In the last several months, several high-profile examples of political bias in the management of social media sites Twitter and Facebook have raised the issue of liberal censorship of conservative views online. Everywhere liberals hold political power, conservatives are denied fair access to what are supposed to be public venues. We live in a world where “social justice” whiners can force a public business to act against its owners religious convictions or face bankruptcy. Don’t believe me? Just refuse to bake a cake for a couple of gay activists. You’ll be sued and fined into financial insolvency in no time.
Twitter, in particular, has come under fire for instituting its Orwellian “Trust and Safety Council,” which thought-polices users’ tweets and suspends or “shadowbans” anyone with whom Twitter takes issue. In theory, these measures were enacted to stop an alleged problem Twitter has with widespread “abuse” and “harassment.” In reality, these measures were enacted to stop a problem Twitter has with … well, free speech. In modern society, liberals, leftists and the scions of political correctness cannot abide dissenting thought. So opposed are they to ideas with which they disagree that they cannot even be exposed to them accidentally. Thus our weak-minded college students require group therapy when a gay political conservative speaks on their campus.
This systemic liberal bias in the Internet’s most popular social media sites has been the topic of several Technocracy columns. The most recent salvo in this war by liberals on free speech occurred immediately after Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council was created. Named to this council was infamous feminist activist Anita Sarkeesian. Sarkeesian has made much hay about the supposed “threats” and “harassment” she has suffered. Notably, Sarkeesian has in her own words stated that “harassment” is not merely what is illegal. She defines “harassment” as any criticism at all. Someone telling her she is lying about video games – as her favorite topic of discussion is why all video games are sexist and should be censored – is “harassing” her. Someone arguing with her or telling her she is wrong is “abusing” her.
One such “harasser” and “abuser” was a journalist named Robert Stacy McCain. McCain was suspended after criticizing both feminism and Sarkeesian. He broke no rules; he abused no one. But he is a vocal and popular conservative on Twitter, and that means he is now suspended. His banning triggered the trending of the Twitter hashtag #FreeStacy – before, predictably, Twitter removed the tag from the trending list. Twitter’s management, in fact, constantly manipulates the trending list, hashtags that auto-complete and other functions of the site in an attempt to manipulate what people see. If you have conservative views and become popular enough, if you are not banned outright, you will be “shadowbanned.” This is a type of Twitter purgatory in which you can access your account, but people will not see your tweets, and they will not show up in search results.
Writing about McCain’s suspension from Twitter (suspension is a misnomer, as this is a permanent ban from the social media site, with no legitimate means of appeal possible and only the vaguest of reasons given for the “suspension”), Robert Tracinsk had much to say. “Is this what has come from the Internet’s promise of open and unfettered speech, liberated from the gatekeepers of the ‘legacy media’?” he writes. “Or did we make the old gatekeepers obsolete, only so we could impose new ones? … Part of the revolutionary potential of social media is that it was supposed to allow users to regulate their own flow of information, expanding it, contracting it, filtering it, and policing it as they wished. No longer would a media gatekeeper – for example, the editors of a big newspaper – decide what news was fit to print. You would decide for yourself what you wanted to see.”
Tracinski goes on, “It is an open secret that Twitter is highly capricious in awarding the little blue check marks for ‘verified’ accounts, which gives those accounts an advantage in visibility and gaining new followers. Obscure leftist writers will get their blue check marks while prominent figures on the right will not – or, as in the case of British firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos, have it taken away as punishment for inflammatory views. Yiannopoulos has followed up with reports accusing Twitter of ‘shadowbanning’: surreptitiously restricting the distribution of tweets from users whose ideas some Twitter employee don’t like.”
Tracinski is, of course, absolutely correct. The natural response to arguments of bias in the management of a privately owned website – even one that has become an integral part of our news and infotainment infrastructure on the Internet – is that there is no guarantee of freedom of speech on another’s property. But social media sites like Twitter and Facebook do not bill themselves as ideologically pure platforms. They are not presented as biased territory, where only liberals are truly welcome. They were built, originally, on the concept of public access: Abide by the Terms of Service and you may use the site or app. When those Terms of Service are unfairly applied, a type of fraud has occurred.
While membership to Twitter and Facebook is free, popular Twitter and Facebook accounts are not valueless. A great deal of time and effort goes into building a popular account that is followed by many users. Such accounts have real marketing power. Losing an account like that for arbitrary or ideological reasons means unfairly depriving the account owner of his time, effort and labor. It’s fraudulent, it’s unfair, and it’s not what these social media sites were advertised to be.
If a Christian baker can be made to bake a cake for a gay couple, a social media site can be made to apply its rules fairly. Enforcing a double standard that marginalizes or drives away conservatives and libertarians in favor of liberals and politically correct social justice whiners is not just an attack on free speech. It’s fraud, and the penalty for fraud should be financially decisive. Biased social media sites MUST fail. If Twitter and Facebook won’t enforce their rules fairly, then conservatives and libertarians MUST create a competing social media platform of their own.
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