Archive

ShareThis Page
John Stossel: Social media censorship jeopardizes future of free speech | TribLIVE.com
Featured Commentary

John Stossel: Social media censorship jeopardizes future of free speech

174874webfacebook3
FILE - In this May 16, 2012, file photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia. Facebook believes its policing system is better at scrubbing graphic violence, gratuitous nudity and terrorist propaganda from its social network than it is at removing racist, sexist and other hateful remarks. The self-assessment on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, came three weeks after Facebook tried to give a clearer explanation of the kinds of posts that it won't tolerate. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Are those who question the severity of global warming worse than Nazis? I wouldn’t think so, but YouTube, owned by Google, seems to.

I wrote last week that YouTube added a Wikipedia link about global warming to videos like ones I do about climate change.

Extra information sounds helpful. But when social media platforms only pick certain politically disfavored positions to add Wiki links to, they skew debate. Worse, Wikipedia’s global warming page has been captured by alarmist editors. It’s very one-sided.

On CNN recently, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said, “I think we need to constantly show that we are not adding our own bias, which I fully admit is left, is more left-leaning.”

At least Dorsey admits that. Usually, powerful social media platforms push their political agendas while pretending not to have any.

Roy Spencer, author of “Climate Confusion,” points out that when he does a Google search for “climate skepticism,” the first 10 pages aren’t links to skepticism. Instead, they’re links to articles criticizing climate-change skepticism.

By contrast, he points out, a search for “Nazi Party” yields mostly straightforward commentary about what Nazis believed.

Climate-change skepticism is more in need of “correction” than Nazism? (Spencer’s and my skepticism doesn’t mean we doubt global warming. The globe is warming. Climate changes! We just don’t think it’s been proven that humans are the main cause or that fossil fuel bans and the billions of dollars spent on things like solar subsidies will do any good.)

Meanwhile, Facebook, now the world’s most powerful publisher, removes some political articles — not just so-called fake news created by malicious foreign actors or robots, but also ones by professional journalists.

Salena Zito posted a New York Post column about Trump supporters sticking with Trump. Facebook removed it. It reappeared only after she complained on Twitter and “went through the confusing messaging options” on Facebook’s page to ask why her article was removed.

She never got an explanation.

“No one told me why it was taken down,” she writes. “Perhaps someone doesn’t like my stories and complained. … Who is that person and why does Facebook give them that sort of power?”

Good luck trying to get social media platforms to explain why they ban you.

Maybe the “content moderators” at tech companies want to narrow your choices to information from the political center and left — where most tech company workers live.

The tech giants gathered in secret last month to confer about how to “counter” political misinformation during the coming election season. They say they want to prevent disruption and interference by outside forces like the Russians. Good.

But I get nervous when I think about how broadly some liberals define “disruption.”

The purpose of the First Amendment is to let all of us say critical things about the politically powerful, even radical things. I worry that tech companies, to avoid admitting they’re motivated by political bias, will do what many political activists have done: keep expanding the definition of “hate speech” until almost anyone can be accused of it.

Now that Google can search everything you’ve said, YouTube may flag it as misinformation. Facebook can track what all your relatives and friends have said, too. Activists stand ready to get angry about all of it.

At this rate, future speech will be muted. Especially libertarian and conservative speech.

John Stossel is author of “No They
Can’t! Why Government Fails —
But Individuals Succeed.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.