Flat White

The social media giants have stopped even pretending

30 October 2018

6:19 PM

30 October 2018

6:19 PM

Sure, they are private businesses and so they can do whatever they want with their users but at least in the past, they used to be less blatant and arbitrary about their censorship of unpopular (to the Big Tech’s liberal monoculture) opinion. Now all the bets are off.  Over the past few days:

In Brazil:

WhatsApp banned hundreds of thousands of accounts in Brazil as the Facebook Inc. messaging service struggles to contain spam, misinformation and political shenanigans ahead of a runoff election in Latin America’s largest country.

Facebook set up a “war room” to stem the tide of hate speech, false information and other damaging content during Brazil’s election this month, marking a test for the social network ahead of the November midterm elections in the U.S. While the company said it was able to thwart false information on its main social network, it’s had more trouble controlling misbehavior on WhatsApp, which is encrypted and virtually impossible to monitor.

As we know well by now, one man’s false information is another man’s freedom fighting. The left-wing presidential candidate Fernando Haddad is trailing quite badly in the polls the right-wing Jair “Brazil’s Trump” Bolsonaro heading towards the second round, so not surprisingly he’s crying foul about Bolsonaro’s business supporters allegedly financing spam (“Many of the fakes portray Haddad as a communist whose Workers Party would turn Brazil into another Cuba, convert children to homosexuality and plans to rig voting machines.”).

Haddad’s supporters – including “The Economist” – claim that Bolsonaro will extinguish Brazilian democracy, which is the mirror image of the anti-Haddad propaganda, but no one is banning “The Economist” and other respectable scaremongers.

Worldwide:

Twitter has suspended accounts that appeared to be setting out to smear missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but has no evidence that the accounts were “pro-Saudi” or Saudi government-backed.

Twitter has been aware of and suspending the accounts for some time, a person familiar with the situation told CNN Friday. The accounts were behaving like typical spam accounts, the source said.

Make no mistake; what the Saudis appear to have done to Khashoggi was barbaric. But “smearing” is again in the eyes of the beholder. Most of the “smears” of Khashoggi I have seen consist of retweeting his own old tweets and otherwise publicly available information about his beliefs and past work and associations. Reminders that Khashoggi was a lifelong Muslim brotherhood propagandist, a pre-9/11 conduit between the Saudis and Osama Bin Laden, as well as a paranoid anti-Semite are useful correctives to the current mainstream media hagiography portraying the martyred occasional “Washington Post” contributor as a liberal reformist and a crusader for free speech. Khashoggi’s brutal and stupid killing (to quote my friend James Robbins quoting Talleyrand about Napoleon’s kidnap and execution of Duc d’Enghien, “It was worse than a crime, it was a blunder”) is part of an ugly Middle Eastern war between three ugly Islamist camps (Shia Iran, Wahhabi Saudi and the Muslim Brotherhood) where it’s near impossible to decide who’s worse. But you can always find an angle to blame Trump.

The United States:

The new “NPC” meme mocks leftists by depicting them as unthinking and reflexive automatons. The meme has upset the left so much that Twitter is now banning people posting it for “dehumanizing speech,” but its humble origins are the computer-controlled characters of limited intelligence found in most video games.

This is perhaps the most bizarre and precious. Of all the memes lampooning and ridiculing the left, the NPC is one of the mildest and least vicious. Coincidentally, the left thinks in exactly the same terms – “unthinking and reflexive automatons” – about the right. It’s a pretty standard political tactic to depict your opponents as mindless followers. But is it really dehumanizing?

Last week on Twitter “Reverend” Louis Farrakhan compared Jew to termites. This is literally de-humanizing a whole group of people, the same way that the Nazis referred to Jews as bacilli and vermin and Hutus described Tutsis as cockroaches, in both cases in a prelude to genocide. Yet both Farrakhan and his tweet are still on Twitter (though not on Facebook anymore).

Is calling people “deplorable” or “Nazis” dehumanizing too? Or you can’t dehumanize conservatives because, well, they’re not really human to start with. Asking for a friend.

The United States again:

Facebook Inc will ban false information about voting requirements and fact-check fake reports of violence or long lines at polling stations ahead of next month’s U.S. midterm elections, company executives told Reuters, the latest effort to reduce voter manipulation on its service.

That seems OK as far as it goes, but let’s remember how last month Twitter banned the conservative actor James Woods for posting a meme, which was clearly satirical and considered as such by Woods, on the account that it “has the potential to be misleading in a way that could impact an election” (in a way detrimental to the Democrats of course).

Expect a lot more of that where it came from.

P.S. Twitter permanently bans gay conservative Bruce Carroll, one of the nicest and funniest guys online, for unspecified “ hateful conduct”.

Arthur Chrenkoff blogs at The Daily Chrenk, where this piece also appears.

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