Social Media Censorship
(Culture,Politics)
Noferblatz (29 May 2020 08:37:09)

If you've been on social media in the last few years and been paying attention, you've likely noticed that the social media giants have taken it upon themselves to "curate" the content on their platforms. I use the word "curate" because it's more innocuous than the reality, which is censorship.

I remember back when these platforms started. They were just glad to get content from you. All of them relied on your interaction. At the time, whatever you posted stayed up. But these platforms had concerns about their liability. What if someone posted something truly heinous and the platform got sued for allowing it to stay up? Considering the amount of traffic on platforms like Youtube and Twitter, there was no way to examine every input to measure it against some set of rules.

So these companies sought and were given protection under section 230 of U.S. Code. They couldn't be held liable for content posted by others. This effectively made them like the telephone companies, who don't censor your phone calls, despite whatever nasty things you might say.

This seemed like a fine solution at the time. Unfortunately, the law was poorly written. Like many laws, it was vague on some points which became important later.

And somewhere in the last decade or two, these companies got it into their heads that they should modify things like search results, follower counts, and even remove content and channels where they believed it was deleterious. There was sort of an unofficial agreement that things like pornography and the like should not be allowed on these platforms. It was clear such things were universally bad. And somehow the definition of "bad" began to generalize. And now it's come down to what these companies disagree with politically.

In case you're not aware of it, Silicon Valley is chock full of leftists. It would be nice to think that these people could make decisions without bias and without reference to their own political opinions. But as it turns out, they cannot. And like most leftists, they have a penchant for wanting to remake the world to conform to their vision of what it should be. That inevitably means telling you what you should do and think. And when applied to social media platforms, it means censorship.

Even companies not particularly thought of a social media companies are getting into the act. Our favorite search engine, Google, has unapologetically tweaked search results in favor of their political views. Google's original motto was, "Don't be evil", now changed to "Do the right thing". When I first heard about this, I wondered aloud who would make the determination about what was "evil" or "right". Apparently Google themselves, which means they can do anything they like. And they have.

Right now, the Trump administration, provoked by the censorship of Trump and the complaints of thousands or millions of users, is taking action to force these platforms to either act like publishers (which they are now, and which allows them to be sued), or as "common carriers", where they must accept all content but are free from liability for it.

No one has any idea where this will go, nor whether it will solve the problem.

Personally, I'm an advocate of free speech with virtually no limits. I'm perfectly willing to have the loony "flat earthers" promote their viewpoints on social media. Apparently, the social media sites agree with me. But I also think that folks who see conspiracy in the way COVID-19 has been allowed to shut down our economies should have a say as well. Apparently, the social media giants disagree on that one.

One point, though. When a company comes out with a motto like, "Don't be evil" but never defines what "evil" is, it's a red flag. When a law is passed which doesn't specifically insist on companies acting like common carriers in order to proof them against lawsuits, it's a red flag. There have been numerous red flags raised in this arena in the last two decades. And they've simply been ignored until now. The time to handle a red flag is when you first notice it.

Going forward, we should pay more attention to such things and take immediate action when we see them.

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