Facebook And Instagram Leap Down The Slippery Slope To Thought-Policing

Facebook has banned right-wing activists Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer, Joseph Watson, white supremacist Paul Nehlen,  Jones’s company, Infowars, and  Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

And yes, it is unethical. And frightening. The irony is that Facebook says that the ideas promoted by these mostly fringe figures are “dangerous.” Nothing any of them say or write are anywhere nearly as dangerous as promoting censorship based on content and political viewpoint.

It doesn’t matter that all of the political and opinion figures Facebook banned from its two social media platforms are assholes, bigots and hate-mongers—I can’t say for sure that all of them are, since I only bump into any of them when I take a wrong turn on the Information Superhighway, as Al Gore liked to call it. I can say for sure that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan meets that description, just as I can say for sure the media spin that he is “right wing” is ridiculous. If he’s so far right, why have so many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including the only-recently resigned co-chair of the Democratic National Committee, met with him, posed with him, and generally given him legitimacy?  Barack Obama posed with him too, though that photo was stored in the media memory hole until he was safely elected President.

Oh, I get it: only conservatives spread hate, ergo Farrakhan must be a right winger.  I suspect that the real reason Farrakhan was on the initial list of banned users was so Facebook could claim, when challenged, that it wasn’t just banning  advocates for the far right.

Progressives and their allies need to get their stories straight.

Let me get back to the first sentence: for a major source of communication in our society to permanently censor anyone based purely on the ideas and opinions they advocate is unethical, and is a serious threat to freedom of expression in the United States.

The measure, for example, provides legitimacy to the campus fascists who threatened, and sometimes delivered violence when Yiannopoulos was invited to speak on campus. Presumably Facebook is endorsing that  conduct: after all, the students were only defending themselves from “danger.” Facebook’s censorship also encourages the Orwellian trend on campuses to conflate smug comfort within an ideological bubble with “safety.” Students across the country are demanding that faculty members be fired and speakers silenced because their very existence —they espouse non-conforming views, you see—makes them feel “unsafe.” If professional trolls like Yiannopoulos make you feel unsafe, how does an articulate, rational conservative advocate like Jordan Peterson, Glenn Reynolds, Victor Hanson, or Justice Alito make you feel? I would presume terrified, since they might actually prevail in some of their objectives.

Alex Jones told The Washington Post that Facebook’s actions were “authoritarian’: as usual, he was inarticulate. The word you want, Alex, is totalitarian. This is where the American Left is trending, and its Big Tech arm is all in, as this episode shows.

“The timing is never an accident,” Angelo Carusone, president of the leftist propaganda organization Media Matters said. “The reality is, people are getting killed. There are mass shootings and mass murders that are clearly being connected to ideas like white genocide, which are fueling radicalization. The conditions have changed. When you have these massive catalyzing moments that are connected to real-life consequences, it puts pressure on Facebook and others to look in the mirror.”

There are people getting killed in Venezuela thanks to “dangerous” ideas like  socialism, but I don’t see social media platforms banning most of the Democratic Presidential field or Rep. Occasio-Cortez any time soon. Every day I read on Facebook repeated false narratives equating a red campaign cap with a KKK hood, leading to various forms of assault against law-abiding citizens going about their own business. Why aren’t those posts regarded as ” massive catalyzing moments that are connected to real-life consequences”?

That’s easy: because Facebook feels it can abuse its power to dictate what is and what isn’t speech that can be “safely” communicated. Maxine Waters spreads hate. Adam Schiff spreads hate. The Southern Poverty Law Center spreads hate. Bill Maher spreads hate. Stephen Colbert, Maizy Hirono, Charles M. Blow, Rachel Maddow and Tom Perez spread hate.  Why is their hatemongering “safe”?

Come on, it’s obvious! It’s because they are encouraging hatred of the right people, te ones who deserve to be hated! Try to keep up.

Every now and then the ACLU retreats temporarily from its new role as a partisan advocate to return to its actual mission, and this was one of the times.

ACLU staff attorney Vera Eidelman said in March, when it was clear that Facebook was considering becoming a national censor,  that “every time Facebook makes the choice to remove content, a single company is exercising an unchecked power to silence individuals and remove them from what has become an indispensable platform.” Eidelman told NPR that nothing is stopping Facebook or other platforms from using that same power to censor content on other topics, such as abortion rights or climate change. Yes, that is the slippery slope all right. Of course, if you are in favor of abortion on demand or the dictatorial government powers required to enact the “Green New Deal,” Facebook using its power that way might not bother you.  “For the same reason that the Constitution prevents the government from exercising such power, we should be wary of encouraging its exercise by corporations that are answerable to their private shareholders rather than the broader public interest,” she said.

