The big social media companies Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube recently stepped up what appear to be co-ordinated campaigns of censoring people on their platforms. They took down videos of doctors talking about issues related to COVID-19, including the use of hydroxychloroquine medication. President Trump used his Executive power to take the media companies down a peg, canceling their legal immunity, should they continue to censor users on the basis of their legal political views.
Censoring the doctors and anyone who dared to publish video of their press conference was one of the most egregious open displays of bias by the companies. It was “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” in a long line of attacks on legal free speech by those companies and their out-of-control “fact checkers.”
How They Censor Users
Some time ago, twitter started applying a “shadow ban” to some users – mostly conservatives. A shadowban effectively nullifies the person’s twitter account, artificially reducing its reach, and preventing open discussion.
This would appear to be an invalidation of twitter’s mission statement to enable “a free and global conversation.”
“To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers. Our business and revenue will always follow that mission in ways that improve – and do not detract from – a free and global conversation.”
– twitter mission statement
That is part of the reason they tried to hide the fact they were doing this to people – primarily conservatives. The other reason the might have hidden it is that congress had given them a get-out-of-jail-free card, shielding them from lawsuits because they were effectively a public square, not a publisher.
By shadow-banning people, and now taking down content they don’t agree with, they act as a publisher, not a public square.
Politicians Weigh In
Conservative congressmen have been complaining for some time about unfair treatment against conservatives. Most of those being censored appear to be conservatives, and the congressmen and the president have been subjected to their censorship.
Speaking about the power held by social media platforms, Congressman Devin Nunes said, “Congress gave these guys special powers so they could create companies so the people could go and use the internet – it was supposed to be an open public square. As long as they were following the law, they can state their case, and participate in that public square.”
Explaining how this relates to the current round of censorship, Nunes said, “What’s happened here is that Google, Facebook and Twitter are partisan hacks for the Democrat party.”
Last week, the group of doctors mentioned earlier held a press conference in Washington D.C., to talk about censorship around a coronavirus treatment they have been using in their practices, or that they have been researching. The mere mention of the name of the medication, hydroxychloroquine, caused twitter, facebook and youtube to take down all videos showing the press conference.
NewsBlaze was also subject to similar censorship via facebook in the weeks prior. Our story that factually reported the findings of a doctor in his own practice, with his protocol for COVID-19 was opposed by facebook. They artificially reduced the reach of sharing on that story many times over the next week, but they were only partially successful.
Other doctors have successfully used that same protocol, an inhaled cortico-steroid used early on. That safe medication fights inflammation in the lungs for asthmatics, and according to the doctors, inflammation brought on by COVID-19.
That story still managed to be shared more than 1.1 million times before facebook almost completely shut down sharing of it. The facebook censors are hurting more people by preventing open discussion.
Social Media or Tyranny
It seems these companies are trying to become something other than what they started out to be. That something could be tyrants, dictators, jailers. They definitely are not doctors, because doctors don’t punish their patients for holding a conversation about something they don’t agree with.
If the social media companies prefer to be publishers rather than an open public square, they obviously don’t need the protection afforded to the public square. They can’t be both at the same time.
So President Trump wrote an executive order, clipping their wings.
Here is a relevant paragraph from the executive order:
“Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube wield immense, if not unprecedented, power to shape the interpretation of public events; to censor, delete, or disappear information; and to control what people see or do not see.”
Even worse than censorship is what the president labeled “selective censorship,” in which twitter took one side in the political debate.
“Online platforms are engaging in selective censorship that is harming our national discourse. Tens of thousands of Americans have reported, among other troubling behaviors, online platforms “flagging” content as inappropriate, even though it does not violate any stated terms of service; making unannounced and unexplained changes to company policies that have the effect of disfavoring certain viewpoints; and deleting content and entire accounts with no warning, no rationale, and no recourse.”
Political Bias at Twitter
Tweets from some twitter staff clearly show their political position, pointing to where the apparent bias against conservatives comes from.
Conservative actor James Woods, who had been banned from twitter previously, tweeted this:
“If you ever wonder about political bias in Twitter’s algorithms or among their senior staff, take a look at tweets purportedly posted by the ‘head of site integrity’ at Twitter.”
Non-Hater Canceled For Hate
Twitter isn’t the only “social media” company attacking people they don’t like. The quote above from the executive order notes that the companies engage in “deleting content and entire accounts with no warning, no rationale, and no recourse.” This is what youtube recently did to Stefan Molyneux, a Canadian philosopher with almost a million subscribers, 3700 videos, 300,000,000+ views, and billions of comments, created over a 14-15 year period.
Youtube, owned by Google, completely deleted his account. No warning, no real explanation. Molyneux just disappeared.
While youtube took action against Molyneux, some channels that spread hate and advocate violence remain.
In the video below, Stefan Molyneux explains what youtube did to his channel several times over the course of a year. Just as with others whose channel was crippled or deleted, Molyneux had no warning, no hint that there was a problem with anything he said. His huge channel just disappeared off youtube.
Although many in the media labeled Molyneux “a white supremacist,” he clearly is not, and a scan of any of his work shows that. The takedown of his channel is a clear example of censorship for his views, which were never hateful, never mind illegal.
The Executive Order
The executive order also foreshadows the reduction or removal of government advertising money being spent on censoring platforms.
One paragraph in the EO clearly sets out clarified US policy linking censorship to the loss of legal liability.
“It is the policy of the United States to foster clear ground rules promoting free and open debate on the internet. Prominent among the ground rules governing that debate is the immunity from liability created by section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act (section 230(c)). 47 U.S.C. 230(c). It is the policy of the United States that the scope of that immunity should be clarified: the immunity should not extend beyond its text and purpose to provide protection for those who purport to provide users a forum for free and open speech, but in reality use their power over a vital means of communication to engage in deceptive or pretextual actions stifling free and open debate by censoring certain viewpoints.”
To read President Trump’s remarks about the companies’ “political activism” on announcing the “Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship,” click here.
Attorney General Barr
Attorney General Barr noted that there is bipartisan political concern that Section 230 “has been stretched way beyond its original intention.” It was created to allow free speech while not allowing illegal speech such as promotion of human trafficking, child pornography or other illegality.
Ag Barr said, “This was adopted 25 years ago to protect a fledgling industry, and its purpose was to allow websites that were serving as, essentially, bulletin boards for diverse third-party content coming on, to say that you’re not responsible for the content of that third-party information. And it also tried to encourage these companies to take down things like child pornography or human trafficking advertising and things by saying, if you act to remove this kind of objectionable material, you won’t be liable for taking it down.”
Brendan Carr, an FCC commissioner says “we need to see more speech, a diversity of ideas.” Carr has even received death threats on twitter, from twitter accounts written in Chinese language, but those tweets and those accounts have not received any action from twitter.
Asked by radio host Joe Pags what to do about this, Carr said, “I’ve laid out a path forward where we can bring more accountability more tranparency and more user empowerment. … I think we can take some light touch action that can improve the situation.”
Carr says that it isn’t only conservatives being affected by the social media companies, but “conservatives are disproportionally affected.”