Opinion: Sorry to get back on the soapbox again but sometimes events occur that are out of our control. Recently there have been lots of groups and individuals who have been getting their accounts deleted on social media.
Recently our parent site, NEWSREP had their Instagram account deleted. While at times some social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al. will delete certain posts which they feel were offensive but in the case of this, the entire account was deleted. It wasn’t a suspension. It was a deletion…permanently.
The only explanation given was the usual drivel that they included in an email. “Your account has been deleted for not following our terms,’ said the email. ‘You won’t be able to log into this account and no one else will be able to see it. We’re unable to restore accounts that are deleted for these types of violations.’”
Supporters of NEWSREP were screaming about the First Amendment being violated while some of the site’s detractors rejoiced over it. And NEWSREP has plenty of both because unlike the vast majority of news sites today there is no inherent bias.
Jack Murphy, who is a lightning rod for criticism from individuals from some of the same units he served in, will never “take the party line” in stories that won’t paint his old units in the best of light. He’ll write about what he sees, good, bad or indifferent. But that is a story for another time. But the same people cheering for NEWSREP’s ban would have a cow over some site that they enjoy being banned. Notice I never used the word hypocrisy there…
While Instagram, like other social media sites, is picking in choosing who they decide to act against, is it a true First Amendment issue? Granted a vast majority of banned sites are conservative or military-related but in reality, this censorship isn’t a First Amendment issue. Why is that, you ask?
Calling it true censorship is a misnomer because there is no such thing First Amendment speech while using sites owned by private companies. However much we don’t like it, it is true. Just like at work, you have the right to exercise your right to free speech about any political cause or issue outside the doors, but inside your place of work that doesn’t always hold true. And in the case of these social media sites, their censorship and skewed sense of fairness is simply the price of admission.
We live in the Age of the Internet and these social media giants have no compulsion, legal or otherwise to stop them from deleting or blocking what they deem as “not following their guidelines.” Your freedom of expression is limited to being allowed to say what they say you can. Does that sound like censorship? Of course, it does. But there is a big difference between the government shutting down a person’s right to expression and a company not willing to put up with your version of the truth.
For people who work in the media, this is extremely problematic. Because if you want your message out there, the vast majority of people are watching and reading on social media. Facebook has 2.7 billion users worldwide. Instagram users top 1 billion today. While arguably the worst social media platform, Twitter has about 326 million people who frequent it.
So if you want your message heard, you have to use these and other social media sites. To cut yourself off from them or to have them cut you off of their platforms is basically the kiss of death for your business.
So are social media platforms allowing an equal and fair expression of thoughts and ideas? That’s laughable. But it is a double-edged sword because you can’t live without them today. Imagine trying to release a breaking news story without using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et.al.
The companies make all of the right noise about claiming to protect everyone’s right to free speech but in reality, there are no real guidelines, other than the biased views of the owners of each site.
Social media platforms have banned people like Alex Jones and Louis Farrakhan for their extremist views and most people rejoiced at seeing them go. But while the social media companies have the right to ban them, but banning isn’t the answer. And while many Progressives were rejoicing at Jones’ banning, they’re losing sight of the simple fact that this can come back to bite them.
What if some very conservative media types invent a new social media platform that becomes all the rage. And they begin to ban or censor more liberal trains of thought? Banning people and thoughts can be a slippery slope. Of course, there are and always will be exceptions to the rule. If someone is advocating the murder or killing of anyone, regardless of their stance on any political or social issue has no argument for remaining.
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
Personally, I can’t stand a lot of what I hear and read on the internet these days. But I choose to click somewhere else. Banning people isn’t the answer. And while Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can be an absolute sewer at times, they are a necessary evil and yes, we’ll be posting the links on them as soon as we publish.
Am I mad over this unwinnable situation? Of course. But is there another way to survive in the media? Right now no. So you log on and slog on and “do the best you can.”
“Hey did you the crap that ____ just posted on Twitter? There ought to be a law.”