Tag: Censorship

The Social Media Censorship Problem, Solved

Atilla Sulker | United States

With the recent suspending of the accounts of many individuals on social media sites including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, people are beginning to question the validity of the move. In fact, some liken it to an attack on free speech and a bold censorship. To the libertarian, this is a major area of concern; before any actions take place, one must evaluate the situation critically.

We must first establish the premise that government tends to gradually prey on our liberties more and more. We are like the frog in the boiling pot, so to speak. If we assign government a small task, the scope of this task becomes larger over time. As a result, we end up with more regulations and fewer liberties. Based on this premise, the goal that the libertarian should be aiming at is to extend free speech as far as possible without violating the non-aggression principle.

The Nature of Rights

It is also important to realize how rights work. Rights are hierarchical, and at the top of the hierarchy is property rights. From property rights stems the freedom of speech and a whole range of other rights. Property rights not only allow the owner of the property to say what he pleases on the property, but also give him the power to use property such as billboards and signs to spread his message. In this way, property rights come before free speech. 

You can not come onto my property and say as you wish. I, as the owner, set the limits as to what people can and can’t say. Though I may allow you to say certain things, you have no initial right to speech on my property; I must grant it to you. We can clearly see the superiority of property rights to free speech.

So how does all this apply to the digital paradigm? I will now begin exploring a term I have coined: “digital property rights”.

Rights and Social Media

Many people use the argument that Facebook and Twitter, among other social media sites, are private companies and they hence have the right to pick and choose who can use their site. If one thinks about this, it is similar to businesses in the physical realm. For this analogy, I will be comparing social media sites to giant apartments.

If I were to rent an apartment, I would have access to a certain area of property, but I’d simply be renting it and would still have to live within a certain set of rules that the property owner sets. The apartment owner has laid out his terms in our contract. He could quite possibly charge me fees for various violations of the contract, whether it be a noise violation, a disturbance of peace, etc.

Connecting this to social media, it becomes clear that accounts operate in this same way. The account user is entering the “digital property” of the site owner. The site owner ultimately has the rights to grant or revoke the right of speech to the user. It is his or her “digital property”; hence, he or she sets the rules. We can think of account restrictions and temporary bans as fees charged to the tenant in the apartment for various violations of the contract. We can think of account terminations as the evictions of the digital realm.

The Implications

So where has this analogy lead us to, and what implications does it have for the libertarian? For one thing, it outlines the importance of the voluntary contract, but beyond this, it shows how fundamental property rights are to the libertarian conscience. It seems that property rights can solve practically any issue, and this is certainly one of them. It can, of course, be applied to areas beyond just social media, including websites and domains.

Now a common objection to the ideas I have laid down would be that these social media sites have conspired with the government to ban certain people, and hence this is not private discrimination, but public discrimination. Though this argument may be convincing, it is important to never lose sight of our goal, which is the diminution of the scope of government. If we were to try and stop social media sites from taking such actions, it would bring in further government intervention, which is not a good means to our desired ends. 

Another objection that I have heard is that these various social media sites are “monopolies”. In assessing this claim, it is important to look at monopoly from an Austrian economist’s perspective. To the Austrian, monopoly is not when a certain firm controls the majority of an industry, but when it has the government’s permission and privilege to do so. Luckily, there are still alternative routes to spread ideas on the internet.

The Only Fair Is Laissez-faire

The private industry is very important in protecting one’s freedoms because incentives for profit are directly linked to the satisfaction of the consumer. Some people think that it is wrong to criticize the censorship of certain social media sites, because they are private. However, one can criticize a private company, yet still believe in its sovereignty. After all, the whole point of privatizing is to ensure greater consumer satisfaction.

Laissez-faire capitalism is the only way to increase the amount of choices in an industry to the greatest extent. With the consumer in control, we will ultimately see the fate of sites like Facebook and Twitter. If the consumer does not like their execution of censorship, they may protest the sites and boycott them. These same protocols exist in any industry. The consumer decides the fate of a company, so if a firm is not pleasing the consumer, they will either have to change their ways or liquidate. This is one of the many benefits of capitalism. Vote with your dollar!

