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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Will Facebook Permit This Post?




Free speech seems to get lost while we have more speech taking place than ever before.

Think about it.  

With more books being published – not to mention billions of daily social media posts – Tweets, Facebook posts YouTube videos, blogs, podcasts – we’re exposed to more speech than in the history of mankind.  

Each day we set a new record.

But what we’re also doing is giving up pieces of us in the process.

We already know that mega-sites like FB sell our data for advertising.  We also know that huge sites like Amazon sell to us based on our purchase history, demographics, and social media connections.  We know that Google manipulates search results as well.  This takes a toll on human behavior – not to mention that our dependence to stare at our phones every two minutes is turning us into anti-social, ADD-suffering chimpanzees who put a focus on the wrong things instead of living life.

But now there’s something else to worry about – and it’s not just that the government playing Big Brother or that our personal security and health are endangered by the bits of data hacked or given willfully.  No, what I’m concerned about –in addition to all of the above (and the fact that the Internet lowers wages, kills commercial real estate, spreads fake news, threatens bookstores, and bombards with too much information) is that free speech is suffering greatly under the current digital landscape.

Free speech is often misunderstood.  
Under the Constitution, free speech is protected so the government can’t arrest you.  You want to say the president is a bum, go ahead without getting jailed.  But Americans also like to believe that they have protections to express themselves freely, when in reality, they have few exemptions from people who will seek retribution for speech they find offensive, bothersome, or critical.  

The boss doesn’t like what you said in a personal blog?  He can fire you.  Did your FB posts not impress a company looking to hire you? They can decide not to hire you.

Free speech doesn’t operate the way we think it should. Our speech has ramifications.

The nation needs to be more tolerant in hearing opposing views.  The problem is that we’re so used to one-way communications.  Look at the cable news shows.  There’s no real debate taking place.  MSNBC and CNN predictably favor liberal causes and do so in an unbalanced way.  Fox does the same for conservative causes.

Social media has a lot of one-way conversations.  
We all post about our views and lives and don’t listen equally to others.  We make our world smaller when all that we do is echo our beliefs and show intolerance to opposing views to the point we seek to shut down their ability to speak.  Just look at college campuses and their failure to give free speech a chance.

What really troubles me is that Facebook and other powerhouses control the flow of information as a result of its size and influence.  If it wants to block your posts or shut you down, it can.  If it wants to filter which information you are able to access, it can.  It just unveiled what had been its secret rules and guidelines for deciding what its 2.2 billion users can post on the world’s largest social network.  Things like hate speech and pornography, which are often viewed unequally by individuals and even the courts, are monitored by Facebook.  It can prevent or remove a post at its choosing.

These polices, even out in the open now, are enforced inconsistently.  I think they shouldn’t be enforced at all.

Recourse.
If you commit libel or defamation, you can be sued.  But when FB circumvents the legal process and tries to judge – with limited resources – what deserves to be posted, it becomes a slippery slope.  Policing content smacks of something un-American.  Let natural views get exchanged and debates take place.  Why do we need FB to tell us what we’re permitted to say or hear?

Politics change over time and FB’s community standards will change as well.  But in order for change to take place in society we would need huge platforms like Facebook to allow for such change to in fact take place – through the allowance of posts it disagrees with.

Think about it.  If FB existed long ago, would it be okay with people posting about pleas for society to let black people ride in the front of the bus or for Japanese Americans to be freed from internment camps?  Back then, FB would have felt pressured to leave the status quo and not allow others to publish speech that opposed the laws of the country.  But that’s exactly when free speech is needed, to give voice to the minority viewpoint and to champion justice until the majority realize the mistakes they have made.

Whether you like porn or not it is art, it is free speech, and it is legal. Who is FB to block it?

Hate speech?  
Anything can be extended to be defined as hate speech.  Who’s to say what is or isn’t hate speech?  You can’t stop hate speech, but as a society we can oppose it and hope to address the underlying issues behind it.  Calling someone derogatory names or giving speeches imploring whites not to marry outside their race may feel wrong and in fact sound ugly, but bad speech gets drowned out by good speech.  You can’t just stop people from thinking and saying what they want.  No, you need to air it all out so that you can combat it.  We must allow speech we disagree with, even what we believe to be repugnant.

To quiet someone’s views – on any topic – damages society more than if it allows for the free flow of vitriol and hate speech.

Now, one may say Facebook has no obligation to support speech, views, or products that it disagrees with.  This is true.  Under the law a private company can choose to promote a certain way of life when it comes to its products and services.  McDonald’s doesn’t have to serve food that accommodates vegans, Muslims, or cancer patients.  Apple doesn’t have to create phones for deaf people.  Toyota doesn’t have to make a car that fits tall people or meets the needs of nuns.  But FB is so big and runs a near monopoly on social media platforms.  Everything passes through FB, so don’t they have a higher obligation to let free speech flow freely?

Limits?
Under the law, free speech is really quite limited, but idealistically, all Americans and its institutions, from the government to business to education to non-profits, should come to understand the value of society having free speech.  It is only through the open exchange of ideas, true feelings, raw emotions, and even ignorance that we can combat negative behavior and promote our best values.

Look at it this way, if your neighbor secretly hates black people and FB doesn’t allow him to vent his views, he slips under the radar.  Further, no debate takes place when his racism is not made public. The censors at FB will win on controlling his speech, but not his actions.  He can still act on his racism and we’ll have no warning, no opportunity to police him or even temper him, simply because he didn’t get to speak out.  Besides, I think for many, by speaking out, even spewing hatred – allows them to get it out of their system and doesn’t necessarily lead to a dangerous act, but when we silence people they will at some point lash out, exploding with anger, resentment, and hate.

I guess we can deliberate for hours about this.  I just hope FB allows me to post about my opposition to their policy.  You see, they dictate and control what you can see or read.  They are like a government, one that was not elected.  Beware of what you say, for Facebook will step in like a puppeteer and pull some strings to get you to dance to a different tune if it so choses.  It has the power.

Now, it’s not just FB.  The other biggies:  Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Amazon, and Google are in the same boat.  They dictate the conversations America can have.  Big Brother is now in the form of a handful of digital companies.  

With so much speech and content around us, are we losing our rights to speak freely?


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.”

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