As for them:
Twitter and Facebook candidly play political favorites. They censor ideas and content on the right while permitting countervailing ideas and thought on the left
Events of last week compared to events of last summer drive this home. Social media has been clamping down on complaints about a stolen election, to the point now that Facebook says it will censor all references to “Stop the Steal.”
Meanwhile, Twitter has altogether banned the President of the United States from its platform. Their justification for this is that his tweets threaten our country.
In contrast, neither Twitter nor Facebook banned Antifa or Black Lives Matter last summer when they were actively advocating the overthrow of the government. They chanted “No USA at all” and “Burn it Down” as they attempted to do precisely that. They failed, so far, but they did kill and maim a number of people and destroy billions of dollars in property.
I personally condemned the violence in DC last week and also the violence in Portland, Seattle and elsewhere last summer. But since when does a private company such as Facebook or Twitter have the right to control what people merely say? Who made them the arbiter of the First Amendment?
I realize of course that the First Amendment does not usually apply to non-governmental action. But social media today functions more like a public utility such as the telephone or electric company. We would never tolerate the electric company telling us what pixels we can create using the electricity we buy from them, or the telephone company telling us what we can say over the phone.
Notably, this social media censorship of Trump has been condemned by the governments of France, Germany, the UK and the EU, where they’re not Trump fans and usually not as protective of free speech as in America.
The social media and other tech companies tend to act suspiciously in concert. A little social media startup called Parler began offering a censor-free alternative to Twitter recently. But then Amazon shut off their lights with the flick of a switch by terminating their cloud storage. About the same time, Apple took their app out of Apple Apps and Google took them out of Google Play. Without cloud storage and without user apps, no such company can last a day.
These big social companies are evil. Dictating what people can say is undemocratic, censorious, arrogant and autocratic. It’s stunning that they do so not with compunction, but delight.
Meanwhile, they’re collecting quite a file of information on you and me. They know what we like, what we see, what we read, who our friends are, what we buy, what we do in our free time, and whom we plan to vote for. They even know all about our children and pets.
As for us:
Social media brings out the worst in us. Without face-to-face discourse, people feel invincible. Cloaked in anonymity, they say things they would never say in person. It’s like the difference between someone who cuts you off on the sidewalk and someone who cuts you off in traffic. The first encounter will probably produce an “excuse me” from both parties while the second encounter will probably produce horn-honking and bird-flipping.
People on Facebook routinely name-call, curse and insult one another. There’s little real discussion. It’s just a cafeteria food fight. People who are mostly normal in other settings exhibit the emotions of toddlers coupled with the profanity of sailors.
That may be unfair to both toddlers and sailors. Many Facebookers seem to actually enjoy dropping into a thread with their flamethrowers blazing. They remind me of drivers with lives so little that they go out looking for excuses to honk their horns at other drivers they imagine have committed some traffic infraction.
For that, we can’t blame the platform. It’s not Mark Zuckerberg’s fault that we as his content creators create content that would be considered vile if only it weren’t so juvenile. No, the fault is ours.
This is destroying our culture. It’s coarse, divisive, degrading and injurious. I’ve personally unfriended hundreds of Facebook “friends” over the last week who seem to think the way to rebut my position that the DC riots were wrong is to type in upper case letters things like, “YOU JUST WANT TO S*** JOE BIDEN’S C*** !!!!” (For the record, that thought which was apparently uppermost in the mind of the person who left the comment, had actually not occurred to me.)
We’re better than this. Let’s get off Facebook and Twitter, get a life and reclaim our culture and civilization. And let the authoritarian, censorious, data-collecting, Peeping Tom billionaires find another line of work.
Post Script: This is my last column that I’ll post on Facebook. If you or your friends want to read my stuff in the future, you’ll need to subscribe to my column by sending an email to theAspenbeat@gmail.com or accidentally run across my stuff on various sites that often link to it.
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