By Mark Wachtler
September 24, 2014. San Francisco. (ONN) In the world of social media, experts have made a fortune trying to figure out the differences between sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, Tumblr and the rest. After a couple years of widespread use, it’s becoming crystal clear what the differences are, and they revolve around the issue of political censorship. It’s becoming common knowledge that sites like Twitter and Pinterest let freedom fly while sites like Facebook and Reddit seem to be the home of Big Brother and the thought police.
Facebook users report widespread political censorship. Image courtesy of ZDNet.com
To hear many grassroots social and political activists explain it, Facebook has become the online equivalent of Wall Street’s network TV. It’s what your friends and family watch, but it only includes what they want you to see and hear. Twitter is more like public access television or internet TV. It’s real. It’s raw. And it brings you what you need to see right now. The next time there’s a major global crisis, watch where the real people on the ground and in the center of the action flock to. Twitter.
For some time now, gun owners across America have been publicly complaining that Facebook is censoring their posts and suspending their accounts. According to those who’ve lost their Facebook privileges, any speech promoting the sale of firearms is on the same level as posting nudity and porn. But we’ve recently discovered that it’s not only the American right that is being silenced by the world’s most popular social media website. Progressives on the left have also begun complaining that speech criticizing President Obama is being censored and they swear there’s a covert campaign to remove all eye-witness accounts of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
A recent report from Infowars compared Facebook’s official responses to two controversial postings on the site. ‘Recently a video was posted on Facebook showing two men lighting a helpless kitten in a bucket on fire,’ the account begins, ‘But after multiple users flagged the video, Facebook told them it “doesn’t violate our Community Standards.”’ The article goes on to say, ‘However, when users attempt to talk about guns or post pictures of firearms, Facebook hits them with “Community Standards” violations.’
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One example they present is from a firearm activist who posted one of the many widely circulated articles comparing modern gun control laws to past gun control laws such as those imposed by Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany. Facebook removed that post and suspended the gun owner’s account informing him the content he posted, ‘doesn’t follow Facebook Community Standards.’
For what it’s worth, Whiteout Press has the very same banned article in our Timeless Section. It’s titled, ‘The Deadly Cost of Gun Control’ and it details the genocidal after-effects of gun control from a half dozen historical examples ranging from Hitler’s Germany to Cambodia to China and the Soviet Union. It probably shouldn’t be any surprise then that we at Whiteout Press had our Facebook account terminated last month, along with all our groups, pages and past posts. Readers will notice on the above-linked Whiteout Press article, the Facebook ‘Like’ button mysteriously vanished. Yes, they reached out and removed every ‘Like’ button on every Whiteout Press article they could.
Censoring the left
While it’s almost exclusively been America’s political right that’s been censored for the past 30 years, the country’s political left is finding out what it’s like. A recent report from ValueWalk.com contrasts the difference between free speech on Facebook and free speech on Twitter, ‘Users of both Facebook and Twitter have noticed a difference in the amount of raw, unfiltered talk of the shooting incident in Ferguson, MO between the social media platforms. The reason: one platform engages in unbridled censorship.’
The account quotes one news outlet’s research explaining, ‘According to a report in the Washington Post, the Twitter feed is not filtered by algorithms. When people you follow communicate a message, it is delivered into your Twitter stream in real time regardless of content, as one might expect. Not so for Facebook.’
The story quoted columnist Casey Johnson from Ars Technica describing how controversy-free his own Facebook wall is. “While I’ve been seeing the same political trending tags, my feed is mundane as usual: a couple is expecting a baby,” he describes, “A recreational softball team won a league championship. A few broader feel-good posts about actor Chris Pratt’s ice bucket challenge to raise awareness and money for ALS, another friend’s ice-bucket challenge, another friend’s ice-bucket challenge. In fact, way more about ice bucket challenges than Ferguson or any other news-making event.”
Facebook censoring the world
If Americans are upset over Facebook’s political censorship here in the US, they haven’t seen anything yet. Over the past year, the chorus calling on the social media giant to stop censoring its users’ free speech has gone global.
A report from Bloomberg News earlier this year detailed Facebook’s unusual release of statistics regarding official government requests to block content on its site. Surprisingly, India is at the top of the list with more government-requested Facebook black-outs than all other countries combined. India made 4,765 requests, with Turkey coming in second at 2,014. No other country had more than 200. While Germany, France, Israel and the UK are all on the list, the US and China are curiously absent all together.
India isn’t the only country using Facebook to silence political speech. A report from Demand Progress calls on everyone to ask Mark Zuckerberg and the company’s executives to stop censoring free speech in China. ‘A range of Facebook users, from political dissidents to technology bloggers, are reporting the sudden blocking of their pages,’ the announcement warns, ‘Facebook provided no prior warning, nor was there a clear process established to restore access to the blocked pages.’
The call to action goes on to say, ‘More than 50 blocked pages were political in nature, and several users have had their pages maliciously blocked through fraudulent claims of intellectual property violations. This news follows Facebook's disturbing assertions that it’s willing to work with government censors in places like China, and that the company is worried that it sometimes provides “too much” free speech.’
One final personal experience comes from Whiteout Press’ sister publication Opposition News. It’s also written and published by Whiteout Press’ own Mark Wachtler and demonstrates a major difference between Facebook and Twitter regarding free speech. OppositionNews.org streams the news feeds from all 15 of America’s opposition parties on its home page, such as the Libertarians, Greens, Constitution, PSL, etc. But it also streams the news feeds of all 50 state affiliates of each of America’s 15 most active opposition political parties. Often, the grassroots groups don’t have a news feed, or even a website. But they all have social media accounts. When it came time to choose which one to stream on Opposition News, Twitter was the winner. Why? Because Facebook doesn’t even allow it.