All of us started blogging to express ourselves. The reasoning might be different for each and every one of us, but we all wanted to get our words “out there”.
Some of us started blogging because the way we expressed ourselves in the outside world was frowned upon. And so we found our safe heaven here. A place where we can say what we think, without getting a muzzle put on our face.
A big part of being an adult and having access to the Internet is being able to look up whatever I am interested in. While I am aware that searching for certain things might land me under the watchful eye of the FBI, I feel comfortable searching for just about anything.
The reason why I am enjoying this platform as much as I am is being able to converse with not only those who agree with me but also those who do not. I might change their minds, or they may change mine. Who knows? That is the beauty of a social media platform available to people around the world. Voices speak up, ideas are shared, minds are made up. Kind of like in the outside world, only on a more global scale and with fewer inhibitions.
What I have recently read boggled my mind. Namely – Pinterest announced that it was blocking posts (pins? I am unsure of the lingo) related to vaccines. What does that mean? It means that if you go on Pinterest and search for “vaccines” or “vaccination”, you will not find anything. Instead, you will get a message saying: “Pins about this topic often violate our community guidelines, so we’re currently unable to show search results.”
Ah, those pesky community guidelines got me in trouble more than once. Not on Pinterest, because I do not have an account there, but on various Internet forums. At one point or another, someone gets their panties in a bunch and I end up being silenced. That is a terrible violation of human rights. I am not forcing people to read and believe what I write. They have a choice.
In order to see what Pinterest’s guidelines are all about, I went onto their website. The very first line claims that it is the platform to help people DISCOVER things. However, the next sentence says that they will try and do everything not to show inappropriate things. The word inappropriate is very subjective. What I deem inappropriate, you might not, and vice versa. Under the “safety” category of the guidelines, Pinterest prides itself on keeping divisive content off their site. Divisive content? Who gets to decide what is and what is not divisive? Does it not make you feel like that is a perfect environment for discrimination? Of course, Pinterest claims to remove content that is discriminatory. How cool is it to be your own boss? To have people follow your rules, but not having to follow them yourself? “Don’t infringe anyone’s (…) other rights.” Preach, Pinterest. You are casting stones, but are you without sin?
Blocking vaccine-related searches is just a temporary solution, while Pinterest looks for something more permanent. It claims that its purpose is to spread inspiration, not misinformation. Supposedly, a big chunk of the results urged people against vaccinations.
Here is my issue with all that – it impedes freedom of speech. Whether you agree with vaccination, or not (or maybe yes to some, but not to all?), you should be able to do your research on the topic. You should be able to get to know stories of people around the world. I understand that there IS a lot of misinformation out there. People are spreading rumors, etc. However, that is the beauty of the Internet – you can find anything there. In the end, it is YOUR choice to believe it or not.
As I was reading about Pinterest, I also discovered similar issues with Facebook and Instagram. The first one has been in the spotlight for a while (Russian bots), so it was not as surprising to me as Pinterest, or Instagram. Facebook is trying to make anti-vaccine content less visible. It said that the steps they are taking are aimed at “reducing or removing this type of content from recommendations, including Groups You Should Join, and demoting it in search results, while also ensuring that higher quality and more authoritative information is available.” What is authoritative information? Why do some people have a better chance at becoming an Internet sensation than others? You need to say specific things in order to get more organic traffic onto your page. Are you alright with all that?
A member of Congress holds Facebook accountable for posting information that is not medically accurate. Since when did social media become medical gurus? Since when did we start believing everything we read on a platform that is meant for keeping in touch with your friends? If I want medically credible information, I speak to doctors and read medical journals. I turn to social media and forums when I want to see other people’s experiences. That way I keep my head straight without having to blame other people for my actions.
It was surprising to me to find out that Instagram bans hashtags whenever they want to. One year the hashtag “happythanksgiving” was being overused and misused, so they blocked search results pertaining to that hashtag. Apparently, it is the user’s responsibility to check the banned hashtags on a regular basis (even daily). Why do you need to care? Well, if you use any of the banned hashtags, you run the risk of being shadow banned, which means that you will only be visible to those who follow you. I was in utter disbelief when I scanned through the list of the banned hashtags. Take a look here to see how ridiculous some of them are.
“It is for your own good” – they say. But, if we have a hard time believing our parents when they say that, why would we believe companies that do not even know us?
How do you feel about social media banning certain things?
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