Social media networks have abandoned a core service, which is providing a free and open forum to share our views. In exchange, sites like Facebook, YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify earn major marketing revenues selling commercial advertising.
The social media controllers claim they all decided to target, suppress, and now ban, sources of violent hate speech – as they define it.
On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Twitter imposed a week-long suspension of alternative news reporter Alex Jones’ personal account. The next day, Jones’ website and broadcast studio Infowars (“There’s a war on for your mind.”) was also suspended. The accounts may be used solely for browsing, but there will be no tweets or retweets – It all sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it?
Apple started it all when they announced last week their corporate decision to target Alex Jones and Infowars. An Apple spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, which first reported the removal:
“Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users…We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”
Naturally, Apple executives ultimately decide what is respectful and what is not. Quite honestly, they don’t care about your opinion unless or until you stop buying their products and services. You can, therefore, vote with your wallet.
Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify followed suit to Apple’s corporate leaders. They banned Jones and Infowars from their social media platforms, citing hate speech as the reason.
What is all the hullaballoo about Jones and Infowars anyway? What did he do that was so player-hating? Here’s a succinct list from the National Public Radio show “All Things Considered” which aired August 11, 2018:
“Democrats running a child molestation ring out of a D.C. pizzeria, the Sandy Hook shooting staged with child actors, a Parkland school shooting survivor is like Adolf Hitler.”
That’s it? Really?
Even listeners who don’t agree with or like Jones and his InfoWars sense that an all-out ban is an extreme action, which feels unAmerican.
Earlier this year, on April 26, the House Judiciary Committee on Filtering Practices of Social Media Platforms considered matters like “Facebook’s alleged censoring of conservative discussion and viewpoint, such as ‘dangerous to the community’ videos by Donald Trump supporters and YouTube stars Diamond and Silk.”
It is essential to make the distinction that suppression of speech on privately-owned social media platforms is not, technically, censorship because private entities (individuals or corporations) cannot censor – only governments can. Fine. But many people who use free social media accounts find the practice of suppressing independent points of view to be repugnant.
Make no mistake about it: social media corporations owe their individual account-holders nothing. When you sign up for a Facebook account, you agree to give away your rights to everything you publish there to them and their third-party vendors to use or abuse – unless some exploitative feature has an opt-out setting and you take the time to configure it. The private owners of Facebook and other social media platforms control the information spigot. Just as they turn on your free account, they can – and will – turn it off if you post material they deem offensive for some reason. That’s why it’s free – as in no cost.
Conversely, the social media controllers need account-holders to provide all that free content for other free-account users, all of whom are cash-happy marks for greedy advertisers. Some of these profit-driven marketers were caught earlier this year stealing Facebook user data without the knowledge of the social media executives (or so they claimed).
At the same time, Facebook has learned the hard way what happens when you apply left-wing bias disguised as “community standards” to user posts. Their stock (ticker FB) has plummeted twice this year, in late March (when the Cambridge Analytics data and privacy scandals broke) and late July (after their disappointing Q2 earnings report was released). In the five days between July 25 and July 30, FB shares fell from over $218 to $171. After a $10 rally in early August, share value has fallen back to the prior low, closing at $173.80 last Friday, August 17, 2018.
Facebook’s earnings report for the second fiscal quarter of 2018 reported weak earnings with higher costs expected ahead to defend what’s left of their tattered brand. FB stock set a record loss for a single trading day on Thursday, July 26, 2018, dropping in value almost $150 BILLION. You can bet that shareholders are not happy about that little investment in a company pledged to promote public trust and confidence.
Facebook users are upset by politically biased prioritization of news feeds and plans to expand AI (artificial intelligence) in flagging content. Some are opening accounts on rival platforms like Minds, Ello, and Diaspora, to name a few.
Social media giants who become self-declared dictators may find that users simply do not groove to that tune.
If you think life without Facebook or Twitter is unimaginable, perhaps you are too young to remember life before any of them had even been conceived? Corporations are easy come, easy go.
As for users who have been sent to “Facebook Jail” or banned from some other social media site, a muzzled dog still has legs.
And these dogs have wallets, too.