Surviving Tech Purges: What We're Doing at the Mises InstituteTags StrategyHistory of the Austrian School of Economics
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The Mises Institute was born of the "build your own platform" ethos.
In the early 1980s few outlets existed for anyone interested in the Austrian school of economics or robust libertarian scholarship. Few universities taught Hayek, much less Mises or Rothbard. Libraries and bookstores carried little of interest for serious economists and thinkers in the old liberal tradition.
Lew Rockwell and others set out to build an institutional home for the Austrian school, and to resuscitate Mises as the most important and most comprehensive leader of that school. In those early years the Institute used the platforms at its disposal to get the message out, chiefly in the form of physical mail, book catalogs, conferences, and video cassettes. It wasn't easy, but there were no alternatives.
Today that home exists largely in the digital sphere, centered around mises.org. Social media and video platforms also play a big role in how we get content out to millions of people across the world. Compared to the analog 1980s, these digital platforms are miracles of innovation and cheap, instantaneous communication. Virtually anyone in the world with electricity and internet access can read the most important Austrian works (often translated into their native language) anytime at no cost.
For many years, however, the calls to control and chill online content have grown louder. We have monitored those calls, and taken proactive and incremental steps to safeguard our various channels. Today the environment for free and open communication—a hallmark of liberal societies—is in deep trouble. In recent weeks, companies including Amazon (Web Services), YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have removed or banned users ranging from Donald Trump to Ron Paul to left-wing podcasts such as Red Scare. Parler, a growing alternative to Twitter, not only lost its ability to offer apps on Android or Apple devices but even its Amazon web hosting—rendering it completely offline.
At this point the debate over "private companies" and deplatforming is almost moot. What's needed is action, direction, and innovation by people of goodwill regardless of political stripe. Yes, many tech companies and social media outlets are bad actors and willing accomplices to the worst state action. Yes, many tech companies have their origins in federal subsidies, and many receive government contracts. Many are virtually instruments of state power, or "governmentalities," as Professor Michael Rectenwald terms them.
Right now, however, what matters is not arguments about censorship or regulation or the First Amendment. What matters is action.
We want all of you, fans and supporters of the Mises Institute, to know we are well positioned to survive purges by platforms and hosts. Without giving too much detail, here are the basics:
- We maintain and own (not rent) internal servers and backup servers, while also maintaining storage offshore;
- We are moving to a very local internet service provider (ISP) with beefy broadband;
- We have alternative domain registration providers in place to protect the use of mises.org;
- We have "hot standby" sites in two foreign jurisdictions in case of a denial by our web host;
- We have all video, audio, and graphic content housed on our backup servers in case of a denial by our cloud provider;
- We sync and mirror all YouTube videos on alternative platforms, including Odysee (started by a Mises Institute fan);
- We have registered the Mises Institute name with every new or alternative social media possible, with the expectation that Facebook and Twitter will remove us eventually. Fortunately, in one sense, only about 20 percent of our site traffic arrives via social media click-through (which is not the case for many newer sites). Also, less than half of mises.org traffic arrives via organic Google search. So while we would hate to lose views if Google "disappeared" our search results, enough people come to mises.org directly through their browsers or from subscription emails;
- We have moved away from using shared internal Google docs;
- We have moved toward encrypted email vendors;
- We keep strict security over our donor database and back it up frequently using internal storage;
- We moved our email/subscription lists to an alternative vendor after reading accounts of Mailchimp reviewing user content; and
- We have taken steps to maintain alternative payment gateways and diversify our banking providers locally, nationally, and internationally.
None of these steps guarantee anything, but we want you to know we take the threat of digital erasure very seriously.
In a sense, the Mises Institute has the advantage of being accustomed to scrutiny and threats. We have always been proudly radical: antistate, antiwar, revisionist, pro-property, pro-markets, and pro-secession, across decades and regardless of which politicians held power. We have always been willing to consider the possibility of a fully private society. As such, we have long been a target of both mainstream media outlets and phony organizations inside and outside the Beltway.
But we will never water down our message to satisfy censors or maintain a particular platform; instead we will work around them. Our radical vision and message will not change. Society can manage itself, and organize around property, markets, and civil society rather than centralized monopoly governments. Real economics is the key to understanding real social cooperation. But we can't advocate ideas without channels to disseminate them. Let's hope we never need to come full circle, back to the analog world.