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Social media bow to pressure and censor dissident voices

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | February 27, 2018

Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, accused of enabling US President Donald Trump’s rise to power through “Russian meddling,” are facing pressure to de-platform heretics. This has raised fears for the safety of free speech in the US.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this past weekend, media crusader James O’Keefe headlined an hour-long panel on social media censorship, arguing that it targeted mostly conservatives.

“They really make sure you don’t see any differing views,” O’Keefe said at the panel.

Last week, the blogging platform Medium deleted a number of accounts, including those of Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer, described by The Hill as “prominent far-right figures.” The purge took place after Medium replaced a commitment to free speech in its terms of service in favor of fighting “online hate, abuse, harassment, and disinformation.”

Though Medium would not comment on individual account bans, it is notable that Cernovich’s account was deleted after he was named in a Newsweek article that blamed the “alt-right,” overseas social media bots and “Russians” for the ouster of Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) over sexual misconduct. Newsweek retracted the story after criticism that it could not be substantiated.

A number of YouTube creators have complained that the video platform has demonetized basically anything that isn’t deemed “family friendly,” including political dissent. Another crackdown followed the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, after the top-ranking video on the site featured accusations that some of the students were “crisis actors.”

Yet if YouTube simply censored any videos even referring to conspiracy theories, that would surely present a new problem.  After all, wouldn’t it also undermine efforts to debunk them?

Conservative critics accuse the social media giants of being run by Democrats. There is certainly evidence pointing in that direction, from the involvement of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) CEO Eric Schmidt with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the Obama presidency, to Twitter’s admission it censored the hashtags about WikiLeaks’ publication of revealing emails from Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta in the run-up to the November 2016 vote. Those emails also revealed the commitment of several Facebook executives to get Clinton elected.

After Clinton lost to Trump, however, the three social media giants found themselves in the crosshairs of Congress. Many Republicans joined the chorus of Democrats accusing the social networks of enabling alleged “Russian” activity.

“You created these platforms… and now they’re being misused,” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) told the executives of Facebook, Google, and Twitter during a hearing in October 2017. “And you have to be the ones who do something about it — or we will.”

So far, “doing something” seems to consist mostly of purging “Russian bots,” as identified by the either the social media companies themselves or an alliance of Democrats and neo-conservatives ousted from power by Trump, and now seeing Russians behind every hashtag.

Censorious actions also include what activists call “de-platforming” of people singled out for unacceptable or offensive opinions by the ad-hoc online mobs. For example, after the Florida school shooting angry Twitterati have successfully badgered a number of businesses into canceling discounts they previously offered to members of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Amazon also found itself under pressure to drop the “NRA TV” channel from its platform.

In a recent interview, former Google engineer James Damore speculated that the climate at social media companies have an atmosphere which resembles college campuses. Such locations which have also seen crackdowns on freedom of expression in recent times.

“It was very much like a college campus,” Damore told the Washington Examiner. “And they tried to make it like a college campus where you would live at Google essentially, where they have all your food and all the amenities, and once you start living there you aren’t able to disconnect, and so you feel like my words were a threat against your family. That was part of the fervor, I think.”

Damore was purged from Mountain View over a memo in which he questioned the company’s  practices when it came to diversity.

While the social media companies may hope the lawmakers would be appeased by an occasional purge of unpopular voices, another danger is headed their way: the legacy media, is aiming to recapture its hold on audiences.

On Monday, CNN president Jeff Zucker addressed the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. His thrust was that government should look into Google and Facebook “monopolies” if journalism is to survive.

“In a Google and Facebook world, monetization of digital and mobile continues to be more difficult than we would have expected or liked,” Zucker said, according to Variety. “I think we need help from the advertising world and from the technology world to find new ways to monetize digital content, otherwise good journalism will go away.”

Tempting as it would be to quip about CNN’s tenuous relationship with “good journalism.” At this time, doing so would be self-defeating as the chances are it would get one quicklybe a short-cut to getting purged from Google, Twitter or Facebook.

February 27, 2018 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Too much of this leaves me, an old man and a technological dunce, confused. Is “Medium” a “blogging platform” equivalent to Twitter, YouTube and Facebook? If Medium “…deleted a number of accounts, including those of Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer, described by The Hill as “prominent far-right figures”…,” isn’t that a good thing for progressives/dissidents? How does the use of this information about Medium relate to the subject of this post?–(“…censor dissident voices”).

    What is “Mountain View”? (“Damore was purged from Mountain View….”) Is it a “blogging platform” or is it simply a corporate entity/company?

    I have no idea why “demonetized,” “monetization” and like words are used; aren’t they related to “money”? (Zucker’s words “In a Google and Facebook world, monetization of digital and mobile continues to be more difficult than we would have expected or liked…” really leave me puzzled and frustrated.)

    What is “legacy media” — simply another term for “MSM”? If so, why not just write “mainstream media”?

    This is the only reaction that I can come up with after reading this post: If “Twitter, YouTube and Facebook” are about to “bow to pressure and censor dissident voices,” why doesn’t someone coordinate with Avaaz and ask it to start one of its 2,000,000 (why not 5,000,000?) petition campaigns, targeting “Twitter, YouTube and Facebook” in a demand to stop the pressure/censorship? Wouldn’t such a campaign be just about the only available/feasible tool that common folk like me could sign on to and perhaps prevent or impede an assault on free speech and expression in the social/alternative media?

    Like

    Comment by roberthstiver | February 28, 2018 | Reply

    • Medium is a blogging platform such as WordPress or Blogger.

      Unless Progressives intend to achieve their aims through stifling discourse and adhering to mainstream dogmas, having right of center voices silenced is not “good” but rather should be seen as a threat to any and all.

      Mountain View is a town which apparently has a Google “campus”.

      Monetization is the means to make money from a platform. Internet platforms generate less ad revenue for MSM than print or TV (legacy media) did.

      Avaaz is controlled opposition.

      Dissident thought is under assault because people are rejecting the MSM and opting for independent analysis (with help from RT and Sputnik).

      Video and even audio format is far more influential than asking people to read. So the silencers have started by curtailing Youtube.

      One would hope that the public would categorically reject the propaganda which remains as their only choice for information and seek out the suppressed views but that is probably just hopefulness.

      In the not too distant future video may become something that Aletho News can no longer feature since WordPress does not support many alternatives to Youtube.

      At some point the internet may simply be unusable for dissemination of dissident views period. I myself had a site on Blogger which was arbitrarily (illegally) terminated in 2009 after it was visited by the US Senate Sergeant of Arms office.

      This site is openly crawled by the Canadian Department of National Defense on a daily basis, unlike the US NSA which leaves no calling card.

      Like

      Comment by aletho | February 28, 2018 | Reply

      • Thank you very much — for the time you expended in providing incisive, understandable explication! I do understand and relate to your second paragraph….

        Best of continued luck to you. You are needed.

        I guess I have one final plaintive point: if not Avaaz, how do we (hope I can be included in “we”) kick back? I’ve tried exploiting the electoral process, e.g., by on-the-ground, numerous-months-full-time-exhausting support for Ralph Nader in 2004, and it simply won’t/can’t be made to work given the duopoly’s and all other nefarious forces’ stacking the deck. At some juncture, will violent revolution be the default “solution” to averting capitulation and submission?

        Like

        Comment by roberthstiver | February 28, 2018 | Reply

        • I too worked to have Nader on the 2004 ballot.

          We can’t organize for solutions, whatever those might be, on the internet. As we can see, the internet is exquisitely vulnerable.

          Like

          Comment by aletho | February 28, 2018 | Reply


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