Is Social Media Presence a Civil Right?

 

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So now it seems a person may be permanently banned by social media, in this case, Facebook, for just appearing in a video with someone deemed  undesirable. That’s not going to work very well for journalists, is it as they are always interviewing, sometimes on camera, people that many people may despise because of their views on a number of topics. Oh, wait! No, they won’t ban these journalists as their ideological positions fit within what Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms view as acceptable. I’ve written numerous times about social media censoring and have stated outright that these are private companies and have ban whoever they want. After a lot of thought and conversation with other people I know and trust, I think that position is simplistic.

People were banned, permanently, and at the time, no one knew specifically why, especially those banned. Some may be people the majority of us don’t care for. For instance, Farrakhan’s page being deleted didn’t exactly bring tears to my eyes but then I thought that he has the right to say exactly what he believes, as long as his language doesn’t fall into exclusionary where he’s actually inciting violence of his followers towards a person or a group. In my view, he’s a nasty anti-semite, but has as much a right to his views as I have mine. Another, Paul Joseph Watson of Infowars, I can’t imagine why he was banned other than his association with them. I don’t have a Facebook account so I have no idea what he’s posted there, but I’ve seen a number of his videos posted on Twitter that are, in my opinion, mostly innocuous. He isn’t angry, or calling for violence against anyone. He certainly doesn’t appear to be dangerous, as was the generic reason Facebook gave for the bans initially.

Conservatives have said for a while now that Facebook, and Twitter, are suppressing speech they disapprove of and most of that are viewpoints of conservatives. The data is anecdotal, but seems to be apparent to anyone that spends any time at all on these platforms. I almost never hear of a liberal or progressive being banned from either Facebook or Twitter, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen regularly. When one of these companies can vicariously suspend or ban an account, without giving the account holder a reason other than they’ve “violated community rules”, or they’ve “violated the Terms of Service”, never saying what standards or terms have been violated, should be concerning to anyone who uses any social media platform  and especially those who are interested in the freedom of discourse, whether we approve of the speech or not.

Today of course, we have a glimpse as to why at least some of these accounts were banned:

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So, one person appeared in a video with someone Facebook designates a hate figure. Another praised the same hate figure. The third supported someone Facebook declares to be a far-right activist. Funny how I never see anyone banned for being a far-left activist. Maybe that was Farrakhan, just to throw a bone towards conservatives. Facebook has decided who and who’s not a hate figure and that we, their customers, are to weak minded to determine for ourselves. They have, as many of us know, have become the gatekeepers as to what is acceptable speech and what is not. That’s a lot of power in my view.

Last night, on Twitter, in a response to a query about what people thought about the recent ban these people people, I responded:

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That sums it up in my mind. But what can be done, if anything to limit the power these companies have over their users? Some have said they’ve become too large and must be broken up. I don’t think that would solve anything, personally as it would then only make a dozen smaller authoritarian platforms. lus, there’s nothing in law, (U.S. law) to prevent them from recombining in another form in the future (think the AT&T breakup years ago and how, later, they started merging with one another). So what is the solution, if there is one? I don’t think we can depend on our government to provide any, and personally, I don’t want the federal government involved because whenever they become involved in anything so sweeping, it ends up being a Rube Goldberg contraption that no one, even the government,  is able to figure out once they’ve built it.

I did see that there is someone proposing a solution. His argument is basically what I said in my tweet above but he couches the problem as a civil rights issue in 2019. His name is Will Chamberlin, a conservative, lawyer, and publisher of the recently relaunched conservative magazine, Human Events. I saw earlier that he had expounded his view on this issue in a Periscope.  That these companies, mega-corporations to be more exact have such a dominant position does allow them to shape any narrative they want. How is this a civil rights issue though? Will argues, effectively, that many get their news and information directly from these platforms. I agree, many do. And as I mentioned in my tweet, it’s easy for them to shape a narrative on any news item simply by promoting a certain story narrative or not. Therefore, the public, the customers of these corporations, see what they are meant to see and those that do not adhere to said narrative, are not promoted or trended.

I’m not sure I see how this can me made specifically a civil rights issue though. It’s not as if  someone is denied food, housing, employment, based on their political or social views on these platforms, but they may be denied their right to voice their opinion in what has become a public square. Will is not advocating that all speech be allowed, unlawful speech, that which would promote or directly incite violence against another should be banned, but because someone may hold an unpopular opinion about anything, should they be exorcised from the public debate? Of course not.

Will doesn’t call for the federal government to become involved, but rather would take the issue to the individual states, to pass laws that forbid these companies from suspending or banning legal speech. Of course, this solution would take a lot of time, years most likely to be able to be even partially (a majority of states) implemented. It’s not a bad idea though and if there were just one state, that passed a law, how long would it actually be before other dominoes fell? I think it’s worth an attempt.

Unless some solution, this one or another is adopted, we’ll continue to see the corporations make the decision of what speech (legal) is allowed and which isn’t.

 

8 thoughts on “Is Social Media Presence a Civil Right?

  1. There are already laws against inciting violence with actions or words. It appears that no person has actually been held accountable for this on social media. I suspect that if that had been possible to do, then the problems we are witnessing now would not have been occurring.

    FB grew so fast and overwhelmed the world. It got out of control a while ago and I doubt that it can be tamed now.

    Problem is for many, FB only supports the more Left-leaning notions, but they are not alone in doing so.

    So, where are the geniuses that would build a well-regulated social media forum, allowing all voices that did not break the law by inciting violence?

    Of course, some idiots are incited to violence by birthday cards… You cannot guard against crazy.

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  2. I’m not crazy about the idea of the government trying to regulate social media companies, but I wonder if that is where we are heading. When some of these companies have monopolies, they have too much power to shape public discourse and limit speech in ways that may be arbitrary or worse.

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  3. There are lots of right biased hoaxes shared on Facebook every day. I know because thats all some people I have exposure to post. I suspect that these social media entities censor some content because they dont want to accept liability for what that content may, in turn, spawn. If a major violent event is linked to a social media cradle, the government will regulate in response. These companies are probably attempting to escape that regulation by regulating themselves. Is it always done effectively and justly? No, but I can see why they would be cautious.

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    • Consider: Facebook, Twitter, et al are currently protected by Federal Law against any culpability based on what an account holder posts. That’s because they declared themselves a “platform”, where people may post what they wish (unless it falls under unlawful speech, also a Federal Statute), instead of a “publisher” who has the right to limit content at will (newspapers, news networks). They are clearly in the latter category by the way they suppress lawful speech. They should be held accountable for that.

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      • I suspect that they are also under considerable pressure from advertisers to maintain a certain image. Your local grocery store doesnt want to be associated with certain types of speech that may reflect poorly on them in the public eye. This can be seen explicitly on youtube. Channels that produce controversial or intolerant content get demonitized precisely because prospective advertisers wish to avoid certain associations. This is in line with the corporate mandate to maximize profits. Im not a fan either.

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  4. If you are not aware of this organization, the National Coalition Against Censorship advocates for all forms or speech, including art. To the NCAC, this is the wrong move and it a way of controlling what we see. I too do not believe in permanent bans. I also think it would be more proper to simply ask for a deletion of an offending post–if there is one, but total bans are not going to lead to intellectual freedom over the long haul. https://skepticreview.com/2018/08/10/its-not-about-alex-jones-national-coalition-against-censorship-weighs-in/

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