A sizable majority of American adults say—when polled—that social media organizations “censor” political viewpoints:
A Pew Research Center survey conducted in June finds that roughly three-quarters of U.S. adults say it is very (37%) or somewhat (36%) likely that social media sites intentionally censor political viewpoints that they find objectionable. Just 25% believe this is not likely the case.
At this point, of course, it’s hard to see how this is even debatable. While “censor” is perhaps not the most accurate term to use here—given the word’s connotations of state intervention—it is apparent that social media firms, at the very least, limit discussion and the reach of certain political viewpoints by banning certain users. These firms also openly admit to biasing readers against certain content through the use of “fact checkers.” Anecdotal evidence also strongly suggests that these social media firms also engage in tactics like “shadow banning,” which hides certain posts and content from certain users.
This is no haphazard or “neutral” bias, either. It is clear that the user bans and “fact checking” warnings against certain posts are designed to fall most often on groups that could be described as “conservative,” or “libertarian,” or which advocate in favor of Donald Trump and his allies.
As far as media companies go, this is just par for the course. What is perhaps so unusual in this case is that so many self-identified conservatives and libertarians seem surprised that things turned out this way.
This may be due to the fact that many continue to believe the false notion that social media companies are a sort of “public utility.” The social media companies themselves promote this myth and like to give the impression that they are open forums facilitating open communication. In reality, the firms are essentially just media companies like CNN, NBC, or the New York Times. Like ordinary media companies they modify and promote content to reflect the firm’s preferences. This is clear every time a social media company intervenes to modify “trending topics” lists, or remove content altogether. Consequently, the only meaningful difference between standard media companies and social media companies is that social media firms don’t produce their own content like ABC News or the Washington Post do. Rather, social media companies have convinced their users to produce all the content. The social media companies then reap the rewards in terms of selling personal information to advertisers and curating user-produced content to suit the companies’ own vision and needs.
Ultimately, the lesson to be learned here is that anyone who holds opinions outside a center-left or far left narrative should expect about as much “fairness” from social media firms as one might expect from CNN or NBC News. In other words, we should expect social media firms to ignore and marginalize the very same opinions and groups that have been ignored and marginalized by established media companies for decades.
This also means that organizations, writers, and publishers of these verboten opinions must do what they’ve always done: create their own publications and find effective methods of disseminating their content outside the control of establishment gatekeepers.
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