Social Media: the Ministry of Truth of Our Time

September 5, 2018 Updated: September 7, 2018

Salena Zito posted a teaser and a link to a piece she had written for the New York Post titled “Why Trump’s Supporters Won’t Care About Cohen and Manafort” on her Facebook page in the morning on Aug. 23.

Two hours later, Zito learned from her Facebook friends that the post was removed, because it didn’t follow the social network’s “Community Standards.” The teaser was about Trump voters’ reactions to current affairs. Confused,  Zito tried to contact Facebook and rectify the issue. No answer.

Another 1.5 hours passed. The post mysteriously reappeared on Facebook, as if nothing had ever happened. There were no explanation from Facebook.

On Aug. 24, Facebook sent a tweet to Zito, apologizing to her and blamed the episode on a “glitch.”

But censorship is so pervasive on Facebook that I don’t think its answer to Zito placates anyone. Messages that are pro-Trump , or perceived as such (like Zito’s piece), are not the only thing the social network is itching to ban these days.

All content at odds with the left’s ideologies and sensibilities is at risk. A pro-life ad, by a Missouri judicial candidate, was accused of containing “shocking, disrespectful or sensational content” and rejected by Facebook. A scholar arguing against activists pushing sexual perversion to children was banned twice by Facebook for his “hate speech.”

Even rational criticism of communism—the scourge of our world—is subject to censorship. In early August, Elizabeth Heng, a congressional candidate in California, tried to run a campaign ad on Facebook and Twitter. The ad was rejected by both because it contained footage of Cambodian genocide that the platforms deemed too controversial. Only after a backlash did Facebook and Twitter backtrack.

In comparison, a Facebook page dedicated to communist butcher Che Guevara received 1.6 million likes. It’s unthinkable the social network would remove the page due to a “glitch.”

Educational groups can’t escape from censorship, either. Prager University, a non-profit that creates short animation films on social, cultural, scientific, and religious issues, had its new videos blocked from its followers on Facebook on Aug. 17, including one praising—get this—baseball. (I can only imagine what the punishment would be if someone dares to make a video eulogizing polo.)

Two of the new videos were deleted after being labeled “hate speech” by Facebook. After protest, Facebook said it made a mistake. PragerU is also battling Google/Youtube  in court for throttling its videos.

Who’s calling shots on the ban? Social media like to blame algorithms if they get caught banning or shadow banning perfectly legitimate posts or posters. The algorithms likely search for certain keywords to identify contents that violate their speech codes.

But in Zito’s case, her teaser contained nothing that could possibly be red-flagged. If an algorithm made the decision to remove her post, that points to only one possibility: Facebook posts that are perceived to be pro-Trump are targeted for scrutiny.

If employees are responsible for the censorship, the incidents cited above reflect more poorly on Facebook. One scenario is the employees behaved unprofessionally, allowing their own political prejudices to influence their job. This suggests the company failed to provide adequate employee training.

The second scenario is much worse and, sadly, is more likely to be true. The social network knew what its employees were doing and was completely OK with the bias. The silence of Facebook after the removal of Zito’s post and subsequent surreptitious restoration means that the social network lacks the corporate control to prevent this and that the company probably condones the censorship attempt. The incident also indicates Facebook didn’t have the integrity to face the issue head-on.

Many people use the social networks without realizing the platforms are not the products, but they are. Every move of a user, a post, a search, a mouse click, a picture, tells a little bit of something about the user to the social networks. They then target the user based on his or her viewing habits with ads.

When you use the social networks, you are literally helping the companies make money. With your help, the companies are actively curtailing freedom of speech of some people, while greenlighting posts calling for “white genocide” and “#CancelWhitePeople.” Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

The social media have increasingly become the Ministry of Truth of our time. They are trying to control what you read, what you think, and what you talk about on the internet. Here’s the antidote: delete them. Don’t help them spread hate, bigotry, and misinformation. Don’t help them undermine free expression. Don’t let them have power over you. Without users, the social networks are nothing.

 

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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