Some of you might have noticed that I did not post a NROP last week. Sometimes life gets in the way (not always in a good way). While I had to skip last week, I realized that I missed writing and discussing stuff with you all. This piece if a bit longer than my normal NROPs, but I hope you take the time to read it anyway.
It is a good day to be alive!
Freedom of speech is a very important to me topic, which I have been writing about ever since I started this blog. Free speech can be expensive was only the fourth post I shared with my audience (in 2017). If you want another example of my writing on this topic, take a look at a post from 2019 entitled: “NROP: Ban on freedom of speech – public service, or oppression?” It talks about how social media content (on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest) is being monitored and edited as needed. The freedom of our speech did not start deteriorating in 2017. It has been under attack for generations. However, I believe that our struggles to defend our freedom got a lot worse in the XXI century.
Some of you might wonder why I do not have many social media accounts. Simply put, the cons outweigh the pros for me. To be a little bit more specific – there are multiple factors that contributed to my stance on the topic of social media. It is true that I do not have much time to spend on all these various platforms in a fruitful way. Yes, my privacy also plays a role. However, another factor worth mentioning is me not enjoying being silenced. In the past, I have been a member of different online groups, most of which ended up banning me in one form or another. It was always due to a violation of “Terms and Conditions” that were written in a way that allowed the moderators/owners to do as they pleased. Those groups varied from online gaming, through political, to psychology and mental health, with everything in-between.
We all know that our accounts can be closed on most (all?) major platforms if only someone deems our behavior as deviating from the norm or ‘unfit.’ Whatever that might mean. These are privately-owned companies and they can do whatever they want. I realize that. If I subscribe to whatever product you are selling, I am agreeing to play by your rules. However, should you choose to eliminate me from the game, at least have the decency to admit that you (or someone else on whose behalf you are acting) did not like what I had to say, instead of hiding behind the “Terms and Conditions” for the good of all involved, and making me out to be the villain.
In the heat of the moment, I might have called someone dumb, but that is probably the extent of my online transgressions. Everything else was just misconstrued stuff. Whether purposefully or not. Why do I tell you all this? It is because I understand how it is to be excluded from a conversation.
Because I understand how it feels to be SILENCED.
Since you are reading this, it means you have the Internet, which, in turn, means you have access to the “news.” The reason why I put the word news in quotation marks is because today’s definition of the news differs from the one we had a couple of decades ago. Not everything considered news today is exactly that. Whatever medium you use to check up on world events, you probably know about some recent Twitter (and other social media platforms) bans.
Less than two weeks before the USA Presidential Inauguration on January 20th, 2021, Donald Trump’s personal account (@realDonaldTrump) was (permanently) banned from Twitter. Subsequently, so was Trump’s official presidential account @POTUS as well as the @WhiteHouse account (temporary bans). That caused an avalanche of bans on other platforms.
Twitch (live-streaming service) followed suit and banned Donald J. Trump. Facebook banned him for two weeks (until at least after the Inauguration Day). Trump’s Snapchat account was also locked. Shopify banned official accounts related to the sale of his merchandise. While Apple only suspended Parler (social media app popular among conservatives), Google removed it from their store entirely. YouTube took down videos discussing potential voters fraud and/or other voting irregularities. TikTok took a similar route, redirecting some of the hashtags to their Community Guidelines page for “re-education.” Reddit banned a sub-group called “r/DonaldTrump” on their site. If you do not know what Reddit is, Google comes to the rescue and tells us that it is a “network of communities based on people’s interests,” which means that average citizens gather there to talk about their opinions and world views. (For a more extensive list of tech companies and their actions, take a look here.)
I bet you have some sort of an opinion right about now. Whether you hate the guy, or love him, I urge you to put that aside, and focus on the topic at hand – freedom of speech.
Whenever I talk about our freedom of speech being impeded, someone speaks out about bullying. No, we are not fighting for the freedom to be rude to you and abuse you. We are only trying to fight for the right to express our opinions. No, freedom of speech is not an excuse to be an ass. But, just because you cannot handle the truth, it does not mean that I cannot speak it.
Let us take a closer look at Twitter’s action in order to analyze if they were right or wrong in making the decision that they had.
Twitter issued an announcement explaining their actions. Their first paragraph reads:
So, it clearly states that it is not anything that he said, but how his words were being interpreted. On and OFF Twitter that led to the ban. (How does Twitter know how people interpret things in real life if they do not share it on Twitter? Scary or what?)
This further shows how no matter what we say, CAN and WILL be used against us in the court of the public eye.
Let us continue reading Twitter’s statement:
I have no idea how more benign these posts could have been. Trump stood up for his supporters and announced that he would not make it to the Inauguration. “What is wrong with that?” you ask. Great question. Keep reading to find out.
The same Twitter announcement post goes on to say how those two tweets “were highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.”
How did they deduce this? All this time I thought I could read, but it seems that I cannot and need companies like Twitter to tell me what is written black on white. “… these two tweets must be read…”
Twitter showed us how it arrived at the ban decision based on those two tweets. (Comments in green are my own and not part of the quote.)
- “President Trump’s statement that he will not be attending the Inauguration is being received by a number of his supporters as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate (…) Or maybe it just shows that he does not feel like freezing his butt off at a party that is for his opponent? Not everyone loves being fake.
- The second Tweet may also serve as encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the Inauguration would be a “safe” target, as he will not be attending. I hope nothing bad ever happens at work when I have a day off. I would hate to see someone connect the dots and arrive at a weird conclusion.
- The use of the words “American Patriots” to describe some of his supporters is also being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the US Capitol. Or it just means those who love this country, want to see it grow, and who believe in the core values of the country?
- The mention of his supporters having a “GIANT VOICE long into the future” and that “They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” is being interpreted as further indication that President Trump does not plan to facilitate an “orderly transition” and instead that he plans to continue to support, empower, and shield those who believe he won the election.” Unless he dislikes bullies and has a dream for a FREE America.
How? How can those conclusions be drawn from these two benign tweets. Sounds like a lot of reaching to me.
Twitter also banned plenty of other accounts, saying that: “We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm.” You see how general those statements can be? What does NOT have the potential to lead to offline harm. Positive posts can make other people feel inferior, lead to depression, and at times even to suicide.
In the light of all this, I found it funny to read about a woman who is suing another person for blocking her on Twitter. A former Democratic state representative asked to be unblocked by a new Republican representative. Moreover, she wants an acknowledgment from the “offender” that freedom of speech was violated with the block.
It is interesting to me to see how freedom of speech seems to only be a privilege that some, but not all, get. Personally, I am not a fan of blocking others. There simply is not good enough reason for me. However, I do see that as an option for some people on specific social media platforms. Do I think it can be a sign of a coward to block another person? Sure. But, a simple block does not prevent you for speaking. It just keeps you away from the person who blocked you. You have the right to talk, and they have the right to not listen.
If you are interested in seeing where the oppression of freedom of speech may lead, check out CW: New world order (Speak up!) [Part 1 of 2] and CW: New world order (Speak up!) [Part 2 of 2]. These are two parts of a story I wrote, inspired by censorship.
- Do you think freedom of speech is in jeopardy?
- What do you think about people being banned on social media?
- Do you see blocks as helpful or unnecessary?
- What actions do you take to be able to continue sharing your opinions?
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