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WHAT RIGHTS HAVE A PRIVATE COMPANY TO REFUSE SERVICE?

More than what they ought to have.

About two years ago I was chatting with my wife through Messenger, the Facebook-owned application. It suddenly froze and demanded to know what we were discussing as it flagged a “keyword” it did not like... In fact, we were not discussing anything illegal or related to anything illegal or unlawful. The flagging clearly showed that despite the numerous claims of privacy there is powerful software running in the background and monitoring every word that you say or type and in all known languages. It is neither safe nor private to use any internet device.

The suppression of freedom of speech, because this is what it is, you have to be very careful in what you say, has gone further now to the final steps where a private company will now decide if you should communicate or not. Just this week a Palestinian hero, Leila Khaled, was refused permission by Zoom to give an online lecture organized by San Francisco State University Department of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies on “Teaching Palestine.” She could not because Zoom will not allow it.

Now it is so that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. I wish not to debate the reasons behind the suppression. You can judge for yourself. As background, Khaled was part of a team that hijacked TWA Flight 840 on its way from Rome to Tel Aviv in August 1969. There were no casualties, but the airframe was severely damaged when the nose was blown off (after being emptied of passengers and crew). The next year she tried to hijack an El Al flight from Amsterdam to New York City. Her partner was shot dead by Israeli air marshals and she was overpowered. The aircraft diverted to London where she was arrested. She is not known to have participated in any other terrorist activities and is now 76 years old.

It came out that it was not only Zoom that refused her a platform but also YouTube and Facebook. The companies cited the refusal as part of their compliance with US export control, sanctions, and anti-terrorism laws. The question here is whether a private company has the right to refuse you service? The answer in law is yes. They don’t even need to give reasons, but it should not be on race, religion, or sexuality, or will be inherently unlawful. Dare we add political beliefs to this list? Well, it should not be there but already is and will stay there. Such is life, you will be monitored and refused service if you are outside the “rules” of those controlling your communications. It is an extremely dangerous road to be on since it is wide open for abuse. I suspect that these lockdowns have that in mind, to force you to communicate via highly controlled networks.

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