Contributed by Michael A. Youngs
In the months leading up to the 2020 Election, social media giants – think Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – started to let their political bias show. Posts were fact checked, warnings added or removed. Users were hit with account suspensions or revocations.
All in the name of truth.
Throughout history, one side or the other has deemed certain “writings” to be un-readable. Un-publishable. Un-fit for human consumption. And rightfully, some of it was. And is. So why be concerned about this recent “trend”?
A lot of that depends upon the side that you take. If your “side” is the one blocking content you find unappealing – life it good. Wonderful. The world is a better place.
If your “side” is the one being hindered, altered, or blocked, you are apt to cry foul play, scream censorship, First Amendment and anything else you think might be a rallying cry.
But let’s dive a little deeper by going back to the principals upon which our Nation was founded. The Founding Fathers determined that certain rights and freedoms were important. Important enough to incorporate them into the very documents written and implemented as a template for our government – The Constitution and Bill of Rights. Foremost of these is the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This is a powerful, powerful statement! Congress, i.e. government, “shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech”. And who is government? We, the citizens as we elect the government.
But how is social media censorship infringing upon the First Amendment? No written laws are being violated. Congress isn’t doing the censoring. No – in a strict interpretation, it is not being infringed. But is it? If an entity – be it an activist organization, a political party or social media giant, has the power to suppress a line of thought – isn’t that an infringement of First Amendment rights? In my mind it is. And a dangerous one indeed.
History has proven time and time again that a change – be it in society or governing power – can be affected by altering the public perspective. The classic example that is fading from the memories of Americans is Adolph Hitler’s rise to power in pre-World War II Germany. Through careful manipulation of information, Hitler changed the thought processes of German citizens eventually giving him total control. Subtle. Powerful.
Is this happening in America today? I’d like to think not.
But I can’t.
I’m a Conservative. Not necessarily a Republican or Libertarian and certainly not a Democrat. A Conservative. I don’t believe government is or should be the answer to everyone’s problems. I don’t believe in social programs like free college or Medicare for all. I find no reason why we shouldn’t put America first. Are my views shared by all? No. Should they be? Again, no. But my views are being censored. Not by government, but by powers that may be stronger than government. And currently there is insufficient support by government to prevent this from occurring.
And I am not alone. Spend some time in “fringe” social media sites such as MeWe, Parler or Gab.com and you will see post after post of how a person or group has either left Facebook or Twitter due to posts being blocked, followers lost, or they’ve received permanent suspensions. These people and groups are not the dregs of society; these are people and groups that want to express an opinion, question an action or promote a thought or belief. But is not being allowed. Sometimes the action is subtle – a “fact check” that may or may not be factual. Sometimes its hidden – a post is deleted, its exposure limited, or followers ‘lost’. And sometimes it is bold – an account suspended for a period or revoked permanently. And now it has become brazen – entire social media platforms booted off servers.
Should this concern us? YES! Speech is being censured. Viewpoints suppressed. Questions unasked. Criticism eradicated. The President of the United States was removed from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – while he was still in office! Parler, a site of mostly Trump supporters, was removed from Amazon’s servers. Facebook and Twitter are suppressing or removing posts critical of COVID-19 control measures. The same is occurring with posts critical of the 2020 election.
Not concerned because these aren’t your “issues”? You should be. Today’s suppression of Conservatives could turn into tomorrow’s censorship of Liberals. Or Blacks. Or Hispanics. Or Whites. Or LGBTQ+. Or Christianity.
Think this can’t happen? Think again. Post something contrary to Chinese Policy and you will be jailed –
A Chinese student at the University of Minnesota has been arrested in China and sentenced to six months in prison for tweets he posted while in the United States, according to a Chinese court document viewed by Axios. Some of the tweets contained images deemed to be unflattering portrayals of a “national leader.” http://www.axios.com/china-arrests-university-minnesota-twitter-e495cf47-d895-4014-9ac8-8dc76aa6004d.html
But this is China, not the United States. This can’t happen here! No, not now, but with time – and apathy – it can. And will. I’ll delve deeper in what we can do in my next installment.