Saturday, March 30, 2019


Facebook & Selective Censorship

Enemies of freedom of thought and expression are hailing Facebook's recent reversal on banning "White nationalists" from its platform and from Instagram starting next week. Facebook's previous policy was as follows:
- Q: What is our stance on white supremacy, white nationalism and white separatism?
At the time, in May 2018, someone from Facebook allegedly explained to a Quartz writer that: "the company consulted researchers and academics while crafting this policy, and they noted that there is a difference between supremacists' drive to dominate and the belief that races should be separated. Another factor Facebook took into consideration was that there are other separatist movements, such as Black and Basque separatism, as well as Zionism. Such groups don't necessarily preach inferiority of others, the spokesperson said."

Since then Facebook has been lobbied and attacked by the Humpty Dumpty brigade. Here's how the new policy arose according to Vice:
"We've had conversations with more than 20 members of civil society, academics, in some cases these were civil rights organizations, experts in race relations from around the world," Brian Fishman, policy director of counterterrorism at Facebook, told us in a phone call. "We decided that the overlap between white nationalism, [white] separatism, and white supremacy is so extensive we really can't make a meaningful distinction between them. And that's because the language and the rhetoric that is used and the ideology that it represents overlaps to a degree that it is not a meaningful distinction."
Wow! "[M]ore than 20 members of civil society ..." That's surely representative of the full scope of views on the subjects of White nationalism and freedom of thought and expression. Of course, it is completely coincidental that Brian Fishman has been part of "regular consulting meetings" between Facebook execs and representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's (SWC) Digital Terrorism and Hate Project, including Rabbi Abraham Cooper, SWC Associate Dean.

Also coincidental is that, apparently, only "White nationalism" will be banned by Facebook because no one ever died from violent Jewish nationalists (see here, here, and here) or violent Chinese nationalists or violent Black nationalists (see here, here, and here). On that subject The Deseret News reports:
As Motherboard [a Vice subdomain] reported, Facebook will still allow content relating to black separatist movements and the Basque separatist movement to be posted, due to experts' arguments that white separatism should be handled differently "because of the long history of white supremacism that has been used to subjugate and dehumanize people of color in the United States and around the world."

However, Facebook does ban content centered on black nationalism, Motherboard reported. The Southern Poverty Law Center has characterized groups that espouse black nationalist ideology as hate groups, with the added proviso that "they should not be seen as equivalent to white supremacist groups — such as the Ku Klux Klan or neo-Nazis — in terms of their history of violence and terrorism."
To paraphrase Orwell, when it comes to Facebook Farm: All nationalisms are equal but some nationalisms are more equal than others. We'll see what happens when the new policy is implemented but as of today the Facebook page featured below was still live on Facebook:

This seems to contradict the claim made in The Deseret News. You see, Louis Farrakhan is profiled as an "extremist", "antisemite", and a "Black Nationalist" by the SPLC and he is the head of the Nation of Islam (NOI), which is an "SPLC Designated Hate Group". The pictured video sub-page is entitled "Minister Louis Farrakhan - The Raw Evil Nature of White People Exposed" and Farrakhan's main page prominently features a link to the NOI main web site.

To be clear, I am no proponent of the SPLC and I don't support banning Farrakhan or the NOI from Facebook. Nor do I support banning White nationalists or supremacists. I do support banning people and entities advocating violence and related criminal activity although I don't think mere criminal advocacy or activity should be the threshold for censorship on Facebook.

For example, it was once a crime for Black people to, among other things, ride at the front of the bus or to dine in certain restaurants. Today, it is illegal, under Israeli law, for anyone anywhere in the world to advocate for a boycott of Israel; sedition is still, arguably, a crime in the United States; apostasy from Islam is punishable by death in some countries; and, a man in China was fined this year for using a VPN to access foreign web sites. Should Facebook censor speech reporting, supporting, or enabling those crimes?

While I have some sympathy with those who support regulating Facebook as a utility, I'm not fully convinced it would be a good idea. Moreover, I doubt that it will happen because that might open the door to treating Facebook as a common carrier and therefore intolerably impinge on the Left's ability to successfully pressure Facebook to censor crimethink.

In any case, my preferred approach to controversial speech is Millian:
But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error ...

Complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion, is the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth for purposes of action; and on no other terms can a being with human faculties have any rational assurance of being right ...

He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.

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