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Well, it happened again just a bit ago. Twitter suspended the account of a senior conservative Republican member of Congress, named Jim Banks, and triggered another episode of a long-running culture war. This is just one in an extremely long line of instances of prominent right-wing voices facing censorship on social media. Public displays of prejudice made due to their conservative values keep getting push-back.

Story: https://time.com/6110023/twitter-jim-banks-rachel-levine/

In Banks' case, he attacked a transgender member of the Biden administration, not just condemning her personally but also misgendering her. Banks remains defiant. No apologies seem in coming.

Broadly speaking, Twitter, like other forms of social media, prohibit users from making statements of incitement to hatred when it comes to race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, and so on. This is a pretty common moral stance. It's also, I think, fairly popular among social media users generally, many of whom either are minorities themselves or otherwise strongly against prejudice.

However, conservative politics in the U.S. frequently involves not just making statements about the inferiority of certain groups and individuals compared to others but also taking policy actions based on said inferiority. A conservative attacking somebody for being gay, Muslim, Jewish, transgender, disabled, et cetera is just doing what their political ideology tells them to do, really. It makes sense given that conservative actions in lawmaking put certain groups on pedestals over others. Given that, say, everything from prohibiting anybody but Christians from public prayer statements to kicking transgender people out of certain restrooms to forcing certain non-Christians to have official registry status as suspicious persons subject to special restrictions are both central conservative policy goals... and... well... it goes on.

Is such social media censorship really a good thing? Should minorities really be protected against conservatives attacking them due to their minority status, or does such restriction on speech essentially make social media a no-go place for conservatives? What about the conservatives' claims that they're being bullied and treated unfairly? Worth considering? Or is social media no place for bigotry?



As much as I want to believe in the general notion of a "marketplace of ideas" in terms of allowing free, open discussions online, in the long term doesn't having a free-for-all where bigots co-exist with normal people having normal conversations mean that eventually the regular types will get choked out and only bigots will remain?

Isn't this maybe comparable to how pollution into lakes and streams builds up and builds up until nothing can eventually live in those waters anymore?


Twitter is a private establishment and doesn't have to put up with anything unwanted users say on there.  People can and have made other forums for online discussion and social media, particularly recently in response to things like this.  If those forums fail, then that is in itself the free marketplace of ideas in action.


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Twitter can offer a filtering function so that users can avoid those sorts of bigoted tweets.  (And it can require users to tag their posts appropriately, and auto-tag all posts of users who repeatedly fail to tag their posts appropriately.)  Another solution would be for Twitter to have different boards, with one board being a minimal-rules board and another board having rules against bigoted speech.

See also https://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/carrier.pdf , particularly Section I.F, distinguishing between hosting functionality, recommendation functionality, and conversation functionality.

>Twitter is a private establishment and doesn't have to put up with anything unwanted users say on there.
That is the current state of the law.  But there is talk of changing the law, to regulate quasi-monopolistic communications corporations as common carriers.  (E.g., see carrier.pdf linked above.)

>People can and have made other forums for online discussion and social media, particularly recently in response to things like this.
Gab and Parler were both kicked out by lower-level infrastructure companies.  I'd say that at least those infrastructure companies ought to be regulated as common carriers to prohibit this sort of viewpoint discrimination.


The problem especially with these social platforms is that you will have to cater to a large enough audience.
Hatespeech is not really fun to hang around with.

On the flipside, having all conservatives rushing to their own platform where they're plotting to gas all the gays is probably not the greatest plan either.

>Twitter can offer a filtering function so that users can avoid those sorts of bigoted tweets
And people will still raise a massive issue with their tweets being hidden by filters.


There's an inherent extreme weakness in the position of Twitter as far as being an information sharing company that seems unlike traditional monopolies or quasi-monopolies. When it came to the likes of Standard Oil, well, people didn't have options. Same things for land trusts and the like in history.

Twitter, though? Facebook is right there. So is Discord. So is Instagram. So is Substack. So is Telegram. So are a multitude of other ways to share information.

