Social media’s attempts to prevent people from viewing, or taking seriously, information regarding allegations of election fraud have entered a whole new territory of censorship and has led to a doubling of users on alternative social media platforms and increased polarization. What does this mean for the future of the Unite States?
Twitter Suspends State Senator’s Account Under Dubious Claim that His Account Appeared to be an Impersonation
Twitter Suspended Republican State Senator Doug Mastriano’s twitter account on Friday (Nov 25th) After Senator Mastriano held senate hearings to explore evidence of election fraud presented by Trump’s legal team.
Twitter later rescinded the decisions claiming it was in “error.” Twitter stated that they originally thought the account was an impersonation1 – Ostensibly because the account didn’t have that lauded blue check market that Twitter refuses to give to even incredibly famous and well-known personalities who aren’t on the left. It’s a great little scam. They refuse to validate people’s accounts so that in the future they can suspend the account for no other reason than the account hadn’t been verified and thus must be an impersonation. (Many on the left have even pointed out that Twitter verification process is broken.)
The More Logical Explanation for Twitter’s Suspension of Sen. Mastriano’s Account
If Twitter’s trigger-happy suspension monitors had taken ten seconds to investigate Sen. Mastriano’s account they would have concluded it was legitimate. But clearly they like to suspend first and ask questions later when it comes to Republicans. We’ve seen this pattern over and over again.
It’s also pretty clear that Twitter would have never suspended the account had Senator Mastriano never gained notoriety for holding hearings on election fraud in Pennsylvania. Hearings that went viral and for the first time exposed many in the country to the explosive evidence of fraud in the election.
Right Leaning Social Media Users Driven “Underground” as The Left Calls for More Censorship
This sort of behavior by social media giants has caused a lot of innocuous right-learning social media users to self-censor and keep their heads down in fear of being illegitimately banned without the ability to defend themselves.
The situation right-leaning social media users find themselves in is the digital analog to free-speech suppression in 20th century communist regimes. The only difference is that the Democrats don’t have to directly suppress free speech. They simply call on their partners in social media to silence their political opponents.
Ironically the Democrats don’t think that the social media monopolies are doing enough to suppress free speech as they are constantly calling on social medial giants to do more to limit the speech of anyone the Democrats claim is spreading “false information.” 2 In many cases the “false information” is simply personal opinions – which, by definition, aren’t false information.
This isn’t the only example of social media censoring information related to election fraud.
Two complaints submitted in Georgia and Michigan courts by former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell have also been censored by Twitter – via their “unsafe link” warning which is used to warn users of links potentially containing malware. These complaints contain over 30 in-depth lines of argumentation proving fraud and exhibits of evidence which will later be elaborated on in court. Twitter is flagging the actual public court documents with a warning stating that the link may be “unsafe.” It doesn’t seem to matter to Twitter’s staff that the link contains a harmless PDF file containing court documents. Twitter’s staff could have taken 30 seconds to validate that the PDF doesn’t contain malware. Instead, they just decided to flag the PDF file as potentially “unsafe” in what appears to many to be a clear attempt at directing people away from viewing the evidence contained within the filing.
In a recent USA Today article by Romina Ruiz-Goiriena Hispanic Trump supporters discussed how they have been “censored” by social media in what they claim is apparently an attempt to hide Trump’s growing, record breaking, support among Hispanics.3
Carolina Tejera, a soap opera actress, with over 300k Twitter followers has seen her Tweets warning of voter fraud labeled by Twitter as possibility containing non-factual information regarding the election. On what logical basis is a personal opinion stating “why are people so shocked that there could be voter fraud” considered non-factual? It’s not a claim regarding “facts” per se. In fact, it’s not even a claim, it’s a question. A question cannot be “factual,” or “non-factual.”
A quick glance at Trump’s twitter account reveals that nearly all of his Tweets regarding the election are labeled by twitter in some form, or another. Yet a quick glance at virtually any popular left-leaning account calling the election for Joe Biden won’t contain any label despite the fact that Joe Biden has not yet been officially certified the winner of the election. Any claim that he is the President-Elect is technically incorrect.
Alas, technicalities only seem to matter when social media censors are “fact-checking” the Right. In which case they will quibble over the least important words in order to label, warn, or justify suspensions.
And in some cases they seem to be willing to find any excuse to suspend accounts they find political persuasive on the Right. We can now add Sen. Mastriano’s account to the list of Twitter’s suspended political enemies.
Fortunately there are viable alternative social networks who refuse to censor all but clearly illegal speech. Social media alternatives such as Parler, Gab, and WeMe promise to steer clear of the sort of censorship in which Facebook, and Twitter, are engaging. And conservatives are flocking to those networks.
In a sense these alternative social media networks represent a sort of underground resistance in the digital world. Analogous to the underground resistance in Eastern Europe during the reign of the USSR.
The Left’s Criticism of Alternative Social Media Platforms as Dangerous Echo Chambers
Many in the left-leaning news media have been criticizing the very existence of social media alternatives, calling them dangerous “echo chambers.” Marc Ambinder of MSNBC stated that these “echo chambers” will allow the “crystallization” of beliefs regarding voter fraud and distrust in the voting process.
