On Social Media, Freedom of Speech Is Under Attack [Updated]

The fact that Facebook and Twitter are the platforms on which political discussion largely takes place, and probably will remain such for the foreseeable future, given the network effects that entrench them, is deeply troubling. Both companies are run by liberals, and free speech is under attack on both platforms.

This story in Entertainment Weekly is a chilling reminder of how little regard liberals–even liberal reporters!–have for free speech:

Facebook executives promoting their video-on-demand service got into a combative exchange with reporters while at the Television Critics Association’s press tour in Beverly Hills on Wednesday. The issue: the presence of right-wing conspiracy site Infowars and Fox News on the social network’s platform.
***
Reporter: One of the most prominent organizations you’re working with is Fox News, and they’re sort of incorrigible about proliferating a lot of misinformation. Can you speak to your reasoning behind that? Why would you want to work with an organization like that when, as you said, you’re trying to limit the spread of false information?

At this, Rick Van Veen, head of global creative strategy at Facebook, jumped in: “Yeah, well, given that we have limited time. I’d like to keep it — Fidji and I don’t lead the news organization. Campbell Brown leads that…”

Another reporter in the background: Answer the question!

“We have limited time —”

Another reporter: We’ll give you time!

Simo: “We have a range of new shows we’re presenting —”

Reporter: But Fox News is still on every day, including the weekends on this programming list.

Simo: “So is CNN —”

This was met by some chortles in the crowd, presumably because they don’t think CNN and Fox News are remotely compatible when it comes to accuracy.

Simo: “We are really trying to show a range of programming that shows the range of the political spectrum.”

Fox News is by far the most-watched cable news channel, but some liberal reporters, at least, don’t think it should be allowed on Facebook. At this press conference, the Facebook executives explained how the platform limits the circulation of ideas that are deemed to be untrue. Most of the people making decisions on what is untrue, or designing the algorithms that identify untruths, are liberals, and all the pressure to squelch speech comes from the Left. So it isn’t hard to predict the direction this is going.

Meanwhile, Twitter has been trying to persuade users that it doesn’t “shadow ban” conservative accounts. Twitter executives Vijaya Gadde and Kayvon Beykpour wrote yesterday:

People are asking us if we shadow ban. We do not. But let’s start with, “what is shadow banning?”

The best definition we found is this: deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster.

We do not shadow ban. You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow (although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile). And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.

But wait! When people talk about shadow banning, they don’t mean making a user’s tweets “undiscoverable.” They mean that that person’s tweets may not show up in your time line, even though you follow that person. The whole point of following someone on Twitter is that people rarely go to other users’ Twitter pages; they see tweets because they appear on the time line. So while Twitter denies shadow banning, its explanation confirms that the platform does, in fact, shadow ban–“you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile.”

That leaves us with this blanket denial: “[W]e certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.” But Twitter also says that it is working on improving the “health” of political discussion on the platform:


Once again, the interpretation of “behavioral signals” and the design that guides “machine learning” are in the hands, overwhelmingly, of liberals. As Ben Shapiro says:

[T]his is the problem: while social media giants like Twitter and Facebook insist that these are just misapplications of their algorithms, the algorithms themselves are completely non-transparent — and mistakes seem to universally hit just one side of the political aisle. There’s a reason for the lack of trust here, and transparency would help cure it. When you take it upon yourself to curate “healthy” conversation, you must define your terms — and all too often, those definitions have resulted in a bias toward those on the Left.

What is currently Twitter’s highest priority? Improving “information quality ahead of the elections.”

One would like to believe that improving “information quality” doesn’t mean promoting liberal tweets and demoting conservative ones. But there is evidence that Twitter is already doing precisely that. Given the complete lack of transparency at Facebook and Twitter, and the fact that both companies are managed and staffed overwhelmingly by liberals, we can only assume the worst.

UPDATE: Another sign of how bad things are at Twitter: “The sweetest woman on Twitter” has been punished “FOR HATE SPEECH”.

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