May 6, 2019

Facebook Censorship

We're officially on Insta! Did I throw on a blazer at 5 am for all you lovely people? You bet I did!

Last Friday, Facebook “banned Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones and other extremists, saying they violated its ban on ‘dangerous individuals.’ The company also removed right-wing personalities Paul Nehlen, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson and Laura Loomer, along with Jones’ site, Infowars, which often posts conspiracy theories. The latest bans apply to both Facebook’s main service and to Instagram and extend to fan pages and other related accounts.” AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left generally supports Facebook’s decision, but wants increased transparency about its policies.

“The link between what people say online and what people do offline has never been clearer, and neither has the need for companies to do something about it. Concerns about censorship still exist, and rightly: Governments are becoming more eager to get involved in policing Internet speech, and the most aggressive proposals look especially concerning against a backdrop of authoritarian regimes cutting off access to social media altogether. Firms such as Facebook could also overreach. But so far, they are still only getting a grip on the most dangerous actors.”
Editorial Board, The Washington Post

“Researchers found that [in Germany], in towns where more people use Facebook, there have been more attacks on refugees. In Myanmar, human rights activists say Facebook has been used to fuel a genocide against the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority group. The government of Sri Lanka blocked Facebook last year, saying it was being used to foment violence, and shuttered the platform again after terrorist attacks last month. The man who massacred worshippers in two New Zealand mosques in March used Facebook to document his actions. And many in India have blamed numerous launchings on hoaxes spread on the Facebook-owned platform, WhatsApp. So Facebook is clearly going to need to crack down on many more accounts to do its part to reduce these acts of hate.”
Kara Alaimo, CNN

“In a political culture where ideas turn into tribes of like-minded people in internet silos, untouched by alternative views, protesters on the left and right seem to be dangerously content with marching into other people’s events, shouting or chanting a few slogans and walking out. ‘Propaganda ends where dialogue begins,’ philosopher Marshall McLuhan wrote. Social networks can’t police everything that is posted on their platforms, but when they see something that poisons that dialogue, they have not only a right but an obligation to remove it.”
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune

Critics, however, note that Facebook “didn’t specify how these accounts had violated the platform’s policies. Instead, a spokesperson told multiple outlets that the company has ‘always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,’ which was a bit tough to swallow, considering these accounts have been spewing hate for years—and many, many hateful accounts remain on the social network…

“The lack of transparency is so troublesome because Facebook’s content moderation processes aren’t only applied to famous racists. For years, black users on Facebook have been forced to navigate the platform’s mercurial enforcement of its speech policies. It’s become so routine for black activists to get suspended when they complain about racism that it’s become common practice in activist communities to create backup accounts and use slang… to dodge the company’s content moderation algorithm… Unless Facebook applies its rules consistently and transparently, people with an agenda will find a way to come crawling back to find their fans.”
April Glaser, Slate

Trump's “goal, it seems, is to put so much pressure on Tehran that it has no choice but to completely change its behavior — but he could end up leading the countries to the brink of war in the process… Now is typically the time when cooler heads prevail, but it’s unclear if there are cooler heads around… It’s hard to overstate how avoidable this situation was.”
Alex Ward, Vox

“In theory, there’s no reason why a bad businessman can’t go on to become a good president. But a commander-in-chief whose signature legislative achievement expanded tax loopholes that he himself describes as grossly unfair is pretty much a bad president, by definition.”
Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

From the Right

The right, while not defending the opinions of the banned individuals, argues that Facebook should allow all speech permitted under the first amendment.

From the Right

The right, while not defending the opinions of the banned individuals, argues that Facebook should allow all speech permitted under the first amendment.

“Why should Louis Farrakhan be allowed to use a telephone to spread his hateful message? Why should anybody sell him paper — or a pencil, for that matter? Think of the damage he might do with them… [Supporters of the new policy] have helped to establish the norm that our public discourse is to be moderated by the social sensibilities of the Fortune 500’s chief executives and their boards of directors. Laugh all you like at Alex Jones. He is a kook. But Facebook, and other online platforms, are not going to stop with him.”
Kevin Williamson, New York Post

“The issue isn’t whether the people in question deserve censure. They do. Or that the forms of speech in which they traffic have redeeming qualities. They don’t… [but] do you trust Mark Zuckerberg and the other young lords of Silicon Valley to be good stewards of the world’s digital speech?...