Originally published on Lewrockwell.com

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Twitter’s Terrible Mob Mentality

By K. Tymon Zhou | United States

A defining characteristic of mobs is their irrationality. Self-awareness is lost in an all-consuming group identity. They readily apply double standards without a second thought. Most mobs are monstrous mayflies, spreading disaster momentary.  Unfortunately, a mob mentality can morph into a corporate culture. Such is the terrible tale of Twitter and Candace Owens.

Candace Owens, a conservative activist at Turning Point USA, had her Twitter account banned for 12 hours. Why? Mimicking The New York Times writer Sarah Jeong, Owens made defamatory statements:

Such statements are shocking.  One can readily understand why Twitter would ban a user who made such statements. However, Owens stated she simply used black where Jeong used white. Her intent was clear: to criticize Jeong. Nevertheless, Twitter, falsely detecting hate, banned her. To their credit, Twitter apologized. This begs the question: why wasn’t Jeong similarly banned? The answer lies in the psychological origins of mob mentality and Twitter’s corporate culture.

Mobs are a catastrophic case of conformity.  In 1951, Solomon Asch, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College, conducted a classic experiment on conformity.  During the experiment, students were presented several lines and were asked to compare a line.  Asch separated the students into groups of eight with seven being willing confederates with him. The confederates would give an incorrect answer before the unaware participant. However, thirty-two percent of participants agreed with the incorrect majority.   In mobs, individuals who would otherwise challenge the mob’s flawed assumptions bend to the majority’s will. Asch’s experiment presented only peer influence. In reality, mobs present even greater pressure such as damaging a dissident’s career.   This results in even greater conformity under such conditions.

A corporate culture can similarly create conformity. If a corporate culture is dominated by a particular ideology, individuals from opposing ideologies feel less comfortable sharing their views. Such is the case with several technology companies such as Apple and Facebook. In a survey by the Lincoln Network, sixty-six percent of conservatives and libertarians in these companies shared that they would feel uncomfortable sharing their political views with their colleagues. By way of comparison,  only thirty percent of liberals felt similarly.  This liberal corporate culture can lead to poorly informed decisions such as whether or not to ban an individual from using Twitter. Mo Nohrai, a former Twitter content agent, describes this process:

…if they said this is: ‘Pro-Trump’ I don’t want it because it offends me, this, that. And I say I banned this whole thing, and it goes over here and they are like, ‘Oh you know what? I don’t like it too. You know what? Mo’s right, let’s go, let’s carry on, what’s next?

The response of “Mo’s right, let’s go” echoes Asch’s line experiment. In a corporation dominated by liberal ideology such as Twitter, questioning a ban would likely go unrewarded. It would result in exposing political views, something many conservative and libertarian employees find uncomfortable. Instead, they are placed with a stark choice: conform and succeed or dissent and be isolated. Faced with such a choice, remaining silent seems the preferable option, allowing double standards to emerge.

What can Twitter do to resolve this conflict? Altering a culture presents no easy task. By making the banning process more sophisticated, Twitter can avoid embarrassing mistakes such as Owen’s. By decentralizing this process, Twitter could remove the pressure to conform to a content agent’s position.  In any case, substantial reform is needed to control Twitter’s mob mentality. Through such efforts, Twitter can regain its rationality and become the open forum it needs to be.

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Twitter Suspends Scott Horton, Daniel McAdams, and Peter van Buren

By Kenneth Casey | United States

Recently, Twitter has suspended the accounts of three prominent libertarian voices. Scott Horton; editor of antiwar.com and managing director of the Libertarian Institute, Daniel McAdams; Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity who often appears alongside Ron Paul on the Ron Paul Liberty Report, and Peter van Buren, a former foreign service officer who wrote a book critiquing America’s involvement in Iraq, all landed on the chopping block.

