one of the Website Builders Facebook groups I’m in, another website builder was concerned what to tell his clients. Saturday night, Parler’s founder posted they’d been warned by Amazon that they would be booted off of their servers and would need to find a new home for their platform. This gentleman seemed concerned that his clients’ websites might be next, or they at least would worry they were.
Here’s the thing, we just talked last week about how when you use a website builder, you’re turning over a ton of control to the whim of another company. Shopify, for instance, just shut off Trump’s online merch store. So yes, there are certain risks you take when you use a third party to host your company’s most valuable marketing asset, and especially if that third party is an all-inclusive platform you cannot migrate away from.
Parler, while no longer hosted at Amazon, can move their code to another server/hosting provider and spin back up. They’re claiming it will take them about a week, which seems a long time, but I don’t know the complexity of their infrastructure.
Web Hosting Has Terms & Conditions
The trick here is that web hosts, while happy to take just about anyone’s money, do still have their own terms and conditions you agree to – typically involving not participating in illegal activities with your website (though come on, many sneak by). Parler’s real issue is that they allowed criminal threats of violence to not only remain but build on their platform, which probably put them in direct violation of Apple, Google, and Amazon’s terms and conditions to reside on their platforms.
Honestly, I feel a little sorry for Parler. They were trying to foster something unique, and while most users who moved to Parler are just fed up with Facebook, Parler was literally begging earlier this year for liberals to join to balance out its user base. They got caught up in a PR nightmare (of their own doing), and frankly probably got in over their heads. They had ample time to change things and chose not to, however, which is when Apple and Google moved to remove the apps from their platforms. I’d bet good money that those tech companies spent a lot of time with higher-ups debating what to do.
I’ve seen a lot (in comment sections that I should stay out of), that this boils down to some form of censorship. But here’s the thing – you agreed to things when you checked that box that you read the legal disclaimers (that you didn’t even skim).
Social Media “Censorship”
This is especially true for social media platforms. While there’s an entirely different argument to be made for perhaps swifter blocks than others (or how true that is), the fact of the matter is your Freedom of Speech does not apply to that social media platform that you use. For free.
Think of the millions of dollars Facebook for instance spends on just developers and server space to keep the site running. That’s not touching on customer service, monitoring, ad support, etc. Millions for providing a free at point of use service. The average Facebook user will never run ads on the platform and never really put any money back into it. So yes, the flipside to it, and every other social media platform, is that you have to abide by certain community guidelines or your account can be suspended.
(Also, while Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, even Snapchat don’t really care what you’re posting 99% of the time, they certainly have access to your whoooole account and history at all times, just FYI.)
What about my website?
Look, like I said above, “big tech” is not going to start coming for your business website, even if you’re posting diatribes about how much you hate Google, Amazon, etc. They don’t care; they’ll take your money regardless.
The likelihood of any of my clients doing a single thing to violate typical web host terms are so minimal that I am not at all worried right now. I’m not saying that will never change, of course, but the current moves by “big tech” I understand and honestly support.
These decisions made this last week by Amazon, Apple, Google, and more, were far more business related than they were political. Don’t do anything illegal with your website and your small business website will be just fine.