A shocking New York Times exposé published on Friday about how a few Facebook executives apparently decide what can or cannot be said on the world’s largest social media platform shines a disturbing light on Silicon Valley’s “handling” of freedom of speech — if it can be called that.
“Every other Tuesday morning, several dozen Facebook employees gather over breakfast to come up with the rules, hashing out what the site’s two billion users should be allowed to say. The guidelines that emerge from these meetings are sent out to 7,500-plus moderators around the world,” The Times piece noted bluntly.
“The closely held rules are extensive, and they make the company a far more powerful arbiter of global speech than has been publicly recognized or acknowledged by the company itself,” The Times piece also said.
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The moderators face an impossibly complicated and endlessly subjective task of regulating the billions of daily posts in more than 100 languages on Facebook.
The goal is to delete all messages that might spark extremist political violence or that express “hateful” views.
Despite repeated professions of neutrality by Facebook executives, including by co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, The Times article referenced how a cadre of censors often “allowed extremist language to flourish in some countries, while censoring mainstream speech in others.”
Facebook censors “banned the Proud Boys, a far-right pro-Trump group,” The Times article reported.
Yet Silicon Valley’s growing suppression of free speech is not limited to Facebook.
Two other Silicon Valley giants, Google and Apple, also seem to have their eye on First Amendment rights.
In the most recent example, Apple removed an app created by Living Hope Ministries from the iTunes store.
The evangelical Christian group “proclaims a Christ-centered, biblical worldview of sexual expression rooted in one man and one woman in a committed, monogamous, heterosexual marriage for life,” according to the Christian Daily Reporter (CDR).
The app was removed “after a national gay rights organization called Truth Wins Out started a petition to have it removed as ‘bigoted,’ ‘hateful,’ and ‘dangerous, homophobic garbage’ created by ‘hateful bigots and bullies’ intent on ‘tormenting LGBT youth,’” CDR noted.
Ricky Chelette, Living Hope Ministries executive director, told CDR, “All we do is teach a very orthodox view of biblical truth” — and he denied that the banned app advocates “conversion therapy.”
Chelette rejected conversion therapy as “not even a therapeutic modality. It’s a created term applied to those who believe in a traditional and orthodox understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its power to transform people’s lives when they fully trust in it.”
The group’s petition had only 356 signatures as of Friday afternoon, CDR claimed.
In the same week, Google responded to a complaint by a liberal opinion writer by altering its search algorithm to show more pro-abortion links on the first results page for YouTube videos.
“Before I raised the issue with YouTube late last week, the top search results for ‘abortion’ on the site were almost all anti-abortion and frequently misleading,” wrote Slate’s April Glaser.
Glaser complained to Google on December 21.
By Christmas Eve, she said, “The search results had changed to include a number of news outlets among the top results, including a video from Vice about how women trying to get abortions are being stymied by anti-abortion centers that masquerade as clinics.”
When Glaser crowed on Twitter about her success with YouTube — see her tweet below — PJ Media’s Paula Bolyard then tweeted, “Well, what have we here? Slate writer claims she got YouTube to change search results to reflect her pro-baby-killing views. Tell me more about how there’s no anti-conservative bias.”
Search for "abortion" on YouTube last week and the top results were a horrifying mix of gore and dangerous misinformation. YouTube changed the results after I asked https://t.co/sNjQncSrNS
— april glaser (@aprilaser) December 21, 2018
The Glaser-inspired YouTube censorship isn’t the first time Google has shown its bias against pro-life views, Faithwire noted.
“Earlier this year, during Ireland’s referendum on the legality of abortion, the internet behemoth announced it would prohibit all advertisements coming from international sources — namely, the U.S. — leading up to and during the vote,” Faithwire said.
“But Google didn’t stop there. Eventually, the social media network decided to ban all ads, both foreign and domestic, that pertained in any way to Ireland’s abortion law.”
“That regulation applied to YouTube.”
Check out some of the comments about what’s going on today on social media — then share your thoughts about this in the comments section below.
.@Facebook is censoring free speech. They’re making & changing the rules. Truth is truth. God made the rules & His Word is truth. The free exchange of ideas is part of our country’s DNA. You can read the post that Facebook took down last week here: 2/2 https://t.co/SIbgivZjTo
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) December 29, 2018
— MediaResearchCenter (@theMRC) December 28, 2018
— CNET (@CNET) December 29, 2018
Mark Tapscott is a senior investigative journalist.