In response to Who’s Afraid of Christians?
It is a rare, rare, rare day when I disagree with Jonah.
On Twitter we’ve been going back and forth on whether it would be a good thing for a social-media network like Facebook to attempt to weed out and crack down on “fake news.” Jonah asks, “What’s wrong with starting with the easy stuff: Say, Ukrainian or Macedonian websites that clearly have no reporters in the US?”
I just have no faith Facebook would keep it at “the easy stuff.” This isn’t theoretical. We already know how loosely and arbitrarily the people running the world’s biggest social-media networks define “offensive” or “inappropriate” material, so I think we can make a good guess at how loosely and arbitrarily they would define “fake news.”
Glenn Reynolds was temporarily suspended from Twitter for tweeting “run them down” in response to violent protesters surrounding a car on a highway. We have no idea whether Robert Stacy McCain and Milo Yiannopoulos genuinely sent Twitter messages that were beyond the pale, because Twitter doesn’t publicly give much details about why they ban an account, beyond “participating in or inciting targeted abuse of individuals.” Every major righty blogger got tons of vicious anti-Semitic crap this past election cycle with little or no response from Twitter management, but somehow Yiannopoulos’s attacks on actress Leslie Jones garnered permanent expulsion.
YouTube currently lists 18 Prager U videos – over 10 percent of their entire collection — under “restricted mode.”
Former Facebook workers told Gizmodo that they “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section.”
The former curator was so troubled by the omissions that they kept a running log of them at the time; this individual provided the notes to Gizmodo. Among the deep-sixed or suppressed topics on the list: former IRS official Lois Lerner, who was accused by Republicans of inappropriately scrutinizing conservative groups; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report; Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was murdered in 2013; and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder. “I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative news,” the former curator said.
And we’re supposed to cheer these guys on as they start taking out anything they determine to be “fake news”?
I wish this was a better world, one where social-media company managers had genuine respect for a variety of viewpoints, and a clear record of distinguishing posts they disagreed with from posts that are genuinely threatening or inappropriate. In that world, we could cheer these companies on for taking a more active role in shutting down sites and posts that spread lies and insane conspiracy theories. But the argument that we empower social-media companies to shut down “fake news” is really difficult to accept in a world where Social Justice Warrior shame-mobs hunt for scalps through social-media firestorms.