What do you know! It turns out that we were not imagining things when we complained about the social media giants' unequal practices. It turns out we weren't just being paranoid. It turns out we weren't crazy after all.
Almost seven years ago, in June 2012, I wrote an article titled "The Facebook Censor Strikes Again." (The word "again" indicates that Facebook was already being called out for discriminatory practices against religious conservatives.)
The article began by stating, "I received the news yesterday that the Facebook page for my book A Queer Thing Happened to America was deleted for allegedly violating Facebook's "Community Standards." But Facebook pages like 'Hitler Fetus is our Jesus,' 'Zombie Jesus,' and a host of other grossly offensive pages apparently do not violate these standards."
To document this, I noted the existence of pages such as:
"I Hate Jesus," with this blurb: "Burning churches, stapling nuns, eating your [expletive], whilst [expletive] your muda."
"I Hate Christianity," described as, "A group for those who hate all the prejudice [expletive] and ridiculous ideas that come with Christianity ... and really any other religions."
"Zombie Jesus," with the caption "Zombie Jesus only wants you for your brains"
And "Hitler Fetus is our Jesus," which stated, "In our cult -ahem, religion- Hitler Fetus is our master. I mean Jesus. OUR SAVIOR."
So, pages like these (along with violence-inciting, anti-Israel pages) were not in violation of Community Standards but a page devoted to discussion of material in my book was in violation.
Thankfully, Facebook restored my page, but only with the help of an inside contact who offered her services to religious broadcasters at an NRB meeting.
Since then, I have addressed double standards on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter numerous times (see here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here; did I say numerous times?).
To this moment, the instant one of my YouTube videos is posted—and I mean the very instant—it gets flagged as unsuitable for most advertisers, which we then have to contest by calling for a manual review. At that point, you genuinely have no idea what the reviewer will decide.
Last month, Google labeled the pro-life movie Unplanned as "propaganda," reversing itself only after an outcry.
This past week, Hollywood actor and political conservative James Woods was "locked out of his Twitter account for over a week now for 'abusive behavior.'"
As Breitbart reported, "James Woods Banned from Twitter Amid Silicon Valley's Conservative Blacklisting Campaign."
The allegedly offensive tweet read, "'If you try to kill the King, you best not miss' #HangThemAll."
According to Breitbart, "The tweet was apparently in reference to the Mueller report, which found no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. The quote is from Ralph Waldo Emerson and has been used in various forms in movies and TV shows like The Wire."
In contrast, "Actor Peter Fonda said that Barron Trump should be taken away from his Melania and put in a cage with pedophiles. Fonda also called for Kirstjen Nielsen to be whipped. He later apologized. Hollywood star Jim Carrey posted a drawing of Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. getting bludgeoned to death by an elephant last year. The tweet is still up."
Yet Woods, not Fonda, not Nielsen, and not Carrey, got locked out of his account.
But this headline was dwarfed by the news last week that Facebook and Instagram had decided to ban Milo Yiannopoulos, Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones and Laura Loomer. As objectionable as some of their content might be (in particular Farrakhan's; I would not put any of the other three in his category, and some of what they share is important and accurate), President Trump did well to call attention to this censorship.
As he tweeted, "I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms. This is the United States of America — and we have what's known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH! We are monitoring and watching, closely!!"
There is good reason for his concern.
A concerned headline on the Jerusalem Post reads, "FACEBOOK SAYS IT WILL ALLOW HOLOCAUST DENIAL. 'We do not remove lies or content that is inaccurate,' wrote Joel Kaplan, Facebook's vice president of global public policy."
A headline on the Daily Mail declares, "How Facebook is STILL allowing anti-Christian fanatics to peddle extremism - despite claiming crack down on content promoting 'violence and hate.'"
Another headline on Breitbart announces, "Facebook, Google Pour Big Money into Lobbying Congress While Blacklisting Conservatives."
That's why conservative commentator John Nolte wrote, "If you are going to defend free speech, don't defend your own speech, don't defend speech you agree with, don't defend speech you find acceptable—if you are going to defend speech, be an American ... go out there and find the most offensive and disgusting speech you can find and defend that because that is the most important speech in the world."
He continued, "You see, if Louis Farrakhan's speech is free, if Alex Jones's speech is free, that means you and I are safe. They are the canaries in the coal mine, and now that those canaries are dead, none of us is safe because the Acceptable Free Speech Boundary has just moved a whole lot closer to us..."
And it's not just the social media giants who are operating with a dangerous double standard. Also last week, "The Poynter Institute, a journalism nonprofit organization, has completely disabled a list of what they labeled as an extensive list of 'unreliable' news websites on Thursday night after facing scrutiny in the days since its publication.
"A litany of conservative publications, including The Washington Free Beacon and The Washington Examiner, were lumped into the list of 'unreliable' publications, and it received nearly instantaneous condemnation from them."
The good news, though, is that the lid of deception is off and the subterfuge is gone. It turns out we weren't crazy after all.
Either these social media platforms will make the playing field equal. Or they will become relics of the past, like MySpace and Google Plus and Meerkat and Vine.
What will it be?
Listen to the podcasts to hear Dr. Brown's latest commentary.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Evangelicals at the Crossroads: Will We Pass the Trump Test? Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter, or YouTube.
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