We can remember when the left used to accuse conservatives of being prudish censors. Now it’s the left that appears determined to censor speech it doesn’t like. And they appear to have three incredibly powerful allies in their quest: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The CEO’s of those tech giants — Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Susan Wojcicki — routinely describe their services as neutral platforms, fiercely committed to openness and free expression.
“Twitter stands for freedom of expression,” Dorsey once declared. Twitter’s general manager in the U.K. once called it “the free speech wing of the free speech party.”
YouTube parent Google claims that “the flow of ideas and open access to information on the web helps communities grow and nations prosper.”
Zuckerberg told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that Facebook is “a platform for all ideas.”
But lately, these sites are starting to act more like the speech police: blocking, censoring or stigmatizing posts and videos they don’t like under the gauzy notion of improving public discourse or protecting people from “fake news.”
At his Senate hearing, for example, Zuckerberg told Sen. Ted Cruz that Facebook (FB) will ban “anything that makes people feel unsafe in the community.”
He also bragged that his company will soon have artificial intelligence tools to “proactively police and enforce safety across the community.”
Twitter’s Dorsey tweeted in early March that “we’re committing Twitter to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable toward progress.” He also said that Twitter (TWTR) is building a “systemic framework to help encourage more healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking.” Fast Company reports that Dorsey has been personally involved in deciding what Twitter accounts to ban or downgrade.
Late last year, YouTube (parent company, Alphabet) announced that it would stigmatize videos, even if they didn’t violate its terms of service, if it deemed them to “contain controversial religious or supremacist content.” Those videos, it said “will be placed in a limited state” meaning they “won’t be recommended, won’t be monetized, and won’t have key features including comments, suggested videos, and likes.”
Whatever this is, it ain’t “free speech.”
So, just who are the people who’ve appointed themselves as arbiters of what counts as “healthy” or “civil” speech, or decides what is controversial or makes people feel unsafe? Can we count on them to be fair and unbiased judges? You decide.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is a major league Democratic donor. Since 2012, she’s handed over a total of $96,600 to the DNC, according to Federal Election Commission records.
She gave $5,000 to Obama’s campaign in 2012, and $5,400 to Clinton’s campaign. She backed far left Sen. Kamala Harris and has donated money to various state Democratic parties.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey isn’t much of a campaign contributor, at least not monetarily. His last campaign donations were in 2012, when he gave $5,000 to Democrat Richard Carmona in his run against Sen. Jeff Flake.
But Dorsey has been described as “an ardent leftist who has campaigned with radicals like DeRay Mckesson.” And he recently raised a stir after tweeting a link to an article published in Medium, which basically calls for an end to the Republican party and a California-style one-party state nationwide. “America finally needs to take the Republican Party down for a generation or two,” the authors write.
“Great read,” Dorsey said of the article.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg isn’t as easy to pin down ideologically as Dorsey or Wojcicki. He’s given plenty of money to Democrats — including $10,000 to the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, and campaign contributions to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. But he’s also given money to Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Marco Rubio, as well as John Boehner.
Whatever Zuckerberg’s own political leanings, it’s clear that plenty of his employees aren’t nearly as balanced as he is.
Facebook recently blocked the site of two pro-Trump black women — called Diamond and Silk — which has some 1.3 million followers. Facebook told them that their “content and brand” were “unsafe to the community.” Zuckerberg told a House panel this week that “our team made an enforcement error.”
Funny how these sorts of “enforcement errors” only seem to happen to conservatives.
Facebook “mistakenly” suppressed conservative news from its trending topics list until 2016. It’s new algorithm for deciding what shows up in news feeds just happens to hit conservative news sites hardest.
Last year, Facebook blocked a dozen conservative Catholic sites, blaming its “spam detection mechanism. It recently banned an ad for a Catholic university in Ohio because it included an image of a crucifix. Incredibly, Facebook’s reason was that this image — which is central to the Catholic Church — was “shocking, sensational or excessively violent.”
YouTube’s content police, meanwhile, deemed academic videos that express conservative views on Dennis Prager’s Prager U channel to be unfit for general consumption. Various other conservatives say they’ve had their videos shunted off to the YouTube demonetization ghetto. Earlier this year, YouTube moderators deleted several conservative videos and channels across the platform, which YouTube later said were “mistaken removals.” The site most recently took down several gun-related videos.
Conservatives, meanwhile, say that Twitter “shadowbans” their tweets — by blocking them from showing up in followers’ feeds.
The company has repeatedly denied this, but undercover reporters for Project Veritas caught Twitter employees appearing to admit to the practice. And when Independent Journal Review editor Caleb Hull complained that people weren’t seeing his tweets, Twitter admitted that he’d been “mistakenly caught by our spam filters.”
When in doubt, blame the spam filters.
Now, to be clear, we are the first to defend a company’s right to run its business the way it sees fit, even if it means blocking certain people from its sites. And we oppose intrusive government regulation of these companies.
But that doesn’t absolve Facebook, Twitter or YouTube from attacks for their glaring political biases, or their rank hypocrisy about free speech, or for misleading users about what they are and how they operate. Which, come to think of it, used to be called false advertising.