“Facebook announced Thursday that it will start warning users if they have liked, reacted or commented on harmful Covid-19 posts that the company has found to be misinformation and removed. The feature will roll out in the coming weeks…
“‘These messages will connect people to COVID-19 myths debunked by the World Health Organization including ones we’ve removed from our platform for leading to imminent physical harm,’ Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, said in a blog post.”
– CNBC, April 26, 2020
Two things are quite apparent in this move. One, Facebook doesn’t believe the general public is smart enough (or worthy of the freedom) to research its own information. And two, they are invested in a single point of view narrative with no intention of allowing opposing viewpoints.
It is beyond arrogant to believe it okay to mandate what is acceptable information to consume. It is also reprehensible to bully people into acquiescing to your point of view. Facebook is doing both with its rollout of “warnings” about what people like. They are censoring – and, in fact, facilitating the expungement – of information that will allow people the opportunity to decide for themselves, and now they are attempting to intimidate those who don’t agree with their preferred narrative.
This is – and I mean this literally – the institution of Orwell’s “Newspeak”:
“Newspeak is the language of Oceania, a totalitarian superstate that is the setting of George Orwell’s dystopian 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. To meet the ideological requirements of English Socialism (INGSOC) in Oceania, the ruling Party created Newspeak, a controlled language of simplified grammar and restricted vocabulary, meant to limit the freedom of thought – personal identity, self-expression, free will – that threatens the ideology of the régime of Big Brother and the Party, who have criminalized such concepts into thought crime, as contradictions of INGSOC orthodoxy.”
Is this not exactly what Facebook is doing? They are deciding – for you – what is harmful and what is not; what is truth and what is not; what is acceptable and what is not. They are dictating what the truth is, even as relevant questions abound on the issue of COVID-19 and how the government has handled the event. This is the very antithesis of freedom, by definition.
Facebook will hide behind their stance that because they are a privately owned company they have the right to execute censorship on such a grotesque level. But because their product has an extraordinary effect on shaping our cultural narratives, I suggest they are bound by laws that safeguard our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, freedom to redress government, and freedom of assembly, titrated to the 21 Century modes of communication.
To that extent, it is without a doubt – and would be extremely hard to argue otherwise (although I am not about to be as hypocritical as Facebook as to say only my opinion counts) – that Facebook is:
- Infringing on every user’s constitutional free speech right by way of filtering information to only a preferred narrative (censorship)
- Infringing on every user’s constitutional right to redress their government by stifling opposing viewpoints to the government-issued narrative (censorship)
- And infringing on every user’s constitutional right to freely assemble by way of intimidating people into demurring their true thoughts on a subject for fear of being openly ridiculed (read: warned) by the Facebook “community standards” thugs.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “monopoly” thusly:
“…exclusive ownership through legal privilege, command of supply, or concerted action; exclusive possession or control; a commodity controlled by one party…”
In that definition, they use an analogy by Helen M. Lynd that applies, “No country has a monopoly on morality or truth.” This necessarily needs to be true of social media behemoths as well. No all-encompassing social media entity has a monopoly on morality or truth. This is especially applicable to Facebook and Google (the former of which owns Instagram and the latter of which owns YouTube), who both have a disproportionate stranglehold on information on the Internet.
It is well past time that the US Department of Justice takes action against Facebook and Google in the form of antitrust lawsuits meant to break their monopoly over information on the Internet. The precedent for this move comes in the break-up of the Bell System in 1982.
We, the American people, are at a moment in time – boots on the ground real-time – when Facebook and Google are making a grab at our freedom to acquire information, all under the emotional guise that they are protecting the public interest. They are not protecting the public interest. They are stealing freedom from the people.
It is time that we stand up to this tyranny before Newspeak is commonplace, and freedom is redefined.