“What happens with the harder calls, the ones who want to be seen publicly and can’t be swept under: alleged Islamophobes, militant anti-immigration types, the people who call for the elimination of Israel? Facebook has training documents governing hate speech, and is now set to deploy the latest generation of artificial intelligence to detect it. But the decision to absolutely ban certain individuals will always be a human one. It will inevitably be subjective. And as these things generally go, it will wind up leading to bans on people whose views are hateful mainly in the eyes of those doing the banning.”
Bret Stephens, New York Times

Many argue that “the professional irritants expelled from Facebook aren’t equally ‘dangerous’. Milo Yiannopoulos is about as dangerous as a plastic spork. Laura Loomer protests, with good reason, that she hasn’t breached Facebook’s terms of use. Paul Joseph Watson’s speech, from what I can tell, is mostly harmless, and his dubious material falls well inside the speech that Facebook wishes to protect: statements that are ‘wrong or inaccurate, even when they are offensive’. The only conclusion is that Facebook has banned them not because they lie, but because their lies are the wrong ones, told from the wrong political perspective.”
Dominic Green, Spectator USA

“It’s important to remember that Facebook users have an advantage that we don’t enjoy offline. They can mute or block toxic voices. If someone is offending you in a classroom, on the quad, or in the cubicle next to you, there is no mute or block. You must ignore or engage. Online, however, you can entirely curate your feed and remove everyone you don’t like… when activists call for bans, they’re frequently not asking to be personally protected from offensive expression but rather demanding to give you protection you may not want…

“I understand Facebook’s desire to rid itself of terrible speech, especially given the rise of online hate. But when considering how to deal with the worst ideas, it’s prudent to rely on principles of free speech and common law that have served America so well for so long. Facebook has a right to invent its own rules, but perhaps it’s better to exercise that right by deferring to the wisdom of the past.”
David French, National Review

Some argue, “It stands to reason that if Kim is willing to starve his own people, deprive his economy of any growth, and pour billions of dollars into missile tech, he will, at some point, develop weapons America and its allies mastered decades ago. And short of an invasion or a diplomatic agreement, under the present circumstances, there is very little we can do to stop him… Taking a hardline approach—what many call the ‘big deal’—or only granting sanctions relief after full denuclearization and the end of Kim’s missile programs is completely impractical and something North Korea would never agree to… only a step-by-step process of disarming Pyongyang, where each side gets a benefit for making a concession, will work.”
Harry J. Kazianis, The American Conservative

Others posit that “the reason Kim is developing missiles that can strike Seattle or LA is that 28,000 U.S. troops are in South Korea… If we cannot persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons in return for a lifting of sanctions, perhaps we should pull U.S. forces off the peninsula and let China deal with the possible acquisition of their own nuclear weapons by Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan…

“After an exhausting two weeks [between North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and others], one is tempted to ask: How many quarrels, clashes and conflicts can even a superpower manage at one time? And is it not the time for the United States, preoccupied with so many crises, to begin asking, ‘Why is this our problem?’”
Pat Buchanan, Townhall

Counterpoint: “after the War of 1812, President Madison… enacted the Tariff of 1816 to price British textiles out of competition, so Americans would build the new factories and capture the booming U.S. market. It worked. Tariffs [also] financed Mr. Lincoln’s War. The Tariff of 1890 bears the name of Ohio Congressman and future President William McKinley, who said that a foreign manufacturer ‘has no right or claim to equality with our own… He pays no taxes. He performs no civil duties’… [A tariff’s] purpose is not just to raise revenue but to make a nation economically independent of others, and to bring its citizens to rely upon each other rather than foreign entities.”
Patrick J. Buchanan, The American Conservative

A libertarian's take

“The scoop reflects poorly on Trump, who willfully misled the public for a decade in hopes of fraudulently representing himself as a man with a Midas touch. But he could not have succeeded without the assistance of many Americans, some mercenary, others over-credulous, who helped to spread the deceit and deception, generating countless newspaper articles, magazine stories, and TV segments that misinformed the public about the publicity hound’s record in business. New evidence of his staggering losses in that decade therefore provides an apt occasion to reflect on the media’s complicity in Trump’s brazen deceit and deception… Let [this] be a lesson for today’s tabloids, gossip columnists, over-credulous or mercenary journalists, and reality-television producers.”
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

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