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Facebook, Inc. Censors Activism But Not Hate
If you’re on social media at all, your general Facebook or Instagram news feed is most likely (and rightfully) populated with activism surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and the struggle against police brutality, or with posts concerning the ever-present Coronavirus.
When browsing through social media, the expectation is that the platform will provide a feed of posts relevant to your public interests, searches, and friends based on a fair algorithm. It seems, however, that Facebook Inc. (which includes Instagram) has been going out of their way to censor activist posts that do not fit in with the mainstream political agenda, while doing the exact opposite for posts that are clearly not protected by the First Amendment right to the freedom of speech. What am I talking about exactly?
Amidst Protests & Riots, Facebook Censored #blacklivesmatter
As we experience the civil rights movement happen for a second time, it seems that we are also experiencing the media censorship present during that era as well. During the outbreak of riots and protests after the wrongful death of George Floyd, citizens used social media to organize across state lines, provide useful information regarding the #blacklivesmatter movement, and to hold both public officials and other citizens accountable for racist or violent acts.
There have been recent accounts, however, of Instagram users reporting that posts contaning the #blacklivesmatter hashtag received an “action blocked” notification. Instagram has since fixed this issue and conveniently directed the cause of this to be due to its anti-spam filters, which blocks posts by detecting rapidly increasing activity on certain hashtags.
In addition, there have been instances of social media activists not receiving news and content related to #blacklivesmatter or other activist tags on the “Explore” pages of their Instagram or Facebook news feed. Instead, they are instead receiving posts unrelated to the current state of events, even though the “Explore” section should display a feed of posts related to content you search for and already consume from your original feed.
Whether or not you believe Instagram’s excuse to blame their anti-spam filters is up to you, but this issue was not prevalent as everyone abused the #coronavirus and #covid19 hashtags for months (especially at the onset of the outbreak.) So, why is this only affecting hashtags that follow civil rights?
During the Civil Rights Movement, while traditional media purports to have had a positive impact on civil rights, other sources provide evidence that this was not the case. In 1964, WLBT News (an NBC-affiliated television network for Jackson, Mississippi) received a lawsuit from the United Church of Christ, requesting the FCC to revoke WLBT’s broadcast license. The FCC voted in favor of the United Church of Christ’s testimonies that WLBT news demonstrated, “a pattern of censorship, especially of canceling or failing to show national news programs that covered civil rights.”
What we’re seeing happen right now with social media platforms, like Facebook and TikTok, is exactly the same as WLBT and other news platforms during the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s. These companies are censoring important information regarding humanitarian issues until they are caught in the act.
However, an apology isn’t enough when the same issue continues to occur–especially if just days later.
Facebook Blocked #Sikh Too?
Next in line to get hit by Facebook’s “algorithms” is the hashtag #sikh, representing the fifth largest religious community of people in the world, who were affected by genocide in 1984.
On June 4th, posts that referenced #sikh and the 1984 anti-Sikh genocide were removed by Instagram, with the problem only being fixed after outrage by the activist community.
Instagram responded, saying that the #sikh tag was actually blocked on March 7th following an internal report, which is why posts for that hashtag were hidden and/or showed 0 posts.
If you haven’t thought it for yourself already, allow me to think it for you. This is a red flag, and we should rethink our relationship with these social media companies. Letting social media companies get away with these things is equivalent to staying with a cheating boyfriend or girlfriend. You might love them, but you both will be better off without each other.
If censoring the #blacklivesmatter movement and the #sikh community isn’t enough to get you to consider making the switch, maybe the fact that Facebook (mostly Mark Zuckerberg) decided to keep Donald Trump’s violent incantation against the police brutality protests uncensored will convince you.
What Doesn't Facebook Censor? Violent Speech...
