WASHINGTON: The election of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th president proved the power of social media. No, not in the way Russians formed silly and ineffective Facebook groups in opposition to Hillary Clinton. Rather, it was what the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) discovered. In a study conducted shortly after Trump’s victory. CJR found it was average folks passing along political content (via Facebook, Twitter, and Google) from the Trump-supporting Breitbart and Daily Caller websites. The forwarding of these stories to their aunt Martha and cousin Tom proved the deciding factor in Clinton’s defeat.
That’s why social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have been culling right-leaning voices from their platforms ever since. It wasn’t the Russians who meddled in the 2016 presidential election, you see. It was you.
Censoring the “hateful”
The banning of certain individuals from the globe’s most popular social-gathering sites is justified in the name of stamping out “hate.” Translation: our feelings are hurt by your salient points concerning the absurdity of our bizarre notions. Whether it concerns the cynical Neolithic puritanism of Hollywood’s #MeToo movement or the fevered attention given an insignificant fringe of American society – males choosing to identify as females.
The architects of these digital townhalls are horrified they’ve created a monster. One that sidesteps the media and its experts, discussing the issues of the day amongst themselves without the “gatekeepers” of old media to say what is and isn’t appropriate discourse.
Freedom of the press but no freedom of speech
It’s ironic that reporters in a declining news market have the Committee to Protect Journalists in the interest of “press freedom,” while alternative journalism passed along in a democratic fashion is so nonchalantly censored through the closing of accounts.
Last Sunday, Houston conservative radio talk show host Jesse Kelly discovered that his Twitter account disappeared.
“They’ve giving me no explanation,” Kelly told Fox News host Tucker Carlson, “All they sent was an email that said, ‘You’re permanently banned – you can’t appeal it – for repeated rules violations… all of a sudden, my account vanished like a Hillary Clinton email.”
Social media and pubic forums
Last May, US District Judge Naomi Reice ordered President Trump to unblock certain followers that were denied the ability to comment on his tweets.
“We hold that speech in which they seek to engage is protected by the First Amendment… That interaction space is susceptible to analysis under the Supreme Court’s forum doctrines, and is properly characterized as a designated public forum.”
That suggests the dominance of these social media platforms, at least in the eyes of Judge Buchwald, is analogous to a 1960s segregated Woolworth lunch counter.
That interesting legal theory has yet to be kicked up the chain of judicial review, at the end of which sits the United States Supreme Court.
But the prospect must cause sleepless nights for Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Two men horrified by the notion their information pipelines may be subject to the negative injunctions of our nation’s founding document, which has masterfully protected a free people from the machinations of petty tyrants like, well, them.
Top Images: (Left) Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerber. Photo: Anthony Quintano via Wikipedia.
(Left) Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.