Yeah. Wary. Twitter, Google, Amazon, YouTube and Apple are also deciding what kind of ideas they will allow Americans to express. That’s conduct, and that’s dangerous conduct. They, and not the idiots they have banned so far, are the real, active threats to democracy and freedom.

22 thoughts on “Facebook And Instagram Leap Down The Slippery Slope To Thought-Policing

    • Oh, nothing as violent as actually burning the books – after all, Amazon controls the main distribution platform for books, which makes it easy to just digitally disappear the books. Better for the environment, too!

      • Andrew wrote, “Amazon controls the main distribution platform for books, which makes it easy to just digitally disappear the books.”

        But digitally disappearing and burning books might seem similar in some ways it does not make the very public intimidation statements that burning the books does.

        • Wouldn’t a press release announcing “the listed individuals have been banned from (insert platform here) because the ideas they promote are dangerous” create the same chilling effect? Just like a good old-fashioned book-burning, it sends the message that anyone else who engages in wrongthink could be next.

          • Andrew,
            I don’t think there is any real equivalence to the psychological effects on the public viewing a press release about a book ban vs an active physical burning of the books. One is simply a ban by someone and the other is permanent physical destruction that particular pile of books, destruction is “violence”, no one can ever get those particular books ever again they are gone forever, the psychological impact would be vastly different. Why do you think the Nazi’s publicly burned books, it’s because burning books is outright intimidation in a violent way – fire is violent, the emotion from that will stick with people.

            • Personally, I suspect the Nazis publicly burned books instead of banning ebooks because the internet didn’t exist at that point.

              Humor aside, I agree with you – the actual physical burning of books is, on the face of it, more impactful than removing an ebook from distribution, or deleting a YouTube channel. Rather than equivalent in immediate impact, I view these actions as similar in ultimate outcome. Certainly the end goal is the same, isn’t it?

  1. Jack, I couldn’t agree with you more. However, I find myself despairing, because there’s really no way to stop the ride and get off at this point – it seems we’re no longer poised at the top of the slippery slope; rather, we’re hurtling down towards the mud pit at the bottom, and our imminent arrival seems to be a foregone conclusion. What’s the ethical way to address the problem here?

    • What’s the ethical way to address the problem here?

      -Learn all you can about how FB, Google (Youtube), Twitter, etc. use their “services” in pursuit of global surveillance & power. The books Surveillance Valley & The Pentagon’s Brain is a good start.

      -Take a digital break for at least 30 days (and make sure to get a replacement hobby) and learn more about how these services change our brains & socializing. The book Digital Minimalism & 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You are insightful.

      Consider emphasizing real world relationships by refusing to communicate with loved ones (or enemies for that matter) on FB, Twitter, etc. Question if it’s worth it to trade quick communication though platforms you don’t believe are socially & mentally nourishing, for having a phone conversations or face to face conversations.

      In other words- get off social media, evaluate its role in your life, get a good hobby, and get a life.

  2. You forgot about the banks. Chase is closing the accounts of prominent conservatives. New York State is using the power of their Attorney General to deny banking to gun stores, the NRA, etc. MasterCard is now going to consider blacklisting conservatives to deny them credit card access. Many conservatives use direct credit card payments because PayPal, Patreon, and others already have policies against conservatives.

    This is the Chinese Social Credit system at work. This system is now openly supported by at least one Democratic candidate for president.

    http://tennesseestar.com/2018/11/19/democratic-2020-candidate-wants-government-sponsored-social-credit-system-comparable-to-chinas/

    https://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/techwatch/alexander-hall/2019/05/02/mastercard-vote-over-financially-blacklisting

  3. Again, when the CEOs of these tech companies are getting hauled before Congress to hear about how disappointed lawmakers are at the lack of censorship on their platforms, and what a shame it would be if something were to happen to those platforms, we can no longer pretend this is purely a matter of private action by private companies.

  4. Facebook et all have kind of worked themselves into a corner. The more you curate the content that goes onto your site, the stronger the argument is that you’re responsible for it. Why did you ban this account, but not that account? Why is this content OK, but not that content? Do you endorse these views? What do those blue checkmarks really mean?

    There are groups pushing the government to consider regulating social media, there are other groups pushing for first amendment-like rules to apply to social media, and all of that has the Mark Zuckerbergs and Jack Contes of the world pissing themselves. Moves like this, in my opinion, are more of a “please Mr. Government, oh please don’t regulate us” than an actual statement of ideals. It tries to walk the tightrope between all the groups; pulling some of the more famous “aggressors” off the market while leaving the vast majority of users alone, and throwing a lefty into the mix for the thin veneer of impartiality.

