Censorship, no matter the context, motivation, or definition, is an inherent evil. It alone poses a direct threat to Democratic principles far more serious than even shadowy characters seeking to kill or maim through terrorism.
In 1150, Saint Bernard of Clairvoux wrote “L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs” (hell is full of good wishes or desires). There is no underlying virtuous rationale that justifies seeking to control the thoughts and expressions of others. The campaign to promote false or fictional social constructs like “hate speech” is nothing more than a cleverly worded attempt to appeal to a sense of “justice” that relies upon the Just World Fallacy. If this were a Just World, these things would go away and we could all be happy. However, reality is much less eutopic. Justice, for it to work properly, needs to be not only blind, but her scales need not be thumbed one way or another.
The censorship occuring in Social Media is a slippery problem. While I am, and shall continue to be very much opposed to unwarranted government over reach in industry, I cannot honestly say that some serious discussions need to happen between legislators and the unelected thought police in Silicon Valley.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram have taken it upon themselves to not only determine what we see, hear and say, but now who can say it. Now before you give me the typical leftist trope of “private business has a right”, let me say…I’m well aware of the limits to our 1st Amendment. However, this trend presents unique problems for that argument.
At it’s core, the movement to eradicate “hateful or abusive speech, conspiracy theories and fake news” is nothing more than an active assault in the hopes of controlling our social conscious.
I find it funny that the very things the folks at FB, Twitter and the like hope to eliminate seem to get free publicity with every new deplatforming purge.
To take a step further, this campaign of totalitarianism, in it’s inception, is an insult to our collective intelligence. Despite these platforms having ample tools to self monitor the things we see, hear, or experience, ie block, ignore, mute, the Giants of Industry, who have never been elected into the role, have assumed the judgement seat with the intent to decide for us what’s worthy of our consideration. To make matters worse, these determinations are completely arbitrary, with no established hard fast rule, and they are made with no effort whatsoever to avoid bias. This is a recipe for disaster.
While yes, it’s very true that social media is and has been fertile ground for fake news, conspiracy theories and propaganda, it’s only fair to say that the nature of user-created content is not subject to the same level of due diligence and fact checking or professional and ethical standards we used to expect from traditional journalists. It’s also fair to say that the loonies and shady characters pushing these narratives are the exception rather than the rule. These things have a unique way of self correcting. Typically, the loonies are relegated to the category of grocery store tabloids, and not taken seriously by the vast majority of intelligent people. Interference by the thought police only legitimizes and promotes these narratives and gives them traction.
In essence, Silicon Valley is creating the golem they hope to destroy.
Unfortunately, there is no neat, tidy solution to this very real problem. We don’t live in the world of television shows where the issue is addressed, debated and resolved in 43 minutes between ads for orange juice and Viagra.
It’s high time we begin serious debate about a functioning Digital Bill of Rights. The abuses by corporate boardrooms on the American people will only get worse if it remains unchecked. What we have seen so far has been akin to racketeering under the protection of a system that has yet to enter the digital age.
So, if a love for liberty and freedoms is something you possess, get off your ass and call your Senators and Representatives.
In my next installment, we will examine the spread of corporate censorship into other industries, and the dangers we face at the bottom of that slippery slope.
As always, you can find it via Project FreeSpeech exclusively at NewMediaCentral