Opinion: Big Tech Companies are Censoring Right-Leaning User Content
The concern over censorship of conservative news and figures on major media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is an issue that has put big tech in a hot seat over the last couple of years. With the 2020 elections on the horizon, the question remains whether big tech companies will continue to intentionally and selectively remove conservative-leaning content as a result of political bias.
There are millions of social media users in the U.S. alone –– according to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of American adults receive daily news from social media. The responsibility of these platforms to uphold the integrity of their personal guidelines and user community has been believed to be deceitful by members of the conservative movement who claim their content has been specifically targeted by these companies out of political preference.
“Are these companies using their market power to push the envelope on filtering decisions to favor the content the companies prefer?” asked Republican representative Bob Goodlatte last July in a congressional hearing on social media filtering which featured Facebook, Google and Twitter representatives.
Although all three platforms have denied such allegations, each company has been accused of taking down, demonetizing or banning content that reflects right-leaning opinion. Conservative big names including Alex Jones and Infowars affiliated pages, Diamond and Silk, Laura Loomer, and Milo Yiannopoulos are among those whose content has been restricted at one point, or permanently, from these social platforms. Additionally, Facebook purged hundreds of both left-leaning and right-leaning pages and accounts with millions of followers just before the previous midterm elections.
“If Thomas Jefferson had written the Declaration of Independence on Facebook, that document would have never seen the light of day,” said Goodlatte in response to the tech giant taking down a post of our country’s founding instrument, as it apparently had violated the platform’s community guidelines by containing “hate speech.”
The problem with censorship and filtration lies within non-specific user agreements, implemented algorithms and quite frankly, the fact that each company can ban practically anyone for anything at any given time.
“We face a number of important issues around privacy, safety and democracy,” Zuckerberg said in a statement to Congress at a separate hearing last year, “but it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well, and that goes for fake news, for foreign interference in elections and hate speech.”
So long as the companies can continue to define what “hate speech” is –– they can continue to add fuel to the fire of political discourse and influence public discussion.
The question of censorship is a concern for our constitutional rights. The argument is backed on both sides and is a difficult one to win. The first amendment protects the tech giants’ ability to censor as they wish, so long as they are private companies. Yet, Facebook, Google and Twitter are not publishers, they are platforms. The companies are often seen as monopolies with massive power to impact the information shared across the web.
Many have suggested that a government arm be created in order to oversee such complicated concerns. Yet this would create more of a problem for free speech, rather than work as a solution to protect healthy discussion online.
“Everyday we have to make tough calls and we do not always get them right,” Senior Public Policy Strategist of Twitter, Nick Pickles, said.