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Politics & Government

With Social Media Companies Cracking Down, Conservative Utah Groups Search For Other Ways To Communicate

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Major companies are cracking down on social media users and apps. Now, some Utah conservative groups leaders are trying to find other ways to communicate.

Social media companies are reckoning with how people used their platforms during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Some major companies, like Facebook and Amazon, have shut down users — including the president — and an app called Parler.

And that’s left some Utah conservatives looking for other ways to communicate.

Washington County resident Larry Meyers said his Facebook account got disabled in November after being active for over a decade. Before that, he said he had thousands of friends and he managed several different pages, including Liberty Action Coalition, which he helped organize. The southern Utah group describes itself as “committed to the U.S. Constitution and its principles.”

He has since been able to create a new Facebook profile, but wasn’t able to message and post for 45 days. Now, he’s rebuilding his following, while also trying to connect with people on lesser-known apps.

“The plan is [to] find new places where we can communicate, and it hasn't been easy. It's definitely hard to get people off of Facebook,” Meyers said.

He said he hopes a social media platform is created just for conservatives, where they can “control their own destiny.”

Utah Business Revival founder Eric Moutsos said he’s also been banned and censored on various social media networks. Moutsos’ group started early on in the pandemic to protest public health orders, and has grown to over 26,000 members on Facebook.

He said he started using Parler, a conservative-leaning social media, to get away from Facebook. There he had amassed around 6,000 followers before it was shut down.

“Now we're going into these encrypted channels, and I mean, what's next? We've got to send pigeons across the state?” Moutsos said. “Ultimately that's where we're heading if they don't figure this out real quick.”

University of Utah law professor RonNell Andersen Jones said while some people are trying to turn this censoring into a First Amendment issue, it’s not because these are private companies. But Jones said it’s a good time for everyone to talk about how free speech plays out on these platforms.

“We haven't done nearly enough thinking about the question of how to keep this new marketplace of ideas open and free and supportive of a lot of different voices,” Jones said. “We really do have a new public square, and that public square is now a private space.”

She said regardless of political views, people should consider how to encourage free speech, while also taking care of harmful and problematic speech on these platforms.

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