There was some sort of good news but also seriously ominous news regarding Facebook’s increasingly brazen efforts to distort public debate and to use its power to restrict free speech. Unfortunately, the good news wasn’t nearly good enough, and the rest might just be the proverbial straw that breaks the metaphorical camel’s back, at least for me.
On the slightly positive side was that the giant social media platform has reversed several instances of content removal after review by the company’s “independent” (I am not convinced how independent it is) oversight body. Facebook’s new 20-member Oversight Board released its first verdicts yesterday, and overturned four of five censorship decisions. Facebook is now allowed seven days to restore the banned content.
But why does it take seven days? It doesn’t really: this is a stall. With time sensitive material, the license just compounds the harm.
Now the board will decide whether to keep former President Trump’s page banned permanently. That should tell us whether the review system is legitimate or a sham with a purely political agenda, for there can be no justification for blocking the words, views and opinions of any prominent national leader, particularly a President, and particularly particularly one who is routinely savaged with twisted accusations every day by the news media and every second by other Facebook users. The Oversight Board will issue a decision in the next 90 days as the ban continues. It’s a another transparent stall. This isn’t a hard call, and if it is for anyone, then that is signature significance for disqualifying bias.
The one case the board upheld involved “hate speech,” which has no objective definition and means in progressive-speak “opinions we don’t like or find unpleasant.” The censored post used a “demeaning slur,” and the board said that “the context in which the term was used makes clear it was meant to dehumanize its target.”
Words don’t dehumanize anyone. Facebook is mixing up sounds with the “The Island of Dr. Moreau.”
The board did reverse the pulling of a post that quoted Joseph Goebbels. The user told the board the intent was to draw a comparison between the sentiment in the quote and the Trump presidency. Oh! It’s an anti-Trump post! That’s all right then. Carry on!
Finally, a post in a French Facebook group relating to Wuhan virus policy was restored. That post claimed there was a cure for the virus while criticizing France’s pandemic strategies. As the user was “opposing a government policy and aimed to change that policy,” and the board held that Facebook had not demonstrated that the post would “rise to the level of imminent harm.”
Facebook’s efforts to try to legitimize systemic restrictions of speech itself rises to the level of imminent harm. Come to think of it, why did I say this was even “sort of” good news at the beginning of this post? I think it must have been that it feels relatively benign in comparison to yesterday’s other Facebook news, which represents one more step in the slow boiling of the frog of democracy by the Left. Yeah, that must have been it.
The chairman for Reform California, a group currently circulating petitions to recall California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom, revealed that Facebook had notified them that the company will no longer accept its ads to publicizing the recall and asking for support. No reason for this move seems to have been provided, and I can’t imagine what a valid reason would be. Facebook hasn’t de-platformed Black Lives Matter and other groups responsible for illegal, destructive and violent acts, but a group promoting a legal recall effort of a Democratic Party darling, permitted under the California Constitution, is prevented from advocating its point of view just as the recall begins to look like it might succeed.
Every critical account of Facebook’s increasingly open bias in favor of a progressive takeover of the U.S. government by any means necessary includes the obligatory “while of course Facebook is free to do as they please as a private company” line, and I am sick of it. Yes, the platform is free to abuse its power and influence and betray the trust of its users while undermining democracy and personal liberties. Parents are also free to be cruel to their children, and the news media is free to promote fake news, and individuals are free to be bullies and assholes. making life miserable for everyone else. The fact that someone or a company can behave irresponsibly, destructively and unethically isn’t a justification, it’s a rationalization.
Facebook is a useful tool for me to keep in touch with many friends and relatives. I would inevitably lose all connection to many of them without the platform’s convenience. I don’t read the ads or news feeds, and I regard those who do as lazy and gullible. Facebook’s original purpose as a benign community network still makes it valuable. However, as the company’s confidence grows that the new Democratic regime will take no action against abuses of Big Tech’s monopolies no matter how much they strangle free speech and political dissent (as long as the abuse supports the Democratic policy goals), Facebook’s eagerness to be part of a slide into totalitarianism makes all of its users complicit in the nation’s unraveling.
I don’t know how much longer I can rationalize being part of that complicity.
Pointer: Red State