The issue of social media censorship has reared its ugly head not infrequently over the past few years. There’s been YouTube demonetization of political videos — mostly conservative — and Twitter banning a number of accounts under suspicion of being Russian bots or other sundry terms of service violations.
While this batch of bans include a few people who probably shouldn’t be on the service (Richard Spencer found himself among those banned), pro-Trump host Bill Mitchell also found himself part of the ban.
However, the company that once touted itself as the “free speech wing of the free speech party” has been anything but over the past few years.
Beginning with the Milo Yiannopoulos debacle (which, whatever side you found yourself on, did not end up with the social media platform looking terribly great), Twitter has been the antithesis of free speech online, and its leftist roots show in just who it ends up censoring.
While we knew it was bad, however, we didn’t know that it was so bad that the social network would end up censoring videos that actually dealt with censorship.
But, yep. Apparently that’s now a thing.
Now, to be fair, the video — by pro-Second Amendment activist Kirsten Joy Weiss — isn’t entirely about censorship. The clip, first posted in November of 2016, is called “How to Protect Freedom from ‘Anti-Freedom Loopholes.'”
It deals primarily with the rhetorical tactics of disarming gun owners — but part of that, Weiss insists, has to do with free speech.
“What do I mean by ‘anti-freedom loopholes?'” Weiss asks rhetorically at the beginning of the video. “Well, they’re phrases and compromises that seep into our freedoms and infect and infringe upon our basic human rights.”
Weiss emphasized that this wasn’t just about the Second Amendment.
“Most of you watching might be familiar with the fact that my channel is a gun channel,” Weiss notes. “But I’m not going to focus completely on the Second Amendment, even though that is extremely important to our freedoms and protecting human rights in general.
“Our rights in the Bill of Rights — they live in a freedom ecosystem. They all support each other. So we can be disarmed in ways that are not just through firearms, all the arms you can think of … our freedom of speech can be disarmed.”
When Weiss decided to post the video on Twitter, given that it’s currently relevant in the gun debate, she didn’t think much of it. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before the post was hidden from users:
The video was also previously demonetized by YouTube.
Now, keep in mind that no guns appear in Ms. Weiss’ video. There isn’t any inflammatory rhetoric or opinions outside of the mainstream of current conservative thought. Not that all of these things are necessarily wrong, but this is a video comprised of a discussion about the idea of methods used to silence dissenting voices, using quotes from luminaries that include the Founding Fathers.
And this is being censored by Twitter because it’s “potentially sensitive content?”
Conservatives and social media have a mixed relationship at the moment. For some, particularly politicians like President Trump or media personalities like Ben Shapiro, it provides a platform for them to express tendentious opinions to followers in an unfiltered manner. For them, social media has undoubtedly been a plus.
For those whose followings do not necessarily match up with Messrs. Trump or Shapiro, or for everyday conservatives who simply want to express an opinion, the relationship is a far more fractious one. It’s not particularly difficult to censor voices like Weiss — while she may be “YouTube famous,” with 148,000 subscribers, she’s hardly a household name — because there usually aren’t many willing to come to their defense.
If conservatism is to thrive in the digital era, conservatives must demand equal treatment from social media and content platforms. If we don’t, our voices will be artificially stifled (and the voices of our opponents will be amplified) by the whim and caprice of the Silicon Valley algorithm, forever hostage to people who find our opinions not only wrong but rebarbative.
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