    • HT, it is good to hear from you.

      I think we are past the point of these companies being afraid of government. I think they are in full on totalitarian mode now. Too many instances have come to light from internal memos, etc. showing that this is how they really feel.

      Progressives never take into account that the rules they use will eventually be applied to them.

    • HT, if you search “Zuckerberg calls for regulation” or “Jack Conte calls for regulation” or “Jack Dorsey calls for regulation”, you’ll find that the chiefs of Facebook, Patreon and Twitter would like regulation very much. And could they please set the terms? Perhaps in ‘partnership’ with various governments?
      Such regulation would protect the incumbent companies, raise the cost of entry for competitors, and insulate the established from lawsuits and random legislative buffeting by smaller government entities.
      Facebook seeks to consolidate it’s position; Twitter may want to become a per se utility, since there appears to be no path to profitability through either advertising or subscription models; Patreon is a failed business model wasting investor money on a pivot towards ‘creator services’, but the press loves to get a quote from their CEO, Jack Conte.

      • They flipflop around the topic, but they never just say, “We want to you regulate us, full stop.” it’s more of a “We see regulation as inevitable, and would like to run it”, mixed with a generaous helpiing every now and again of “I don’t think government regulation is necessary.” It’s inconsistent, and it’s confusing, but if you look at the trend, what happens and in relation to what, more often then not they act as though they want to continue running their own shows.

    • Not only is this censorship consistent with their ideological totalitarian views, it also is the only way they can ensure their continued dominance. What happened to Excite, to MySpace, to AOL? That is happening to Google and Facebook and Twitter. New platforms will come in and supplant them unless they can get some kind of regulation to prevent it. Censorship works just fine. The current proposal the Democrats have considered in Congress requires Congress to approve the ‘mission statement’ and ‘hate speech’ policies of any new internet service. Of course, all new services will be denied as long as the existing companies continue to support the Democratic Party.

  5. I’ve said this elsewhere but I do see this as an extension of government control of free speech.
    The government (mostly Congress here but those in waiting too like E Warren) finds speech it doesn’t like. And whines and complains about. Says dumb things to signal to its base. Then it summons the offending distributor like FB and says “Nice little business you got there. We were wondering about regulating it (or in Warren’s case splitting the Internet giants up like old Ma Bell and Standard Oil) and maybe looking at how you do this and that”.

    And then wow, FB does what the Feds or any other level of government can’t do directly. It censors the critics and speech that the members have been complaining about.

    Gee, I wonder why? Another paranoid conspiracy theory?

  6. The solution to this is eliminating all IP protections for base communication platforms. This will open up opportunities for competing communication platforms.

  7. This is one problem is can see with our constitution, actually. It’s a document designed to place limits on what actions the government may take, but it bases the justification for that limitation in that the rights are inherent to the individual. Therefore, it is only functional as a limit on the government, but the rights themselves need to be protected from attacks from any avenue.

    It does no good for the government to allow bearing guns if all gun and bullet manufacturers are driven out of business, or if stores selling them are closed by angry mobs. What good does it do us to be safe from searches and seizures if Verizon and apple will simply hand over the information on our behalf? Our 5th amendment rights dont mean much if Facebook and Twitter are happy to parrot our words and thoughts and speculations to the judges and juries if we want them to or not?

    If the creator has endowed each of us with the inalienable right of speech, and the constitution prevents the government from infringing upon that right, then if I cede permission to place boundaries on that freedom to others, I’m a fool. Especially since those who are opposed to people having those rights have demonstrated time and again that they will happily use governmental, social, moral, economic, educational, intellectual, and artistic manipulation to limit it.

    Ultimately, it’s up to me to protect my own rights. But it won’t change unless we all start protecting our own rights, and there’s no real way left to organize that kind of mass resistance. Or a clear foe to rally against, for that matter. It’s concerning.

    • Nicely said. I have had to go out of my way to avoid just FB and Twitter as I saw the mob from the start. I have missed some opportunities in my fields, and I regret that, but ‘I am number 6 and I am not a monetization.’

      I was on Tumblr briefly, but it ended up being a shallow time-suck that I rarely visit. Youtube is a recent time drain, I have been following free-speech and anti-progressive issues there with channels like ‘Computing Forever,’ ‘ComicArtistPro,’ and ‘MindlessEntertainment.’ (I won’t call them conservatives, as most are much further left, but don’t like thought police) Not even interested in the other social media, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do what I want- why look for more ways to waste time?

      I’m actually getting encouraged when I see counter trends in a pocket This rot seems to be hitting everywhere at once and such a Golden Rule violation is invisible to them…

    • This is why I ended my relationship with FB. That is one of the costs of privacy I have no problem paying

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