Horton, is one of the leading non-interventionist voices in the country. The author of Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan, he stated he was suspended for calling Jonathan Katz a “boo hoo little bitch” for getting van Buren permanently banned from Twitter. The company apparently banned McAdams for retweeting Horton’s tweet at Katz.

In the aftermath of his account permanently shutting down, van Buren said in a letter that Twitter banned him for “exchanges with several mainstream journalists over their support for America’s wars and unwillingness to challenge the lies of government”. He then added “I lost my career at the State Department because I spoke out as a whistleblower against the Iraq War. I’ve now been silenced, again, for speaking out, this time by a corporation. I am living in the America I always feared.”

This all comes in the aftermath of the news of several media platforms removing Alex Jones. Spotify, Facebook, and YouTube all coordinated these to occur at the same time.

Although Twitter did not de-platform Jones and his company, the same logic applies. Three important advocates of a Foreign Policy of non-intervention and peace that goes against the establishment, mainstream narrative who happen to be vital figures to the libertarian movement now have their Twitter accounts suspended because of Twitter’s algorithms. Should we be silent about such a powerful company silencing these voices? Should we support their beliefs on right and wrong? Or instead, should we support letting its users decide that on their own with their own thoughts and beliefs?

While the threat may seem insignificant now, even private censorship of speech is often a slippery slope. The actions may trigger further removals in the future.

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Reed College Students Want to Throw Out Historical Authors Because They’re White

By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial

A student organization known as Reedies Against Racism has called for the removal of all white authors from the humanities 110 class.

The organization became upset when a revision to the Hum 100 class meant “the African and Middle Eastern texts that past Reed activists fought for—including Gilgamesh and the Egyptian love poems—will be cut from the syllabus in exchange for the inclusion of Mexico City and Harlem.”

The placement of the texts mattered to the organization too. They had issues with the fact that Greek and Roman texts were going to be reviewed before the non-white texts.

Their proposed solution? Reedies wants to get rid of any white texts.

We feel that these cities should be outside of Europe, as reparations for Humanities 110’s history of erasing the histories of people of color, especially black people.

Professor Jay Dickson was slightly confused by the position of the activist group. “The idea that Hum 110 is a ‘white’ course is very strange to me,” Dickson said, “It presupposes that our contemporary racial categories are timeless.”

This seems to be just another instance of left-leaning student hysteria over minor issues. Historical authors are historic because they had an impact. Refusing to study their impact because they were white is ignorant and will help absolutely nobody.

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Nasim Aghdam’s Archive Of Insanity: YouTube, Art & Terror

Spencer Kellogg | United States

Who was the YouTube Shooter? An unstable psycho-art vegan that fits uncomfortably outside the stereotypical lens of the mainstream media’s anti-gun slant, Nasim Aghdam (who went by Nasim Sabz) has been glossed over in the media since the shooting spree that left three wounded and herself dead outside YouTube’s headquarters in California. In the last week Nasim’s life story has been written off and summarily described in three distinct words; vegan, bodybuilder, and crazy.

In her work, Aghdam (who went by Sabz on her numerous social accounts), is a raw, out of control psychedelic disco. A manic carousel of labored postmodernism, Nasim’s videos showed her to be a bewitching performer in the same vein as other contemporary video art rockstars like Ryan Trecartin & Titanic Sinclair. In the self-made and self-featured videos, Aghdam’s work ranged from nightmare aerobic CGI to candy-colored landscapes that acted as a platform for art that ran the gamut from music video to political activism.

In many of her lo-fi videos, Nasim mixed video and sound to create an aesthetic palette that was all her own. Sometimes, she just made simple instruction videos on how to cook her favorite vegan foods. Usually, a deadpanned stare greeted her viewers as she danced and sang her way through showtime routines and hallucinatory landscapes. Food featured prominently in her work and her devout belief in animal rights was laid bare in a clip where she holds a sign that reads “Meat Is Murder.”

