Nick Clegg, Meta’s (that is, Facebook’s) president of global affairs, announced that Donald Trump’s Instagram and Facebook accounts would be reinstated after more than two years of being unethically banned from both platforms, while Twitter, as we now know, was doing likewise for partisan and ideological reasons. Trump was still President of the United States when Facebook censored him, and this late capitulation to what Meta must see as a slow shift in public perception doesn’t mitigate or erase that misconduct at all. We can’t trust these people, and they are very powerful. They helped, eagerly helped, advance a party’s anti-democratic agenda, and will undoubtedly try to find ways to do so again. But they can’t be effective propagandists if not enough people trust them. That’s why Clegg said,
“The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot boxBut that does not mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform. When there is a clear risk of real world harm — a deliberately high bar for Meta to intervene in public discourse — we act.”
And who is Nick Clegg, or any Big Tech honcho, or anyone, frankly, to decide what mere words create a “risk of real world harm”—and is that “real world harm,” or “real world harm”? The guy can’t even avoid being ambiguous while explaining his company’s standards, and that’s no accident. Suppressing speech and political expression thrives in ambiguity. Any speech that doesn’t cross the line into criminal fraud or incitement as defined in statutes does not cause either “real world harm,” or “real world harm.” The suppression of speech by biased, often ignorant, corrupt intermediaries does cause harm. But if the prevailing metaphorical winds shift again, Clegg and Meta/Facebook will censor Trump again, or any other perceived threat to the divine progressive agenda. Count on it. Continue reading
I posted that idiotic thing above on Mark Zuckerberg’s Monster after reading that the Fake Australia conspiracy was a “thing” among flat-earth types—you know, morons. Although I yield to no one in the strength of my conviction that stupidity lies wide, long and deep upon this nation (see today’s earlier post), there must be limits, so I shared it with my alleged Facebook friends with the question, “Is it possible that some people really believe this?” while adding that my sister honeymooned in Australia, or at least I thought she did. Facebook promptly slapped this on my post and took it down.
Assholes. Continue reading
This isn’t an ethics quiz. It’s not ethics commentary. This is clearly an ethics episode, but, frankly, I’m exhausted. I’m fighting some kind of flu (no, not Wu-Flu); I have a pile of half-begun and half-thought out ethics stories on a cyber-pile, and I just feel overwhelmed and depressed. So I’m just going to present this weird event from the public [NOT ‘pubic,’ as I typoed once again] school chaos, and I invite readers to explain what ethics issues they see here.
For the latest edition of the NPR’s podcast “Planet Money”, Shale Meadows Elementary School third grade teacher Mandy Robek was scheduled to read books reading “The Sneetches” to her class as part of about the theme of economics education from in children’s books. Amanda Beeman, the assistant director of communications for the Olentangy Local School District (in Ohio) prepared for the segment by choosing books from the school’s library. The district had stipulated that politics were off limits for discussion. “Pancakes, Pancakes!” by Eric Carle; “Put Me In The Zoo” by Robert Lopshire; a poem from “Where The Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein, and “The Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss were ultimately read to the class. Well…almost.
You know “The Sneetches,” right? Published in 1961, the story is about a community of long-necked birds that all look identical except that some have stars on their bellies and some don’t. The Plain-Belly Sneetches are traeted by the rest as inferiors, so entrepreneur Sylvester McMonkey McBean sells them stars so they can aspire to be Star-Belly Sneetches.The Star-Bellied Sneetches, resenting the intrusion on their select domain, then succumb to a scheme to have them pay to remove their natural stars. Now the once- Star-Bellied Sneetches will be Plain-Belly Sneetches, and can look down on the former Plain-Belly Sneetches all over again. Meanwhile, supply and demand makes the local capitalist rich.
“I don’t know if I feel comfortable with the book being one of the ones featured,” Beeman was heard saying on the podcast during the middle of “The Sneetches” reading by the teacher. “I just feel like this isn’t teaching anything about economics, and this is a little bit more about differences with race and everything like that.” As if on cue, a third-grade student soon piped up, “It’s almost like what happened back then, how people were treated … Like, disrespected … Like, white people disrespected Black people!” Continue reading
Looking on the bright side, it’s heartening to know that after all these years, the United States is still less censorious than our cousins across the pond.
Two British radio stations ( Heart FM and Magic Radio; the BBC is said to be considering following their lead) have censored a line of Johnny Mathis’s song “When a Child Is Born” because of listener complaints that it is “racist.” On the recording of Mathis’s Christmas song that he introduced in the Seventies, the African-American singer speaks about the significance of Jesus’s birth:
And all this happens because the world is waiting–waiting for one child…black, white, yellow, no one knows. But a child that would grow up and turn tears to laughter, hate to love, war to peace, and everyone to everyone’s neighbor. And misery and suffering will be words to be forgotten forever.
What’s the racist part, you well may ask? It’s “yellow!”
“Black”‘s OK for blacks, thought they aren’t really black, and “white”‘s fine for whites, but “yellow” is racist. What is the vernacular for Asian skin-tone, then? Wait, is calling Donald Trump “orange” also racist? Who can keep up with these rules. much less the floating, ever flexible definition of “racist.” What an amazing word: it’s there anything it can’t do? It’s like duct tape or Silly Putty! A black singer speaking about how skin-color is irrelevant can be racist!
That’s Isaac Asimov above, expressing his doubts that attempts at vocabulary restriction by totalitarians actually works.
