How Big Tech censorship of Parler, Trump birthed a ‘2nd internet’

RightForge providing web services for Trump’s TRUTH Social

FILE - In this June 27, 2019, file photo, The U.S. President Donald Trump's Twitter feed is shown on a computer. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

RALEIGH — Christopher Bedford, chief communications officer for RightForge, recently spoke with NSJ, describing the company’s North Carolina roots, partnership with former President Donald Trump and plans for a “second internet” to push back against what they see as bias and censorship against conservatives by a Big Tech monopoly.

Bedford, who is also a senior editor at the popular conservative site The Federalist, says their company began the day alternative social media platform Parler was blacklisted by Amazon, Apple, Google and other Big Tech players.

“The next morning, bright and early, [Martin Avila, the CEO of RightForge] started his car and drove down to Raleigh to meet up with Aaron Wagner,” Bedford said. “And the two of them and their friends, who were former Silicon Valley guys, got together and started meeting down in North Carolina to try to figure out how we’re going to do this, how we’re going to set up the servers. We need to get the second internet rolling. We have the intelligence; we have the skills; now it’s time to do the work and get the money.”

Bedford and those at RightForge use the term “second internet” to describe a separate infrastructure that can connect people to the internet but does not rely on the Big Tech companies. He said the banning of Parler was the moment many on the right fully realized that their speech was not protected online and that views that were mainstream to them were considered violations that could get them erased from the digital public square overnight.

“There was this whole idea that if you don’t like something you could just go and build your own,” Bedford said. “And that was constantly used as a defense for Big Tech and a lot of its excesses, a lot of its censorship. And that was even used as a defense of its censoring of a president of the United States, a democratically elected president of a free country being taken off the internet. They’d say, ‘Oh, well if you don’t like it, you can build your own.’ Well, Parler showed that was false because Amazon Web Services, which controls over 90% plus of web hosting in the country, combined with the Apple store and the Google Play store, said, ‘You’re not allowed on here.’”

Avila and Wagner wanted to create solid ground for alternative thinkers to build their companies so Big Tech couldn’t just erase all their work with the push of a button.

“They’re their own judge, jury and executioner,” Bedford opined, saying that Big Tech killed Parler “under completely false pretenses,” since he said that later reporting showed little organizing for the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol was done on Parler.

“If anything, Facebook was [where the organizing happened],” he said. “And they took it off the internet at a point when it was succeeding and it was the top downloaded app in those stores. They took it down and destroyed it.”

Wagner is a former Army Ranger, and Avila is a technologist who had worked in the California corporate world. They began pulling together clients who had been “canceled” from Big Tech’s platforms and other clients who simply wanted to know they wouldn’t be.

Their biggest client to date, announced in late October, is former President Donald Trump and his “TRUTH Social” social media project.

“It’s a great honor to be working with the president and Trump Media Group on this,” Bedford said.

Asked if they are ready to scale their operations if TRUTH Social grows rapidly, he said, “We have everything we need to keep everything online. But we are actively scaling up every day, acquiring more and more servers, because I anticipate his platform to be extremely popular with millions and millions and millions of users. And the infrastructure will be absolutely solid.”

Bedford said they now have servers “across the world,” including in California, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Europe, South America, Asia and Africa.

He said building this infrastructure is doable, but it is very difficult and can earn a lot of enemies. But he added as a response to those trying to stop them, “Well, guess what? You don’t control the patent on this technology. This is public technology. We can do this as well. We just have to work hard at it.”

People get “really, really upset” when you challenge their control, he said, “but if you are taking fire, that means you’re approaching the enemy. … There are plenty of ways they can make my life uncomfortable, but I’m going to make sure they can’t take your website off the internet.”

When they first began, Bedford said they could count the number of clients they had on two hands. Now they have hundreds and are growing every day. With the addition of Trump as a client, their profile has grown quickly, too.

“There’s a huge amount of interest. Every time I talk to a newspaper or a local radio program, people are reaching out and saying they want to sign up.”

And they are not just targeting political and ideological sites run by conservatives. They want businesses, churches, nonprofits and any other site that needs access to the internet, saying some clients just “want to support it and be a part of it.”

“The internet is obviously a very diverse place; there are big actors and small actors, and we welcome all,” he said. “And it’s not just a conservative thing either. It’s pretty wild. If you would have told me, say, 10 years ago that you were going to have political thoughts that were in line with Glenn Greenwald and Elon Musk and Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson, I’d have said, ‘All of them? In the same room together?’ It turns out that the people who are more pro-freedom are getting drawn together.”

But getting this solid ground in place is just the first step. Next, Bedford said an entire “second economy” has to be built on this foundation, including streaming video sites, social media platforms, entertainment, banking and much more. This is necessary, he said, because all the mainstream versions of these are controlled by people who are more than willing to publicly favor left-wing causes and views while stifling conservative and independent ones.

“As we speak right now, people and products are being denied credit cards based on political ideas,” he said. “Major banks in the United States, including most of the banks that your readers have their debit cards with, are refusing to give loans to gun stores and do business with gun manufacturers, something that is protected by the Second Amendment. There’s a huge amount that needs to be built.”

Without secure access to the internet, he believes conservatives would be at risk of being shut out of the economy entirely. But at least with this second internet, they can create a second economy where they are allowed to pursue their ends. However, he notes that “The second economy is not something that is a great thing. It’s a sadly necessary thing.”

Bedford summarized the project by saying, “What we’re trying to do right now is get the ground solid so that we can build our castles on rock, as opposed to on sand.”