Had she made these videos for a contemporary art gallery, there is a very real chance that Aghdam would have found a safety net of financial backing, a community of like-minded makers and the accolades that accompany such things. It has been noted that Aghdam was a viral sensation in Iran and her work is the sort that critics often find ripe for its multicultural accounting on the moral vapidity of modern America through an atypical ‘outsider lens.’

In “America’s Got Talent Show Contest,” Nasim intercuts CGI video of herself performing ninja moves in front of a stunned panel of judges. Simon Cowell thanks her behind a slaptrack of thunderous applause.

This is the exactly the type of insane work that has made careers in the modern world of performance art.

Who gets to defines crazy? When Kendell Jenner recreates the belabored ‘cut piece‘ in front of glowing cameras and paparazzi in tow, is she not crazy? If we were to leave the definition of crazy in the hands of our corporate media who are reliant on the sales of pharmaceutical ad space, we might assume that to be crazy means simply to live the tortured existential despair of a suburban mother. If we allowed the modern art school intelligentsia to define crazy, we would most definitely find an empty space where Aghdam would have fit soundly. In the modern classroom, this third-eye wandering, gender androgynous, anti-capitalist artist finds a comforting safe space and Aghdam’s particular brand would have been applauded for its brave advocation of animal rights, veganism, and counter-culture feminism.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Nasim’s work has already found support in the mainstream culture. Although her videos were taken down by YouTube, users are quickly posting copies and both the conversation and viewership for her work are seeing a substantial uptick. While many have so far mocked the videos for their lack of production value and overall bizarre content, some have begun celebrating the late Aghdam in the comment sections of her reshared videos.

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Some of her pieces are already finding a second life as remixed music videos set to legendary songs by famed artists like Hall & Oates. The response has been overwhelmingly positive with one commentator gushing: “This is my new favorite shooter. Sorry, Elliot Rodger.”

Yes, this is the world we are living in.

In her piece “Do You Dare,” Nasim performs aerobics in a camouflage zip-up jacket while a song she produced plays in the background. The piece reminds me distinctly of two well-known video and music artists of the last 50 years. First, the bizarre and ‘crazy’ videos that Shia Labeuof released in his “Just Do It” phase. Secondly, the music belays a similar rhythm and sound to the late Lizzy Descloux’s insatiable dancefloor albums.

The video blends the style and sensibilities of free-form 80’s video art with the soft sell sexualism that became ever-present in her work. The blurred lines between sex and psychosis have always been a selling point in capitalist America and the world of performance art is no different. Looking through the careers of performance art luminaries like Marina AbromivichGeneva Jacuzzi, and Yoko Ono, you will find a common thread of bizarre and borderline crazy work.

In the past year, Aghdam had grown angry with YouTube over the demonetization of her account. Although her work had gone viral in Iran and she boasted a sizeable following, Aghdam argued that she was being censored for her fringe political views. A rough sketch of the days leading up to the spree suggests that someone missed the chance to potentially stop the shooting. Her family knew she was angry at YouTube and have told reporters that they warned San Bruno officers that she might be headed to the tech companies headquarters. That claim has been disputed by police.

a12Recently her work had turned toward the political nature of censorship in the United States. Nasim’s belief that her videos were worth than she was being paid led her to a cliff of despair. In the hypercompetitive world of online self-made celebrities, Aghdam had grown tired of what she saw as the sexual degradation of society. She lamented that the only way to make money was to be ‘stupid’.

Never talk about moral or human issues. Never talk about your own views. Otherwise you will be discriminated and censored. Growing on youtube is not in your hands. It all depends on who is controlling your channel. If he or she likes your videos, then they will let your videos get views. Otherwise… Your videos will be merely regulated.

Aghdam is not the first mass shooter to leave a video diary of their depressing existence. A minority of conspiracy theorists have suggested the entire event was a ‘false flag’ operation performed by the deep state.  She joins a small group of mass shooters who have left hours of footage to be gleaned over by the general public.

Image Source YouTube