Tag: twitter censorship

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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Censoring The Alt-Right Is About As Counter-Productive As We Can Get

By Colin Louis | United States

Over the last couple of weeks, new revelations have come forward about Facebook’s use of user data. This, along with bannings on various social media platforms, has raised several questions about social media censorship.

Many supporters of censorship claim that it will prevent giving the Alt-Right a platform on social media. They may sound good in theory, but they don’t work in practice. Extremists still spread extremism online.

There are two ways we can take on this problem of Alt-Right online extremism; we can debate or we can ban. Censorship is not the way to go.

Let’s see who’s not being censored.

Richard Spencer, a White Supremacist and founder of the Alt-Right still has a Twitter and Instagram account.

Matthew Heimbach, a Neo-Nazi and leader of the Traditionalist Workers Party still has a YouTube account that he posts his hateful videos.

Paul Nehlen, a White Nationalist and candidate for Wisconsin’s first congressional district still has an Instagram account.

AltRight.com, the literal website for the Alt-Right is fully functional.

BloodandSoil.org, the website for the white nationalist group ‘Patriot Front’ is actively recruiting members on their website. (“Blood and Soil” was a nazi chant yelled at Charlottesville.)

Nsm88.org, the official website for the National Socialist Movement, the new American Nazi Party is still fully functional. The “88” in the website name is code for “hail Hitler,” (The 8th letter of the alphabet is H. HH is short for “hail Hitler.”)

The point is that censorship by Google, Twitter, and YouTube doesn’t work against the Alt-Right. While it’s unfortunate, regardless of if we shut them up or not hate will continue to spread and we should take a better approach to it. The Alt-Right is an ideology of hate that can only be combated with free speech.

The only solution is to debate them and prove their ideology wrong (just as one would with any other dangerous ideology).

If you want to show the world that Nazism and White Supremacy aren’t the way to go, beat them in debate and prove to the internet they are wrong. Use facts and logic as your sword, not censorship.

Even if you take away their platform racists are still going to be racist.

If you beat them on their platform you will see what little influence they have. Take Richard Spencer’s speech in Florida: almost nobody would have showed up if the Governor hadn’t declared a state of emergency. By taking their platform away they can tell people “they want to censor us because we tell the truth!”

Censoring them makes it look like they are winning. It makes the other side look scared of their arguments. It is the weak thing to do.

So, don’t use censorship to attack the Alt-Right. The Alt-Right is a force of hate and ignorance, but we need to use logic to prove them wrong. Removing a couple of twitter pages won’t do anything, we need to focus our force on destroying their core philosophy.


Featured image source.