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Facebook and Twitter Have the Right to be Fascist

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo the past few days since Facebook banned some controversial activists – Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer, Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, and Louis Farrakhan – for what Facebook called promoting or engaging in violence or hate. Other pages were apparently taken down at the same time, with no notice or announcement given by Facebook. Dan O’Donnell o News/Talk 1130 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin reported the Wisconsin Conservative Union Facebook page was also removed without warning.

Newstalk 1130 – “I was surprised by this,” said Wisconsin Conservative Union administrator Bob Dohnal, who said on The Dan O’Donnell Show that a friend called him Thursday night to let him know that his page had vanished. “It’s about 2,000 of the conservative leaders around this state. Nobody is talking about revolution or anything like that. It’s just been a place where everybody can exchange ideas and talk about candidacies and stuff.”

Dohnal added that he never received any warnings about any of the group’s posts or any notice that it had violated Facebook standards. He isn’t even sure if the group has been suspended or permanently removed from Facebook. He merely logged on and found it was gone.

Twitter has also banned conservative accounts or suspended them for tweets they say violate their terms of service. Actor James Woods, a popular conservative voice on Twitter, recently found himself in Twitter jail for at least the second time, this time over a tweet he sent that said, “If you try to kill the King, you better not miss. #HangThemAll.” His comment was made in reaction to the Mueller report findings that exonerated President Trump of collusion with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Just yesterday, Twitter banned a parody account that mocked Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y and also suspended the account’s creator. Twitter said people cannot use “misleading account information in order to engage in spamming, abusive or disruptive behavior including attempts to manipulate the conversations on Twitter.” The account creator, Michael Morrison, said he believed Twitter banned the account because it was becoming too popular. The account had around 50,000 followers and had tweets with over 30,000 likes on them. Also banned were accounts parodying former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-TX, who is currently running for president, and another account mocking Russian president Vladimir Putin. However, accounts parodying President Donald Trump remain active and have not been reported as receiving any suspensions or banishment from Twitter.

The group banishment of conservatives even caught the attention of the satirical site, The Babylon Bee, which published an article called ‘Facebook SWAT Team Arrests Man For Illegal Possession of Conservative Views.’

Rogers’ arrest was part of a broader push against the illegal conservative view trade, which is estimated to affect millions of innocent Americans every year. Facebook SWAT specialists lined up outside his house for an early-morning, no-knock raid after he was caught posting a meme about Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 missing emails on his page.

“We booked him on possession of several tons of illicit viewpoints, including the idea that government should be relatively small, Christian values are generally a good thing, and cisgendered males aren’t always bad,” one lieutenant of the Facebook SWAT force said. “Residents of La Mesa can rest easy tonight knowing these ideas are off the streets.”

Clearly, the purging being done by the social media giants is aimed squarely at conservatives. True, Louis Farrakhan is no conservative, but he is no friend to leftists and has been a thorn in their side. He merely had the distinction of being labeled a ‘troublemaker’ along with the conservative accounts that were banned.

At this point, I’d like to take a paragraph to emphasize that while Yiannopoulos, Loomer, Jones, and Watson may be considered to be conservatives, that does not mean that these are good people who have messages with which I and other like-minded conservatives agree. Yiannopoulos is a scumbag, Loomer and Watson are extremists and Jones is a nut job. But does that mean their messages should be banned? No, it does not.

The sudden, en masse removal of all these pages struck conservatives on social media as censorship, a violation of the right to free speech and blatant silencing of any views that don’t agree with the leftist positions of the people running these popular social media sites. Being banned from Facebook can have an impact that probably would not occur to most people. Jillian York, a writer and activist, has an article on Quartz that talks about the unexpected and professionally devastating consequence of being banned.

Quartz – My project solicits reports from users who have been banned, had their accounts removed, or had content taken down across six different platforms. One of the questions that we ask in our survey is “How has this impacted your life?”

In the past few months, we’ve received a wide array of responses from Facebook users, ranging from mere annoyance to much bigger problems. Some users reported being cut off from business customers and associates. Others have reported feeling isolated from friends and family. Bans can last up to 30 days for repeat offenses. In our post-email world, Facebook is the great connector—the only means that some people have of remaining in touch with distant kin. Being banned from contact from them for 30 days could, for some, be deeply painful.

For me, being cut off temporarily was merely an inconvenience. During the 24 hours of my ban, I was unable to post comments on news sites like the Huffington Post (which solely uses Facebook’s commenting feature) and unable to log in to third-party services, like Tinder and Spotify.

Most troublingly, I was prevented from administering my Facebook pages. In order to do my work that day, I had to contact colleagues and ask them to post articles for me. The members of my team were understanding. But I can imagine a scenario in which a person, temporarily banned from Facebook, loses their job for being unable to perform their duties. The dangers also extend to small businesses, many of which rely on social media to promote themselves and communicate with customers. I’ve seen cases where marijuana dispensaries based in states where pot is legal are cut off from Facebook entirely.

