Tag: Twitter ban

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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Alex Jones and Infowars Permanently Banned from Twitter

By Francis Folz | United States

In a seemingly unprecedented move by Twitter, the social media giant has permanently disabled Alex Jones’ personal account. They also terminated the account of his media company, ‘Infowars’. Twitter claims they removed Jones and Infowars over “Tweets and videos… that violate our abusive behavior policy”

They did not specify which tweet(s) prompted such actions. However the tech firm did state that prior violations played a factor in the company’s ultimate decision. This ban also applies to Twitter’s video platform “Periscope”. 

Jones is not the only media figure that Twitter has removed. Recently, in fact, they terminated and suspended the accounts of far more moderate figures. This includes, but is not limited to, Scott Horton and the Ron Paul Institute.

According to CBS, a video cited pertaining to Alex’s ban displays Jones accosting CNN reporter Oliver Darcy during the congressional hearings that occurred on Capital Hill only one day prior. Many also speculated Jones’ heated discussion with Senator Marco Rubio could have prompted Twitter’s actions.

This is not the first time Jones has appeared in the crosshairs of Silicon Valley. Last month, YouTube (owned by Google), Apple, and Facebook removed their content from Jones and Infowars. They too indicated a violation of their user policies for rationale behind the decision. 

Twitter’s actions come on the heels of their CEO Jack Dorsey testifying before Congress on September 5th in regards to right-leaning censorship on their platform. Dorsey assured Congress that Twitter does not attempt to censor voices that express a conservative or non-mainstream opinion. Despite this, many feel that the decision to block Jones expresses a different reality.

After all, several tweets have indicated an openness towards harm against our current president. These, though, all fell short of Twitter’s abusive behavior policy standards. 

Unfortunately, actions and inactions like these only validate Jones’ conspiracies, whether Twitter, Facebook, and Google recognize it or not. Jones, who has critiqued the media frequently, may be quick to point out his belief in a double standard. If so, he will continue to fan the flames of anti-media thought among some Americans. As Twitter claims to be unbiased, though, it appears the censorship debate is just commencing.


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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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