Two weeks ago in Technocracy, I shared with you my personal experiences – and those of friends and family – concerning the pervasive and persistent influence of Facebook. The more people use a specific social networking site, the more influential such networks become. When a majority or simply a plurality of people communicate and socialize through a website, those who don't practically cease to exist for those who do.
Now, micro-blogging site Twitter, increasingly a means through which social networkers connect, share news and market (commercially or politically), has announced that it has set its user target at 1 billion, matching Facebook's target. Twitter ranks third among social networking sites – after Facebook and Windows Live Profile, but ahead of the faltering MySpace.
If we accept the volatility in our personal relationships that widespread social networking produces, we must then contend with a stickier issue: that of gatekeeping. A social networking site is a private business entity, at least theoretically governed by its terms of service. There is no guarantee of free speech on another's property. If the ownership or management of a privately owned website chooses to treat its customers unfairly, those whose opinions it deems undesirable can effectively be rendered second-class citizens. If those customers don't like it, they have little recourse but to start their own competing site. When a site is extremely large, competing successfully with it will rarely be a realistic option.
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Just as Google has repeatedly demonstrated a political bias while promoting controversial business practices (from Google Earth's routine invasions of privacy and improperly collecting data wirelessly to retaining users' search data for analysis and unfairly censoring YouTube content), Facebook has been accused of removing accounts associated with the tea-party movement and the Gasden Flag. Perhaps the most prominent of these accusations was made after a notorious conspiracy theorist's official Facebook page was deleted, but there have been others. To lose one's networking page or pages is a bigger problem for dedicated users than you might think.
When a site becomes so popular, so trafficked, that we take it for granted, it becomes part of our social infrastructure. Suddenly the owners of that site become our de facto masters, for as the gatekeepers of access to that site, they control your experience of it. They can reward you with power, such as is the case for those who control and oversee the "public" editing of the international graffiti board Wikipedia – an "encyclopedia" so inaccurate and so biased its entries might as well be spray-painted on beach sand at low tide. If those power-brokers choose to declare you persona non grata, for reasons just and unjust, they simply click a few buttons and make you an unperson to their website's denizens.
This brings us to "Twittergate." In Technocracy on June 24, 2010, I discussed yet again Democrats' willingness to use violence to intimidate, hurt, or even kill all who dare to disagree (while making it illegal to expose their crimes). This Democrat thuggery – which occurs even as the libs wring their hands and lie, vilifying conservatives as vaguely "dangerous" to demonize and marginalize them without specific evidence – has now invaded social networking. Those of you who have dared to express support for liberty and opposition to commie-lib policies on Facebook may think you have witnessed this thuggery, as legions of angry liberals crawl out of your friends lists to chastise you for your thoughtcrime (and your racism, and your insensitivity). What you don't know is that Democrat thuggery online is much, much worse than you realize.
So what was "Twittergate"?
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Glenn Beck's The Blaze reposted a video in which the Democrats were accused of hiring "trolls" to provoke conservatives into saying things that could then be used against them online. Lefties across the Web were quick to point and laugh. "Those stupid conservatives," they tittered (and twittered and tweeted and posted and blustered). "They should just ignore the harassment, the insults and the threats. Liberals would never collude to stop conservative views from airing fairly. It's a conspiracy theory and nothing more." We, as conservatives, can only scratch our heads at how quickly the Journolist scandal – in which a cabal of leftist "journalists" colluded to bias their coverage – was collectively declared a dead story. Had the political aisles been reversed, we'd still be talking about it.
There's really little point in belaboring the libs' hatred for conservatives, whom they view as benighted subhumans. The average self-congratulating Democrat sees conservatives as three-fifths of a person individually; if liberals' dominance of American politics continues, can signs reading "No dogs or tea partiers allowed" be far behind? Wait, that's my mistake; a leftist never says "tea partier" when the vulgar sexual epithet "tea bagger" can be employed instead. But really, is it so hard to believe leftists would conspire to harass those whom they loathe so ardently?
Regardless of whether the melodrama-prone, doomsaying Beck is correct about the conspiracy itself, any conservative who posts to #TCOT or peers, holding his nose, at the flowing river of hatred and filth that is #P2, has seen just how willing are the liberals to visit on conservatives abusive vitriol and even threats of violence. Thanks to a popular culture biased to the left, most conservatives understand on some level that the management of the average social networking site will not side with them in many disputes. Conservatives and libertarians venture into such arenas at their own risk.
The benefits of social networking generally outweigh the costs – and those risks. To be a conservative or libertarian on others' virtual turf, however, is to operate behind enemy lines as often as not. To establish a virtual settlement in hostile territory and then loudly proclaim one's affiliation is to invite the hurled rocks – and rockets – of the liberals' contempt. When we take keyboard in hand and speak of politics in social networks, we must do it with our heads high, our fingers limber and our eyes wide open.