Chicago Cubs Co-Owner Takes on Google with New 'FREESPOKE' Search Engine in Fight for Free Speech
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Many conservative and Christian groups have, in recent years, vocally expressed concerns and doubts about big tech, with claims and examples of viewpoint discrimination raging on search engines and social media properties alike.
Todd Ricketts, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, is on a mission to bolster free speech, and he’s tackling these concerns by creating a new search engine to challenge Google’s dominance and reinvigorate competition in the tech space.
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The Impetus for Change
Ricketts recently announced the creation of FREESPOKE, a search engine devoted to the free flow of information — without the presence of ideological lenses or viewpoint restraints.
“For years, I felt like the results I was getting from Google and other search engines were coming with a little bit of a bias, like a left-leaning bias,” he said. “And I wasn’t getting results that I expected.”
Ricketts’ concern over the suppression of information led him on a quest to create a tool that “doesn’t try to hide anything” as it serves up search results for its users.
“Our country was built on free speech … this idea, ‘I don’t have to agree with what you say, but I’ll die defending your right to say it,'” he said. “Well, big tech has decided you don’t have a right to say that anymore.”
Watch Ricketts reveal his solution to big tech’s bias:
Diving Deeper Into the Problem
While some critics might dismiss claims of anti-conservative bias or charge these allegations against big tech are overstated, Ricketts said companies like Google do little to hide their suppression on topics like climate change.
His cultural argument at the core of FREESPOKE — and American ideals more generally — is that all views deserve to be heard. Rather than hiding opponents’ perspectives, he encouraged sunlight.
“If someone questions your idea, you should chase it down and try to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong,” he said.
Ricketts also detailed other recent examples of constraints that make a tool like FREESPOKE deeply valuable, including big tech’s well-documented crackdown on COVID-related content.
“During COVID, doctors who questioned our COVID protocols … had their videos taken off YouTube,” he said. “Anybody who questions the status quo gets canceled, and that’s not what America is about; we’re about free speech.”
Ricketts also reacted to some of the purported big tech restrictions on pro-life groups. Live Action, a pro-life activist group, was reportedly banned this week from advertising on TikTok, a video-sharing platform. Simultaneously, Life Issues Institute, a pro-life education group, accused Google of “blatant censorship” over its abortion-themed videos.
These purported moves come on the heels of pro-choice politicians like New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) and others appealing to Google to urge the tech giant to crack down on crisis pregnancy centers showing up in abortion-related Google Map searches.
“It’s a little as scary …. and it’s dangerous when you get into a situation where … an administration and Democratic politicians along with the media, and along with big tech are trying to suppress the free flow of ideas,” Ricketts said. “That’s not the United States of America; that looks something that’s more akin to like what you would expect in Russia or China.”
Ricketts, who also served nearly four years as the finance chair of the Republican National Committee, pointed to other acts of suppression he saw during his RNC tenure, specifically on the email front.
“One of the things we ran into in 2020 is, all of our emails that we sent out to Gmail accounts, 80% of them got put into spam,” he said. “Only 10% of Democrat emails got put into spam on Gmail accounts.”
Inside Ricketts’ Solution
Of course, claims of anti-conservative and anti-Christian bias aren’t new.
Adherents of both groups have long claimed — armed with data and a seemingly endless stream of examples — that the mainstream media, Hollywood, and universities have mistreated them.
Big tech is the latest sphere to be accused of partiality and unfairness.
But rather than advocate for increased government regulation of these companies — something Ricketts opposes — the businessman decided FREESPOKE would be a viable method to increasing competition, which he sees as the true solution to the problem.
“I’m … putting my money where my mouth is and building a search engine and saying, ‘I think that there’s demand for this out there,'” he said. “I have a lot of faith and optimism in the American people, and I think, when the information is put in front of them squarely and clearly, they make good decisions.”
And that’s what FREESPOKE is all about, placing all of the information in front of users rather than parsing out and sanitizing ideological elements and attempting to guide or control a narrative.
A Unique Facet of the FREESPOKE User Experience
One of FREESPOKE’s most unique features is a labeling system that delineates news stories as “right,” “left,” or “center.” Some stories even carry a “pro-China” tag, among others the company is testing.
Each designation helps readers better see the lens through which stories are told. Ricketts said these tags aren’t a collective “panacea” that will solve all informational concerns but will, at the least, help readers understand what they’re consuming.
“When you’re searching for information, [it helps you] know … who wrote that, where they’re coming from, and their point of view, and what they might have written before,” Ricketts said. “It’s just trying to help people sort through all the information that’s out there, and, again, it’s all about coming to your own conclusions, finding the information, [and] educating yourself.”
Ricketts hopes to see his company exponentially grow in the next few years.
“I would like to see ourselves … listed as one of the search engines that everybody has on their iPhone,” he said.
Ultimately, FREESPOKE offers a solution for those sounding the alarm on big tech’s dominance in the informational space. Beyond that, Ricketts’ effort poses a convicting question — and warning — about our willingness to tolerate divergent perspectives.
“Even if you disagree with someone, you shouldn’t be wanting to suppress their ideas because, if you’re willing to suppress someone else’s ideas, I can guarantee you that, someday, someone’s going to want to suppress yours,” Ricketts said.
Find out more about FREESPOKE here.
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