Voice Suppression

free speech, walled gardenOn this holiday Monday I was lolling around in bed flipping through websites on my phone.

Over at Drudge I came across the fact that Apple and Facebook had taken down pages and podcasts from Alex Jones on the basis that they constituted “hate speech”. Apple’s spokesperson said,

“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.”

Facebook was a bit more specific, the pages were removed “for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies.”

I have no interest in Alex Jones per se – my own sense has always been that he was crazy rather than dangerous – but I was interested in Apple and Facebook both denying him access to their platforms. Something which, as private companies, they are entitled to do.

I then had the interesting experience of watching the brownshirts of the liberal left engage in the silencing – in a very noisy way – of a young black woman.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

These children were not really protesting what Miss Owens was saying so much as her mere existence as a young, female, black, conservative.

The idea of silencing people you disagree with rather than actually engaging with them and debating the points they raise is gaining traction on the left because, in the face of Trump, they have really run out of arguments which hold any appeal for the broader public. Yelling, blowing whistles, banning and mobbing opponents are all tactics suggesting desperation.

And no one is more desperate than the dwindling, ragtag army of global warming/climate change believers. Concern about climate change is fading fast in the US (and, more slowly in the rest of the world) and those pesky, heretical, skeptics seem to have begun winning the policy debate. So, what to do?

Media Matters knows: “Zuckerberg has expressed concern about climate change, arguing last year that the U.S. should not pull out of the Paris climate agreement and noting that rising temperatures are melting the glaciers at Glacier National Park.

But he is not using the immense power of his platform to halt misinformation about climate change. To the contrary, Facebook is enabling and disseminating climate denial on multiple fronts. In addition to the problems outlined above, the platform helps bogus climate stories to spread — like a hugely popular climate-denial storyfrom YourNewsWire, a fake news site that Facebook refuses to ban even though fact-checkers have debunked its stories at least 80 times. And one of Facebook’s most high-profile scandals involved handing user data over to Cambridge Analytica, a shady political consultancy that has close ties to fossil fuel companies and climate deniers.”

For outfits like Media Matters yelling at Facebook to ban opinion they do not like is a very effective strategy. They are taking the street tactics of the little Antifa brownshirts and aiming to silence dissent. They are well aware that the climate scare message is floundering largely because alternative perspectives are being offered. Rather than trying to address those alternative perspectives, leaning on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube to have those perspectives silenced is an effective strategy.

It worked with Alex Jones so why won’t it work along other vectors of wrong think?

The power of entities like Facebook and Twitter and YouTube rests on their capacity to deliver audiences to content. Unfortunately, any number of content providers have succumbed to the temptation of larger audiences and have started publishing their content directly on these platforms. Which, of course, means accepting the Terms and Conditions these private companies impose. And if these Terms and Conditions are interpreted to exclude particular points of view, well, tough nuggies.

A more robust – and realistic – approach is to publish content on websites which you actually can control and relegate FB and Twitter to their proper place as publicity machines for your content. It is not, of course, a perfect solution – after all, ISPs and my pals at WordPress have their own Terms and Conditions – but it takes away a good deal of the power Facebook, in particular, has accumulated over public discourse.

I suspect, over time, FaceBook will go the way of MySpace and cease to have much of a role in the public square. Were it not for Trump, Twitter would already be on the downslope of public popularity. However, the promise of the internet in allowing dissident voices to be heard, can be destroyed if those voices voluntarily walk into the walled gardens of Facebook or Twitter or Apple. The good news is that there is nothing which compels anyone to stay inside Facebook’s walls.

Time to #Walkaway.

 

 

Advertisements
Tagged ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: