On August 6th of last year far right talk show host Alex Jones was banned from Twitter YouTube and Facebook in one swift move (Shapiro). His podcast Infowars had been known to be extremely vulgar, politically incorrect and was especially well known for conspiracies about chemicals in the water turning the frog’s gay (YouTube). It’s easy to see the logic behind banning Alex Jones but was it simply because of his political incorrectness? Or was there more to it than that? For years people on the Right wing of politics have claimed that they have been unfairly targeted by social media companies and media companies in general.
And their claims aren’t unsubstantiated. Sarah Jeong, a New York Times editor, was heavily criticized when she was placed in the above mentioned position for tweets such as “Oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men” and “are white people genetically predisposed to burn faster in the sun, thus logically being only fit to live underground like groveling goblins”.
But where she was not banned or punished by social media companies. Daily wire producer Jeremy Boring had his account suspended for saying in response to a survey for Brussel sprout recipes “Even better coat with melted butter salt, pepper, paprika and a dash of Worcestershire, sear in cast iron in bacon grease for thirty seconds or until brown, then throw them away and burn your face off with hot pan because that would be better than eating Brussel sprouts.
” (Zanotti) While maybe not the best thing to be saying it’s at least not open seeded racism against 2/3rds of the American public. And this apparent bias has many people asking the question is it ethical for social media companies to simply ban or subdue speech that they do not like.
What can be done about this many have said that censorship by social media companies is unconstitutional and so it should be stopped by the government on the grounds of the first amendment. This is a faulty argument because the bill of rights applies to the powers of the government not private companies. However, there is still the ethical question of censorship.
Many people think that censorship a good thing after all you wouldn’t want your child running into pornography while scrolling through Facebook or watching a YouTube video according to an article by the American Psychological Association the average age of exposer is 13.37 years old with the youngest participant in the study being just 5 years old it was also found that of these exposers 43.5% of them where accidental 33.4% of them where intentional and 17.2% of them where forced. (Sliwa)
With numbers like that its no wonder that social media companies do there best to censor out explicit and sexual content however despite their best efforts things still get through that should not be seen by children, or really anyone for that matter. According to a video that has gone viral in the past couple weeks there are instances of softcore child pornography going on in which perverts take videos of young girls often around the age if not younger then 10 or 12 and time stamp where they are in “compromising positions” (Mattwhatitis)
There are other instances that have been found on The “Youtube kids” app which is supposed to be safe for children where during the video someone will come on and give instructions for suicide saying something to the affect of “remember horizontal for attention vertical for results” as they point to there arm.(Criss).
With stories like these it is easy to see why some form of censorship is necessary but what about censorship of opinions and ideologies that the left leaning social media companies don’t agree with. As mentioned earlier in this essay there are numerus examples of censorship and unfair targeting of conservative profiles. That are targeted on the grounds of spreading messages that are harmful to society just as much if not more than the videos containing child pornography and instructions on how to commit suicide.
So who decides what is right and what is wrong? Is it the job of social media companies to filter the content that we can see; or it our own?
Many would argue that it is the Job of the social media platforms to censor their content. No decent person wants to be scrolling through Facebook and have pornography or other graphic images appear on their screen or have fake news articles that are designed to generate clicks and traffic towards a site. But they are often misleading and spread false narratives that divide our society. Many people claim that it is because of these articles that Donald Trump was elected to office. But that could also just be fake news.
So is it the job of social media to censor the content that we see and do we really want them to play Big Brother (Orwell) to us controlling everything that we see read and hear in the nearly 2 hours that most Americans spend on social media (Asano) or is it our job to be diligent and create a filter within ourselves, and within our children?
Sister Linda K Burton said in the April 2014 General Conference of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints:
“Filters are useful tools, but the greatest filter in the world, the only one that will ultimately work, is the personal internal filter that comes from a deep and abiding testimony of our Heavenly Father’s love and our Savior’s atoning sacrifice for each one of us.” (Reeves)