Over the past few weeks Facebook has deboosted or outright banned links to my WordPress blog posts, including this one. My articles covered:
- A proposed Constitutional amendment
- A movie review
- Writing your local politicians
- Religious persecution of Christians in colleges
- A podcast recommendation
Nothing hateful or racist. These articles used the following tags:
At first, I was unaware anything was amiss. Then I heard about deboosting from a former software engineer at Facebook. Deboosting is when Facebook hides your post from the public without informing you. Huh, I thought, that’s censorship. Conservatives like Steven Crowder have been deboosted.
Then, Facebook sent this message when I tried posting links to my last two articles.
The first time it happened I was ecstatic that a Facebook algorithm deemed me dangerous and offensive enough to be lumped in with Steven Crowder. But I immediately began looking for a Facebook alternative and signed on Diaspora.
In the process of requesting a review of my post to make it visible to others, I discovered that several previous posts had also been banned but without the instant Community Standards message – so I did not know they were blocked. I had been…deboosted!
The second time I was censored, I again rejoiced at the coolness of a banned post, then I worried. I really wanted others to read and be helped by my articles.
The incident reminded me of these words.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.-Pastor Martin Niemöller
I never thought censorship would affect me; I’m not famous or influential and this is the freakin’ 21st century! This is the US of A!
Why is my viewpoint less worthy of being heard than a feminist, a college student, a superhero movie reviewer, or a cosplay blogger?
Why worry about censorship?
People in communist countries are aware their governments censor information and monitor their activities; they must be careful to avoid being arrested or worse. But Americans think they’re seeing all the information available. If that is not so, private companies should identify themselves as liberal mouthpieces and we can make up our own minds, weighing the truth and accuracy found therein.
Censoring a viewpoint you don’t like – not a hateful one or a defamatory or harassing one, only one you disagree with – is the first step to outlawing free speech, as in Canada (anti-bullying law) and the UK (where you can be jailed for making insults, real or perceived under Section 5 of the Public Order Act of 1986).
Problems with censorship laws:
- Who decides whether harm is intended?
- Often, there is not even a person being bullied or insulted just the potential to insult or bully.
- These laws could be easily used to silence unpopular ideas or government critics.
- Giving a law enforcement officer the power to arrest you over immaterial words (having no physical proof) creates a tremendous opportunity for abuse of power.
Curtailing free speech is a dangerous, precipitous action for democracies to take.
After free speech laws come free thought restrictions (i.e., he said this but he meant that), then we’re cowering in our homes and spying and reporting on our neighbors for faster internet and clean water credits (be honest, people would do this in a heartbeat). Rowan Atkinson’s stirring free speech speech is here. The transcript is here.
Knowing that you only have part of the story is the story.
Sure, Facebook and Google are private companies that can do whatever they want, they’re not the government. But don’t you want to know what you’re getting? When you walk into a religious bookstore you know the selection is limited, the same as an Adidas store without Nike or Reebok items. Without hearing other ideas and views, you are shopping in a one-brand store unawares.