by Barry A. Liebling
The largest social media companies are united with respect to their politics. From upper management to the lowest paid professionals nearly all of the employees are committed to the progressive-left vision. People who work in these firms who are not part of their woke community know that they have to conceal their opinions. The social media giants are notorious for detecting and getting rid of conservatives and libertarians that are discovered within their ranks.
Conservatives and libertarians have long been frustrated with the social media giants. Google with its subsidiary YouTube dominate. Facebook and Twitter complete the roster of the largest players in this world. Each has the the power to remove content, prevent users from viewing results, and make it impossible for content providers to earn money. Content and links that are inimical to leftist sensibilities are highly likely to be kicked off of these famous sites. By contrast, the biggest companies actively boost material that supports woke causes. Think of identity politics (ethnicity, gender, class), expansion of all things government, and attacks on the legitimacy of western civilization.
Note that these firms are not engaged in censorship. Only government can (and should not) use force to prevent people from posting opinions on the internet. Because of their stupendous size and reach the social media players are making it difficult to express alternative viewpoints. But there are always opportunities for newer, smaller social media firms to emerge and compete with the established behemoths.
Exactly what is the problem? The dominant social media companies have a prodigious number of viewers. Content providers know that the “platforms” can potentially help them reach a large audience. And those who are producing material that is at odds with leftist sensibilities feel frustrated when they are blocked. Their resentment stems from the fact that the companies insist on being officially classified as “platforms.” In fact, they are publishers.
The distinction is important. Your cell phone provider is a platform. Presumably what you say when you make a phone call is entirely up to you. The provider does not monitor your utterances or threaten to stop your service if you speak in a way that is objectionable to the company. If someone uses cell phone services to engage in criminal activity that may be a reason for the government to intervene, but the phone company is not liable for what the outlaw says.
A publisher, however, takes explicit responsibility for content. There is no uncertainty regarding who has the authority to decide what will appear. It is up to the owner. There are many leftist publishing sites (Think of HuffPost.com and Vox.com), and you will not find conservatives or libertarians complaining that their content is being rejected. Similarly there are (far fewer) conservative sites (Consider NationalReview.com and TheFederalist.com) and notice that leftists are not begging to post their ruminations.
The big social media companies want to have the best of both worlds for themselves. They cling to the platform designation so they will not be held responsible for bad behavior. Then they consistently act like publishers and sift through content making sure their politics are always displayed in the best light and any serious challenges are discredited or shut down.
If they were really a platform, they would not engage in throttling or rejecting content. But their behavior reveals they are zealous editors energetically removing “misinformation,” “hate speech,” “unverified assertions,” and “content that disparages people that they like.”
Of course the platform designation is an effective legal shield for the internet giants. But there are reasons beyond the law for embracing their fake identity. By pretending to be neutral and disinterested in political events the large companies can trick their users into believing that their services are fair-minded.
Conservatives and libertarians are encouraged to knock on the door and seek to participate. They just wish the social media sites would be “fair” and recognize that what is being banned or deliberately hidden should really be acceptable to the administrators. As long as the non-leftists have this attitude they will be discouraged from starting their own sites to compete with the established giants. And that is exactly what the dominant players want. They do not welcome new competition.
Some of the efforts social media companies go through to pretend they are unbiased are unintentionally humorous. Facebook is famous for hiring “outside, independent professionals” to monitor its content, judge what is out of bounds, and decide what can and cannot be permitted on the site. The idea is that because they are not themselves Facebook employees the outsiders can be more objective when they decide what content to remove. Of course, the “independent” judges are carefully selected by Facebook management to assure that they have the approved progressive-leftist sensibilities. Is anyone fooled by this charade?
Here is the bottom line. If a company acts like a publisher that is fine. But it is fraudulent to be a publisher and pretend to be a platform. The social media companies should come clean and state something like, “We enthusiastically support woke leftism and do all we can to fight against those who disagree.” And here is a message to conservatives and libertarians. By all means continue to use the dominant sites, but act swiftly to create and support online publishers that will be sympathetic to your messages.
*** See other entries at AlertMindPublishing.com in “Monthly Columns.” ***