By now we all know that Alex Jones has been thrown off Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, YouTube, Apple iTunes, and probably Tinder. He’s been what’s known in social media circles as “de-platformed”. The only social media giant he hasn’t been kicked off is Twitter, and I will address that, shortly.
Why was Alex Jones kicked off? Well, he says a lot of stupid, stupid stuff, and is a loudmouth and blow-hard, too. Frankly, I don’t know why he was kicked off. I really don’t care. I never followed Alex Jones, and I think I may have stumbled across his InfoWars website once or twice. Seriously weird stuff. He didn’t seem overly right wing to me; for heaven’s sake, he sold vitamins and supplements to “combat the globalists”.
Apple pulled off several podcasts from iTunes, then Facebook announced it removed four pages for “repeated violations of community standards”. Odd because Louis Farrakhan with his outrageous anti-Semitic rants still seems to enjoy a platform. So, I guess Facebook is now encouraging anti-Semitic voices.
The people on the Left are thrilled because somebody is “finally doing something about all the hate speech”.
People on the right are screaming about First Amendment violations, and are wanting to regulate the Social Media platforms. Because “it just isn’t fair!” One note to people screaming about First Amendment violations—Facebook and the others are not the government. They are only just trying to be. They can kick whoever they want off for whatever reason. A point of interest—Alex Jones’ own website has Terms and Conditions. If you don’t follow them, you can get kicked off his site, too.
Mark Zuckerberg claimed in his testimony before Congress that he provides a platform for ideas; and then he turned around and said Facebook is responsible for content. This is a precarious position to be in, and he needs to take a long hard look at what his business model is.
If, as he claims, Facebook and other social giants are responsible for content, that action makes them publishers. Just like any other newspaper, broadcast or cable network, radio network, etc. And if they are publishers, then they are liable for copyright violations. And that gets kinda serious.
You know that picture of a pie that you snagged off the Epicurious website because your pie looked sad, and then posted to Facebook? Well, you didn’t get permission from Epicurious to publish that picture. And, if Facebook was a publisher, it would be on the hook for any damages.
There are over a billion Facebook accounts. Think about it.
YouTube is also getting in the content management game. If you post a video challenging (or even being skeptical of) the accepted dogma on something like climate change, for example, you will get tagged with a warning label. Great. Now the home of cat videos is putting a warning label on contrarian ideas.
YouTube is going to be the Tipper Gore of this generation. Perhaps this warning label will drive up views of our Climate Change Video series, just like the warning labels drove the sales of hip hop albums and video games. I can only hope.
The only big social that hasn’t kicked off Alex Jones, yet, is Twitter.
To his credit, Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter went on Sean Hannity’s radio show on 8/8/18 to explain his philosophy about how Twitter regulates and promotes tweets. During the segment, Hannity asked @Jack how Twitter would handle something like “I want to punch Hannity in the face.” On the surface, this sounds like it’s a call to violence.
@Jack’s answer was thoughtful. He said that the algorithms would look at the activity around the tweet—who was liking, who was retweeting, and what those users’ history might look like. And he said that the algorithms also take into account “cultural norms” in speech.
Let me translate that—somebody says “I wanna punch Hannity in the face.” Twitter will look at this and the algorithm may flag it as a call to violence. However, before anything is done, the algorithm looks at the activity around the Tweet. It looks to see if other users are saying things like “YAAAAS!! Punch him in the face AND the nuts!” or “I have a lovely recipe for strawberry punch.” Finally, there is a “cultural” review. This is where I think the Twitter fails.
There just aren’t enough conservative Rednecks in Twitter’s workplace. The Twitter culture has no idea what conservative or libertarian culture actually is. Even though Twitter fails, I still do not believe regulation is the way to go.
Regulating the socials won’t really make any difference. Regulations will just restrict the free flow of ideas which are necessary to a functioning republic.
One idea I have is to go the opposite of regulation. Of course, the socials do probably need to restrict things that are clearly illegal like kiddie porn, terror plots, outright and valid death threats, etc. But everything else should just flow. The socials should get rid of their algorithms that monitor posts (except for those things I mentioned), and let people get offended all damn day.
I’d even get rid of the option for others to report on your posts. Let’s face it, the internet is a cesspool, and it’s just better to let it flow than drive the ideas underground. When ideas are banned and driven underground, they get twisted up, and when they re-emerge they can do tremendous damage to humanity.
Am I wrong? The German government banned Hitler and his crew in the 1920s. The Russian Czar tried to suppress the Bolsheviks.
You might not like the ideas expressed in social media. You might find them abhorrent. But the greatest thing about all the social platforms is you can hit the mute button on people like Alex Jones or Louis Farrakahn, and watch cat videos to your heart's content.
Sandra PetersonFollow me on Twitter @janevonmises