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Big Tech complicit in silencing western voices against oppression abroad | Gurpatwant S. Pannun

Tuesday, August 06, 2019 @ 12:01 PM | By Gurpatwant Singh Pannun

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun %>
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun
We have been hearing about more and more individuals and small companies getting deplatformed, demonetized and shadow banned by Big Tech and social media.

The primary victim of this censorship has been conservative voices and companies, but it has provided Big Tech a smokescreen while they continue to work with oppressive governments to silence diaspora criticisms toward the regimes of their former homelands.

Canada has given us great opportunities and freedom. Unfortunately, the Canadian government remains hesitant to hold Big Tech companies responsible for working with foreign governments to silence the voices of Canadian citizens. These citizens only wish to shine a light on the repression our friends and families are enduring. Our peaceful struggle is for religious tolerance, human rights and self-determination — ideals that Canada itself officially stands for across the world.

We commonly hear of Big Tech working to silence anti-Chinese government voices, both in China and around the world.

China, however, is not the only oppressive government that Big Tech — epitomized by Google and its former slogan “Don’t Be Evil” — are more than happy to kowtow by silencing dissident voices. Even worse, this censorship campaign has even extended to silencing American and Canadian voices, ignoring any concept of free speech and often hiding behind the veil of “private company policy” whenever they do so.

Recently, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) was banned from Twitter at the request of the Indian government, despite not violating the laws concerning freedom of speech in the U.S. or the even stricter, Canadian laws. It has become increasingly clear that Big Tech is incapable of protecting Canadian citizens from foreign interference, and they will actively work with authoritarian governments to silence peoples living in free countries.

In our case, the Modi government relentlessly smears SFJ as a terrorist group backed by Pakistan and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) intelligence agency, but that is nothing more than a bald-faced lie. SFJ is a nonprofit organization dedicated to highlighting the many abuses of the Narendra Modi government against followers of the Sikh religion, as well as calling attention to its abuses against the Christian and Muslim minorities throughout India too.

In Modi’s India, everyone must conform to Hindu nationalism; there is little room for the toleration of religious and cultural differences. Instead of bringing us together as Indians, we are being pushed apart and persecuted as terrorist minorities.

It is true that, during the 1990s, there was an undoubtedly militant tone to the Sikh’s movement for self-determination, but that has since changed. Today’s quest for Khalistan, spearheaded by SFJ, denounces the use of violence and fights through the courts and ballot boxes, seeking international help for our plight and legitimate political power through votes and balloting.

However, Modi tells the world that we are puppets of Pakistan and its ISI who are sowing discord and revolution against Islamabad’s nemesis, India. These accusations are just as false and baseless as the ones alleging that the SFJ is a terrorist organization. They are a disgusting attempt to incite violence against the peaceful men, women and children living in the Punjab region.

Any student of geopolitics would see that an independent Khalistan (the name for the Punjab region of India and Pakistan) would represent a threat to both Indian and Pakistani sovereignty, much like how an independent Pashtunistan would break up both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan is, therefore, obviously no friend of Khalistan, and India knows this.

Nevertheless, India relies on the complicity of social media to suppress our human rights by censoring our ceaseless efforts to point out the countless human rights abuses perpetrated by New Delhi. These Big Tech companies unquestioningly accept India’s claims that we are terrorists. The accusations that not only affect us Sikhs — who are Canadian and American citizens, no less — but also other non-Sikh Canadian voices that India falsely accuses of spewing anti-Indian rhetoric. India cajoles these social media companies, like Twitter, to ban even non-Sikhs just because an Indian official lodged a complaint on the other side of the world.

If ethnic and religious minorities are to have any chance of making positive, tolerant changes in the world, we need social media and Big Tech to step up to the plate and protect Canadian virtues instead of selling them out to make a quick buck. If Big Tech cannot handle the great social responsibility they claim is their duty, then perhaps it is time to break up Big Tech.

That being so, dictators and evil oppressors throughout the globe would no longer be able to rely on Google, Facebook and Twitter to silence voices of freedom.

On Aug. 15, the anniversary of Indian independence from Britain, we are holding our own flag-raising ceremony at the UN headquarters in New York. We hope both Sikhs and non-Sikhs, Big Tech representatives and others will join us in recognizing that although India freed itself from the U.K.’s rule, the many diverse peoples of India are still oppressed by the Modi government simply because of their religious and cultural differences.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun is a New York-based human rights lawyer, first-generation Sikh with U.S. and Canadian citizenship, and founder of Sikhs for Justice Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting religious liberties across the world.

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