Twitter seems to be more in a position of, say, the McDonald's Corporation in terms of being gigantic and influential but also highly precarious due to strict competition. You can get a better cheeseburger in too many places to count. You can read better commentary on the news in too many places to count.


>Is such social media censorship really a good thing?

As an unflavored minority, my opinion will be biased.  My impulse is yes, it gives me, at least in theory, the power to report and stop abuse.  Enforcement is fairly random, granted.

>What about the conservatives' claims that they're being bullied and treated unfairly?

It feels a bit pale given their esteem for the prerogative of private firms.

>Or is social media no place for bigotry?

In some theory, I'd like to believe adults can manage their social media and not need big brother or sister to tell them what they can and can't say.  At worse, give individuals a good toolbox to block what they consider to be harmful content from their view.

But I don't know.  Maybe people are too much sheep for that to work.

I think there's some accuracy in that.  User experience will depend in large part how well users can filter bigotry.  But even then, perhaps sharing a site with bigots will be unpalatable.


>Enforcement is fairly random, granted.

I'm concerned about that myself. Social media in general is both far too lenient and far too strict. I think.

Given frequently haphazard moderation, one person can fall victim to extremely open attacks in terms of homophobia, racism, transphobia, and the like. On the other hand, somebody could post something distorted out of context that easily gets him/her/them into severe trouble. I recall there being somebody getting censored for posting anti-mosquito content because moderation systems thought that it was some kind of backdoor attack on people. Not to mention how individuals fighting against bigotry, specifically in terms of reporting on public events, can themselves be unfairly targeted as supposedly promoting bigotry through their coverage. Such as somebody who posts a Nazi swastika getting dumped into a trash can being censored for supposedly being pro-Nazi (for having the symbol there in the first place). And one can go on.

I'm not sure how to solve this issue. Probably, more human-centered teams need to work on moderation issues. Less reliance on blind algorithms should take place. Machines often fail to understand nuance. Yet human communication is founded on nuance.


>I'm not sure how to solve this issue.
One issue is the extent of the issue can only be gathered through hearsay or limited personal experience.  "I got put in Facebook jail for something I found on Facebook [and presumably the original source suffered no consequences]."  Is this typical?  I don't know.

Or someone was writing that posting "Mosquitoes need to die!" was flagged for hate-speech.  But is this a curious error, or a more typical experience?

We need a database, although it's probably against the terms of use to data-mine Facebook.  That's a one-way valve.


Indeed, it seems as if some sort of independent non-governmental organization should exist to monitor Facebook (and other companies) as such.


Depends. While it doesn't sit right with me on a gut-level, i can understand the value of different spaces with different cultures and discourse, so a few censor-heavy platforms only provide a place for people who want that sort of thing, while those who want more of a free-for-all can have platforms that fit their taste. Issue comes when a censored platform becomes more central to overall mainstream discourse, as then the censors of those platforms end up as de-facto thought police, and can exert a troubling amount of control over public discourse. There's no clear line here, is the tough part. I guess the crux is that the consequences stay on the platform. You shouldn't get banned from the whole internet for pissing off facebook, for example, you should just get banned on facebook. When facebook is able to exert control beyond their own doors for things they don't like, that's when they need to be reined in, imho.  


Yes, the matter of alternatives is a key here.

If Facebook et al are limited in what they can do to a great degree, and people banned in such places have a lot of alternatives that're right there, then the situation really isn't that bad.


have you stopped beating your wife today?


As much as I like the idea of websites having different boards in general for different discussions, the practical thing of there being a kind of intellectual segregation on Twitter and other major websites where there's a "conservatives are outlawed here" place and a "conservatives are enclosed here" place seems... I don't know... really unstable and likely to promote even more ill feeling?

First off, would conservatives even agree to this?

Second off, wouldn't you have constant incursions in which conservatives go off to the regular discussion to tell people that they're sinful godless heathens to which God gleefully intends to send to hell because by the way Trump is/was the greatest President in history... wouldn't everything spill over constantly?

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