“If conservatives decamp to Parler entirely, the virulence of this misinformation will not wane. A number of people believe it might not grow because there will be no media around to amplify it, but the closed echo chamber could help crystalize these beliefs quickly. I worry about this a lot. We have experienced the decay of democratic legitimacy at an exponential rate, and hardened mistrust of the voting process itself will be lethal and harmful.”4
While many on the Right celebrate growing distrust in the voting process such beliefs “worry” Ambinder and many on the Left.
I think the obvious question ought to be whether we are better off being critical of the process, or whether we should have the blind-trust in the process that many on the Left seem to have following the 2020 election. But I’ll leave that discussion for another day.
The left is warning that these echo chambers may lead to an increase in political bias, distrust, and anger as those using these “right-leaning” social media alternatives will not be confronted with “facts,” or opinions, which disagree with their own.
I’m sympathetic to this argument. Those on the Right will have their own social media networks and news media. Their own politcal silos. However the same is true for those on the left, so the argument goes both ways. In fact, these silos already exist on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. These platforms tend to feed users the content they have indicated that they want to see. There is no escaping this phenomenon, wherever you go. People have a natural confirmation bias – they want information that confirms their presuppositions – and social media platforms take advantage of this to keep people spending more time on their platforms. They give users more of what they already want to see.
Many on the Left will point out that right-leaning news media and influencers are quite successful on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. In fact, it’s true that right-wing figures tend to have much higher engagement on social media, but that’s not an argument against the fact that they are also censored more often. The high engagement among the Right is precisely why the social media “monopolies” have worked so hard at censoring the Right on their platforms. And it’s another reason why I’m skeptical of the 2020 election results. If social media demographics have taught me anything it’s that conservatism is far more popular than progressivism among likely voters on social media. And the right tends to be far more enthusiastic – a key element of voter turnout.
So, will social media platforms like Parler lead to increased friction between the left and the right in the US? I think it probably will. Those who close themselves off to dissenting views begin to believe that their views are obviously true. We don’t tend to question anything that is assumed to be true by everyone else in our social network. If everyone else we know accepts certain facts as true, prima facie, then we are far less likely to question the veracity of those facts ourselves.
Furthermore, we have a tendency to dehumanize those who disagree with what we consider to be obviously true, unquestionable, facts. And it’s at this point of dehumanization where political disagreements become dangerous.
I’m of the opinion that if the social network executives were wise – and, yes, I’m implying they are not wise – they would put an end to censoring all but illegal speech. However, now that they have put themselves in the position that they are in it’s going to be virtually impossible to pull back.
Social media censorship is, in part, what caused the massive growth in the “social just warrior” movement and “cancel culture.” And now that cancel culture has become such a strong influence in advertising social media giants won’t be able to back from their left-leaning censorship.
Social Media, Social Justice, Cancel Culture, and Advertisers
Now that social media networks have empowered cancel culture, and social justice marketing, advertisers have embraced strict rules regarding where, and how, they advertize.
This has lead to platforms becoming even more zealous in their censorship in order to create a safe place for big-money advertisers.
YouTube’s recent restrictions over the last couple of years are perfect examples of the lengths at which a social media platform will go to protect advertisers from the “woke mob.”
And, again, there’s no pulling back. The line has been crossed, and the cultural shift has already taken place. Advertisers need the social medial networks to keep them safe form the social justice warriors. And these advertisers are the one’s who pay the bills, not the users. As a result social networks will always be subject to the whims of the advertisers.
At the same time the advertisers are subject to the whims of the users, and this creates an ecosystem. Ecosystems containing competing apex predators don’t last long.
The Rise of Political Social Ecosystems And The Acceleration of Physical Political Division
The result is multiple ecosystems. Conservative advertisers will advertise on conservative social media, and social media users won’t rock the boat. The same will hold true for left-leaning social media ecosystems.
Some among the left have suggested that Parler, Gab, and other alternative social media platforms will suffer because left-leaning advertisers will demand the same sort of censorship from them that they demand from the current social media giants. But this fails to take into account that there are conservative advertisers, and advertisers who simply don’t fear woke culture. As long as those advertisers exist, and they always will, these other social media platforms will have funding, albeit less funding.
Over time these completely separate ecosystems will facilitate further political polarization and dehumanization along economic lines. Conservatives will support conservative advertisers, and progressives will support progressive advertisers.
And this polarization – which is already underway – will hasten geographic polarization along political and economic lines. We see this in the mass movement of families out of progressive cities. This is a phenomenon that has been underway for some time, but it is being galvanized by social media, and will be cemented by alternative social media due to the reasons I’ve just outlined.
This is a polarization that, for now, is mostly taking place in the digital space. But it already beginning to take place in the physical places – especially in the last year.
The growth of entirely distinct political social media ecosystems will foster this physical polarization, and division.
I believe that this physical political division will be an important catalyzing force for a break-up of the United States.
I applaud such a break-up for several reasons, so naturally I applaud the creation of social media ecosystems and the crystallization of the very real differences between the left and the right in the US.
1“This account was mistakenly suspended for perceived violations of our impersonation policy. This was an error. We have immediately reversed the decision and the account has been reinstated.” https://www.newsweek.com/trump-twitter-doug-mastriano-ban-1550794