To be honest, I never thought I’d live to see the day that modern life looked like a George Orwell novel.
Call me naive, but my standard response when somebody starts prattling on about Big Brother is to roll my eyes and slowly back away. After all, this is America — and such a dystopia could never happen here, not in a country where free speech reigns.
Yet steadily, disturbingly, those quaint assumptions about the basic freedom to speak one’s mind are being eroded. 2020 may be the year we went full 1984, except ol’ Orwell got one key piece wrong: Big Brother isn’t the government. It’s big tech.
It turns out that faceless goons don’t need to kick down your door in order to stifle free expression. All-seeing megacorporations like Facebook are taking care of that themselves.
Think I’m exaggerating? Up until recently, I might have agreed with you. But as the November election draws near, tech giants — namely Facebook, Google and Twitter — seem to have doubled down on insanity. Take a look for yourself.
Back in August of last year, I did something millions of Americans do every day: I posted a video on Facebook. In this case, it was a clip of Sen. Ted Cruz speaking to respected psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein about the possibility of tech companies such as Google influencing elections through bias.
Remember, this wasn’t some far-right conspiracy video or tinfoil hat nonsense. It was literally a video from the Senate Judiciary Committee of a top lawmaker talking with an academic.
I posted the video on my professional Facebook page to my modest few thousand followers, asked readers to draw their own conclusions and promptly forgot about it.
Fast forward to this week — and this is where it gets downright creepy. A few hours ago, I received a notification on my phone. It was from Facebook, and the notice read “False Information.”
As I read the notification, my mood changed from puzzlement to bemusement to anger. The social network, you see, was alerting me that this video of a sitting U.S. senator would be covered up … because “independent fact checkers” said it was false.
Wait. That’s not the bizarre part. In fact, Facebook decided to censor the video of Sen. Cruz because it allegedly contained unapproved information about COVID-19.
There was nothing about coronavirus in the video.
There wasn’t even anything about health care in the video. Most strangely, the video was posted in August 2019, months before the term “coronavirus” was even in the news. Yet the video was censored, literally hidden from readers and plastered with a stern warning, as if merely clicking on it might be a dangerous risk.
Gee, that sure is a powerful virus.
The deep irony of censoring a video warning about censorship seems to be completely lost on the pencilnecks at Facebook.
The whole thing reads like a bad satire article from The Onion, except it’s all too real. And it’s happening with such alarming frequency that it’s hard to laugh. With a presidential election just months away, this kind of meddling cannot be ignored.
How does this happen? I don’t rightly know. Extending the benefit of the doubt, it’s possible that an automated algorithm at Facebook went haywire and somehow mistook Ted Cruz for a coronavirus. “A computer error” is the usual line trotted out by these weenies whenever they get caught blatantly censoring people, but even that explanation makes little sense.
Again, there was nothing even remotely connected to COVID or even health care in the video. And even the most brain-dead programmer must know that posts from before the coronavirus pandemic probably don’t contain false information about the coronavirus pandemic.
All of this suggests something much more disturbing: Facebook’s army of human fact-checkers may be using the coronavirus crisis as a blanket excuse to censor anything and everything remotely conservative as the clock ticks down to the election.
Retroactive censorship, 2020 style.
“History has stopped,” Orwell wrote. “Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
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