Saturday, June 18, 2016

Social Media and Censorship

I want to talk about two trends that I have found very disturbing over the last few months.

With the presidential campaigns in full swing, every person in the United States is getting inundated with a multitude of views and opinions.   Many of these views are in conflict with our own strongly held beliefs and some of them may even be considered offensive to us.

Social Media is now the primary venue where opposing views are shared, discussed, argued and of course where flame wars start.  When I see these flame wars, I'm often compelled to read the back and forth.  I soon realize that neither side will relent so I move on but I never think these clash of ideas are a waste of time.  It is important that everyone has a voice and that every idea no matter how offensive to me has its chance to be weighed.

The first disturbing trend has been the call by everyday citizens for the suppression of others right to free speech.  I have read on many recent occasions where people were calling for the legal punishment of people who disagreed with them or in some cases they even advocated violence to the dissenters.   I'm not talking about speech such as yelling fire, posting bomb threats or actively threatening the lives of a person or people.  No these were people from all sides calling for legal action or advocating violence against those with which they simply disagreed.  The results are giving us the the most violent political atmosphere since the 1960s.  

Remember the biggest threat to our rights is not our government but each other.  In Farenheit 451, they burned the books, not because of government censorship but because the people did not want to be offend.

"If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all." -Noam Chomsky

The second trend that I find just as disturbing are the major social media platforms censorship of their customers.  It is understandable that these platforms must kowtow to the governments of countries in which they compete.  Thus the government sponsored censorship you see on social media platforms in Germany, Turkey, Thailand and China is to be expected.  It seems though that those that run these platforms are now taking the tools they have put in place to help dictators censor people and they have decided to use them to silence their own customers who don't agree with them.   

Yes, these companies can do as they wish within the law but so can their users.  The question is will the people leave the platforms that push a specific agenda? Will the users who are targeted begin to wake up and move to platforms that do not censor them?   

Our purpose in building Plum was not to create a free speech bastion but it was to create a safe place to have serious conversations.  We want people from every background to be able to find people like themselves and we provide anonymity so that simply expressing your viewpoint will not get you fired or kicked out of school.  

So next time you get offended, say a word of thanks for living in a place where you have the right to say what you want.  And the next time you see someone suppressing the free speech of anyone, even those you detest, take a stand or the next one censored may be you.


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