Do Facebook and Twitter have the right to purge conservatives for what they call ‘hate speech’ even when a multitude of leftist accounts that blatantly promote hatred, violence and antisemitism are left untouched? That’s the big question and it doesn’t seem that even conservatives can agree on an answer. Some, including me, say yes, they have the right. Some say no because social media access has become essential to public discourse. Even Daily Wire contributor Matt Walsh, with whom I normally agree, seemed to be taking the position that because Facebook is “a 100 billion dollar mega-corporation that controls a communication platform used by 2 billion people” they don’t have the right to ban anyone.

On my site, which you are currently reading, I won’t ever have the daily traffic that Facebook and Twitter have. I hope I never do because I wouldn’t be able to afford the necessary bandwidth. I don’t think anyone would disagree that I have the right to ban people from my site. I have done exactly that for people who refused my request to refrain from using profanity in the comments section. It’s my site and I make the rules.

Now, what Matt Walsh and others who agree with him need to do is put a number on it. How many daily users does it take before a site no longer has the right to ban someone? Whether it be for what you consider to be a justified reason or for what you call a bogus reason. How many does it take? One billion daily? Five hundred million? Fifty people? Who told you that you get to decide a site doesn’t have the right to control who accesses it simply because so many people use it? Where does it say there is a magic number that will change the rules when that threshold is met?

I’m sure 99.9% of people who sign up for sites such as Facebook and Twitter have never read any of the terms of service. Terms, I might add, that you agreed to abide by when you joined the site. Those terms are very broadly written and can be construed in any way necessary for the power-that-be at the site to banish anyone they find to be objectionable. In the terms, Facebook says, “You may not use our Products to do or share anything: That violates these Terms, our Community Standards, and other terms and policies that apply to your use of Facebook.” Those Community Standards” are subjective and not narrowly defined. Anyone posting on a subject more substantive than a picture of a dog can have the terms used against them if those at Facebook who interpret the community standards decide they don’t like your views.

An example of how ridiculous they are in the application of their own standards, last year the smalltown newspaper of Liberty, Texas had one of their Facebook posts removed. The Liberty Vindicator was posting twelve daily installments of a document from our nation’s history. On the tenth day, the Vindicator’s latest installment was removed by Facebook, who told the newspaper that their standards on ‘hate speech’ had been violated by the use of the phrase “merciless Indian Savages.” The historic document that was being posted verbatim? The Declaration of Independence.

Will Chamberlain of Human Events has an article in which he states his case that platform access is a civil right. He says, “You should now have the same right to speak on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that you do in a public park.” He goes on to admit that “this is not the current state of the law” and that is certainly true. His article is more of a ‘this is how things should be’ rather than ‘this is how things are.’

Chamberlain says that conservatives should be framing de-platforming as a civil rights issue and that Republicans in state legislature should be passing legislation to protect that civil right. He makes a good case, but I’m not sure I agree with his interpretation that access to social media is a civil right and that the government should insert itself into guaranteeing access. It’s not the government’s job to ensure that citizens have the means by which to use our First Amendment rights. The First Amendment says the government can’t arrest us for what we say on the street corner; it doesn’t say the government has to guarantee we have transportation to get us to that corner.

Once the government takes the position that access to social media is a civil right, how long before people start suing in federal court to make the government pay for their devices and internet access? What about people in areas so rural that internet access isn’t available? Would that mean they’re being deprived of their civil rights?

Yes, social media has become the town square of our time and serious public debate happens there. Does that make access to it a civil right? No, it does not.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr, LinkedIn and all other social media sites that are privately owned have the right to ban people from their sites. They have the right to egregiously apply their ambiguous terms of service in whatever manner they choose and ban those who have different political views. They have the right to ban you for your religious beliefs, your comments, your photos and anything else you put on their site. They have the right to ban you for putting a frowny face on that picture of a dog.

They have the right to their fascist practices.

The question I should be seeing asked right now is not one that I’m seeing asked, that being – Where will the conservatives go after Facebook, Twitter, et al., ban them?

Getting the government involved in trying to force the current social media giants to stop banning conservatives is a ridiculous notion. Government mangles everything it does. That is not the solution. If conservatives want an unbiased social media platform on which to have truly open debate, someone is going to have to step up and create it. It will take money. It will take time. It will take patience. When such a site is created, I’ll be one of the first to sign up. Until that time, I’ll stay on Facebook and Twitter until they ban me for saying they’re being fascist, even though I think they’re within their rights.

Update: For those contacting me, yes, I am well aware of other social media sites like Gab and Parler that are conservative-leaning and are not, at this time, banning people for their political or social views. I am on both of the sites I mentioned. The problem with these sites is that there is no diversity of views. Just about everyone on these sites is there either because they have been banned from Twitter or Facebook or they just don’t want to use sites that do ban people for their views. From my perspective, not having the opportunity for interaction with those who have opposing views makes being on these sites pointless. For now, I will be sticking with Facebook and Twitter until they ban me.

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