I don’t think the ethical issue is whether efforts to “compress” language are successful. The issue is what the effort tells us about the people and institutions who make those efforts. The latest is Stanford University.
Stanford’s IT department released an list x of “harmful language” that it wants erased from the school’s websites, and, by extension, campus discourse.The list is an outgrowth of the “Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative,” which aims to “eliminate” words that may be deemed “racist, violent, and biased.”
The IT department’s censorious document is a mess, a mixture of apples, oranges and passion fruit. Some of the words and phrases marked as unacceptable are rude and archaic. Others are completely innocent as well as useful, condemned because they might have been used somewhere, sometime, by someone in a derogatory context.
“The mainstream media can’t risk covering the Twitter Files. If they admit rampant collusion between govt agencies and Twitter, they’ll have to inquire about Facebook, YouTube, Apple, Google. The whole censorship regime would unravel. Better to pretend nothing’s happening!”
—-Conservative scholar and author Dinesh D’Souza, via Twitter, of course.
Whatever one may think of D’Souza, and wherever one may fall in the partisan divide, I don’t see what other explanation there is for the stubborn, self-destructive refusal by the mainstream media to acknowledge what the Twitter files’ reporting by Matt Taibbi et al. has revealed. (Once again today, the New York Times contains no mention of the issue at all.)
It’s a mass, extended Jumbo. Continue reading
This week, three Democratic members of the House, Adam Schiff, André Carson, Kathy Castor, and Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, sent a letter on Congressional stationery to Meta’s President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg, urging, pushing and pressuring his company (Meta is the re-branded Facebook parent) to continue to block former President Donald Trump from communicating his opinions, positions and thoughts. The entire letter’s text is below.
It is a smoking gun. Sure, the letter isn’t exactly official, and yes, the four Democrats do not say they speak for Congress as a whole, and yes, it isn’t technically a First Amendment violation, because there is no law involved, and the signers of the letter have no immediate power to make Meta do anything. The letter however, carries an intrinsic veiled threat, and its message is clear: “We can’t censor Trump, so we want you do do it for us.” That is a disgusting violation of the spirit and intent of the First Amendment, making it shockingly clear once again how little respect this corrupted party has for basic individual rights, and how far it is tilting in the direction of totalitarianism. I’m anticipating the sound of a large BOOM emanating from downtown D.C. when Professor Turley reads the letter; presumably he will find it as disturbing as I do. Imagine a similar letter to a major network urging it not to cover the speeches of a prominent critic of Democratic policies, and to ban him from being interviewed as well. I see no substantive difference.
(Just to be clear: “election denial” is protected speech, and Democrats have engaged in it frequently and freely for 20 years.)
The letter follows…It is addressed to Nicholas Clegg President, Global Affairs Meta,1 Hacker WayMenlo Park, California, and begins, ” To Mr. Clegg”:
1. Wow. The mainstream media is really determined to die on this hill. It really believes that if it pretends that there is nothing sinister, undemocratic or dangerous about how a bunch of snotty, self-empowered progressives conspired—and succeeded!–to manipulate public opinion, access to information and public discourse to advance a partisan agenda, eventually everyone will forget about it as if it didn’t happen. This is exactly the approach it took with the Hunter Biden laptop story in the first place, and clearly, it has learned nothing and changed nothing. Bury, deny, and “It isn’t what it is” are still the tactics of choice. And they are certain that the public is, most of it anyway, lazy, apathetic, gullible and stupid.
That, they may be right about.
2. However, this unforgivable attempt to deny an important news event indicts the media as much as the Twitter files indict Twitter. I find it impossible to believe the virtually unanimous reaction to this story hasn’t been coordinated. Continue reading
“Ultimately, the concerns about Twitter’s efforts to censor news about Hunter Biden’s laptop, blacklist disfavored views, and ban a president aren’t about the past choices of executives in a social media company. They’re about the power of a handful of people at a private company to influence the public discourse and democracy.”
I’ll have observations of my own tomorrow. For now, let me just post a readable version of the fifth Twitter stream to describe the unethical, destructive and despicable censorship and double standards that Twitter employees engaged in, a blatant and undeniable effort by people who had neither the acumen, judgment or objectivity to pursue their own agendas at the cost of open discussion, argument and dissent.
As before, you will have to go to the source to see the many fascinating attachments: Continue reading
Just as Ethics Alarms was flagging the frantic efforts among the left-biased news media and others to deny the obvious and accurate implications of Twitter’s Hunter Biden laptop story censorship—the social media platform deliberately used its power to mislead the public and bolster Democrats— New York Times refugee Bari Weiss dropped the next metaphorical shoe, reporting on more newly released Twitter documents that show its pre-Elon Musk regime was “creating blacklists, preventing disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limiting the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users” and all based on an anti-conservative, pro-progressive agenda.
I can’t wait to see how The Washington Post, Phillip Bump and TechDirt apply Yoo’s Rationalization (“It isn’t what it is”) to muddy the issue this time.
Bari Weiss revealed her conclusions from studying the evidence sent to her by Twitter Avenger Elon Musk in a Twitter stream like the one employed by Matt Taibbi in the earlier revelations—you know, about how the Hunter Biden laptop facts were censored, which the New YorkTimes, Washington Post and the news networks shrugged off as “a nothingburger” because it was “old news,” Hunter Biden didn’t matter, and the laptop story wouldn’t have changed the result of the election anyway, so who cares if was censored by Twitter, and yes, them too?