Everyone reading this article right now has likely experienced or knows someone who has experienced some form of social media censorship. Whether your entirely peaceful post received a “fact check” label, or was “removed for violating community guidelines” or you were unceremoniously silenced for life, Facebook and Twitter censorship affects millions. No matter what degree of big tech censorship you have faced, there is a common theme with all forms of it — it does not work and only makes things worse.
For years, the Free Thought Project has been warning that censorship actually leads to more ignorance and extremism.
As TFTP pointed out earlier this year, had the establishment and big tech actually wished to cause less harm and de-escalate away from the potential civil war brewing in the United States, they would take very different steps. Had they wished to ease the doubts of a large portion of the population who disputed the election results, they would have answered with more transparency. Instead, their answer was silencing those who questioned it, declaring all talk of election fraud ‘fake news’ and sending them into a frantic paranoid flurry that ended with the storming of the US Capitol.
Make no mistake, those forcing these Orwellian tactics know that by silencing these folks, they are not stopping these ideas or paranoid fears. They are justifying them, stoking paranoia and radicalizing those who may be on the verge of breaking.
Do you think that Joe Sixpack, who was unemployed for a year during the lockdowns, who thinks the election was stolen from him, and who was just censored into oblivion in the last year — removing any public outlet of expression — is simply going to throw his arms up and say, “oh well, I guess that’s it, I’ll stop now” and it will be over?
The fact is that the leadership behind this censorship knows exactly what is going to happen by pushing these people into the fringes. They are fomenting ignorance, radicalization and extremism. Now, a new report shows exactly that.
The report from Media Matters shows that censoring and labelling social media posts that contain misinformation actually helps their spread. Naturally, the left-leaning outlet only focuses on Trump posts, but the effect is likely the same across the board.
According to the report, Media Matters analyzed former President Trump’s 6,081 posts that he created between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021. Key findings include:
- Facebook labeled at least 506 Trump posts between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021. These posts earned over 205.8 million interactions, or an average of roughly 407,000 interactions per post. Comparatively, all of Trump’s posts during this time earned over 927 million interactions, or an average of roughly 152,000 interactions per post.
- Facebook labeled 147 of Trump’s 868 posts that cited right-wing media outlets. These 147 posts earned over 42 million interactions, or an average of roughly 291,000 interactions per post.
- Notably, 127 — or over 86% — of Trump’s labeled posts citing right-wing media were related to election integrity, five specifically mentioned “Stop the Steal,” and two were related to COVID-19. These posts earned more average interactions per post than Trump’s posts overall and Trump’s posts citing right-wing media.
- Even as Trump is suspended from Facebook, the platform is failing to consistently label his election misinformation. Facebook labeled at least two posts that promoted Trump’s May 13 statement, originally posted to his blog, as “false,” but dozens of other posts with images or text from the statement remain on Facebook.
If the ideas of the censors are so grand, why not allow them to compete with other ideas? Censoring ideas doesn’t stop them, it only allows very bad ideas to go unchallenged in the public arena, thereby granting them credence. This is extremely dangerous.
On top of amplifying misinformation, these social media censorship policies also silence legitimate information. We watched this unfold with the Wuhan lab theory over the last year.
As we reported last month, in 2020, anyone who shared information on social media about anything related to COVID-19 and the lab in Wuhan, China or that mentioned the possibility that COVID-19 was man-made, saw their post labelled, removed and may have even been banned. Facebook, Twitter, Google, the establishment media, and many in the government made it their primary mission to “dispel misinformation” over the origins of the COVID-19 virus.
The arbiters of truth in Big Tech claimed and vehemently pushed the idea — based only on theories — that the COVID-19 virus originated in nature, and anyone who challenged or questioned this view was a dangerous conspiracy theorist.
Twitter even took to completely removing the account of a Chinese virologist who came forward with these claims. Dr Li-Meng Yan, who was reportedly a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Hong Kong School of Public Health, had her Twitter account suspended after she claimed the coronavirus was created in a lab and put forth a trove of data to back up her claims.
Make no mistake, there are definitely some asinine and utterly stupid conspiracy theories out there on just about everything, including COVID-19, the election, and Trump’s 4D chess. But does society need handlers to hide these things from them by censoring those who engage with it?
Stupid ideas didn’t used to go extremely viral. Even in the furthest corners of the conspiracy theory realm, verifiably false facts were easily proven wrong and dismissed swiftly. But that no longer happens now thanks to fact checkers. As the report above shows us, the labels by fact-checkers are having the opposite effect.
What’s more, because fact checkers are heavily based along party lines, even when they are perfectly truthful, their partisan nature tends to make their political rivals dismiss actual facts.
Fact checking sites are certainly welcomed but when they have authority to silence those who may disagree with the majority consensus, we move from providing a benefit to silencing crucial and much needed skepticism.
Supporting this censorship is wrong. Free speech does not come with terms and conditions and those who claim it does will eventually be silenced by the very monster they helped to create. They will also be complicit in fomenting ignorant extremism that will usher in new levels of domestic terrorism and a police state like we’ve never seen.