A few days later, however, Facebook's systems censor multiple Black Lives Matter posts on the Instagram platform. While everyone is provided the freedom of speech due to our first amendment, there are a number of limitations on that speech (obscenity, fraud, child pornography, etc.) One of these limitations, dubbed as the “fighting words” doctrine, has been demonstrated by the Supreme Court in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, asserting that speech which to a reasonable citizen would be recognized as provoking a violent reaction.
Similar actions is when social media companies should use their own judgment to step in and decide whether or not to censor.
Stop Letting Social Media Companies Use Us
This isn't to say, however, that social media isn't important. By no means should we stop using social media! Social media has become a way for users to connect and network across the globe to provide all sorts of information. Thanks to social media, we now have the ability to access information and organize ourselves in communities across borders. The benefits of social media are outweighed when there is a lack of a just censorship system.
The solution to all of this is simple. Just stop using these specific social media networks that are infringing on your privacy and security. It's 2020, and there are many up-and-coming social media apps instead of those perpetuated by the mainstream.
Try These Privacy-First Social Media
Decentralization is important because it makes sure that users receive completely unadulterated feeds that they are supposed to receive, rather than ones manipulated through marketing. Because many of these applications are relatively new, you might not see as much activity on them as you do your regular feed. As you onboard your friends and family to these safer and more secure social networks, the platform will begin to feel more like your regular social media, without all of the censorship and privacy bustle.
MeWe is a privacy-first social media and messaging system which boasts having no advertisements, spyware, or unjust censorship on their network. MeWe is almost exactly a Facebook clone, where users can convene in groups, make fan pages, sponsor events, and instant message other users on the platform.
The social media platform does no data-mining whatsoever, has never had a censorship issue, and is committed to keeping the platform free from data breaches.
The app does not target you with advertisements, drive promoted information to you, or censor your speech. Because there is no real threat of censorship on the application, it can become an echo chamber of ideas, but the difference is that the app gives you control. MeWe allows users complete control of their social media experience by not engaging in unjust censorship on the application, by not instituting advertisements on the platform, and by allowing users to choose who posts they see.
Available on desktop, iOS, and Android devices, there's no reason to not give MeWe a shot if you're at all interested in protecting your privacy and access to unbiased information.
As noted on their website, “Minds is the anti-Facebook that pays you for your time.” But really, Minds is much more than that.
Minds takes the best of Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit and puts it on the blockchain, making it a decentralized application that is powered by a peer-to-peer network. This adds a layer of security by not allowing any third party to intercept messages at the time of conception. Not only that, but members are rewarded with cryptocurrency for engaging with the community.
Upon installing the app and creating an account, Minds informs the user that their privacy is of the utmost importance and that users are free to enter as much or as little personal information as they desire.
However, Minds has been met with controversy–namely that alt-right groups have tended to dominate the platform. For the overtly violent posts, however, the company behind Minds (but that Minds can stand without due to being on the blockchain) banned violent and vocal alt-right individuals from the platform. If Minds has made one thing apparent, its that they're a company that is focused on providing security, but that it needs to attract the right audience. While the alt-right is vocal on this platform right now, it may not always be that way with widespread adoption of this amazing app.
Minds is also available on Desktop, iOS, and Android devices. If you're interested in making money while using a private social media app, Minds is the way to go.
Let's Cancel Mainstream Social Media
It's become apparent that as a society, we need to stop feeding our time, money, and attention to companies that haven't demonstrated the best intentions regarding social good. We've begun canceling companies that support racist ideals, but let's take the next step and rid ourselves of the social media channels that perpetuate fear instead of promoting activism, and that constantly censor our free speech. By trying out Minds and MeWe, you are helping build a future that isn't controlled by the Facebook corporation where your freedom of speech matters.
I know, it's hard to commit to these new networks because your friends and family don't have profiles on here. But you need to be the one to spark that change–just like when you were one of the first of your friends to have a Facebook, you can be the first one to tell your friends to join Minds or MeWe. On-boarding others onto like-minded platforms is essential if we want to succeed in the struggle against social media giants.