Social media outlets are no longer just ways to meet new people with similar interests and for dating like the old “America Online Chat room “days. With over 2 billion users on Facebook, 1 billion YouTube users and close to 500 million users on Twitter, user-content created social media and video sharing is a way of life for many.
While those daily visits to your Facebook “wall” might include pictures of your co-workers dinner they cooked last night; those visits are also news sources for potentially 2 billion people. Fewer and fewer people are getting their news from the morning network news shows and morning newspaper; the information seeking crowd is simply logging on to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to see the latest, ranging from sports-scores and weather, to government policy, politics, world affairs and diverse opinions.
These social-media giants are dominant in terms of the number of users; one could say they are almost monopolies by default. The internet has been known in the past as a place where free speech reigns supreme and the outsiders, the outspoken, controversial and “alternative” get to have their say. With recent events unfolding and the growing influence of the social media giants, the rules have changed.
For years many online voices particularly on the right side of the political spectrum have accused Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as being politically slanted against conservative viewpoints.
The permanent suspension of flamboyant and controversial, conservative political speaker, writer, and former Breitbart technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos from Twitter was what many consider a watershed moment in social media censorship. Yiannopoulos had several million followers on Twitter and had used social media to build his name and career to his advantage. His local appearances at college campus bring giant protests from hard left protestors as evidently free speech is no longer acceptable at universities; but it was not any radical political viewpoints that got him banned from Twitter, no it was simply insulting actress and comedian Leslie Jones. Now, mocking celebrities is nothing new, it is common on social media and something one expects from being in the public eye; it is not acceptable if you are an outspoken conservative personality apparently.
With a president who uses social media, and the thirteen-Russian social media posters who were indicted for influencing the election, social media and politics have merged into one. President Trump’s Tweets and Facebook posts have resulted in millions of reactions from social media users, until recently.
Breitbart news recently reported on how the engagement on Trump’s Facebook posts have dropped 45% in recent months. Since January, response to Trump’s posts have dropped from close to 5 million a post to under 3 million and Trump is not posting less.
In January, Facebook introduced a major change to its newsfeed algorithm. In a post, CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed that the change aimed to give greater emphasis to posts from “friends, family and groups” and less to “businesses, brands and media.” The change was followed by a promise to promote what Facebook calls “broadly trusted” news sources on the platform, Breitbart reported.
Facebook also recently ended an experiment in six countries that separated posts from news sites and publishers from other material on the social network, according to the NY Times. The experiment was a total failure and it was reported that separating the news from other posts didn’t actually help users connect more with friends and family.
News outlets in the six countries saw their engagement on Facebook and reach drastically decline.
Stuart White, editor of The Phnom Penh Post, an English-language newspaper in Cambodia, was quoted in the NY Times as saying “Whether or not Facebook likes it, it has established itself as the main market for news in places like Cambodia”. This experiment was an abject failure on Facebook’s part.
When you receive Facebook posts or Tweets from Trump, Breitbart or The Jewish Voice, you see them because you willingly signed up for them. Facebook’s new algorithm appears to limit what you see on your own “hand-picked newsfeed”. Even though you wanted to “follow” President Trump you won’t see his posts as frequently as you used to.
What is most interesting about the recent Breitbart piece is that they determined the Facebook engagements of left leaning political figures like Bernie Sanders & Elizabeth Warren has remained the same. This surely gives credence to the notion that the social media giants are censoring conservatives. If they are using an algorithm to limit exposure of the president, I think it is safe to say they can do it to anyone, and they are.
It appears that even an outlet like The Jewish Voice is not immune to the changes at Facebook and the censorship of conservatives. Our Face Book page used to receive close to 1000 new followers and likes every few days. This number has dropped drastically to almost none, the last couple of months.
As a writer for The Jewish Voice, I follow us on Facebook. We update our Facebook constantly, yet The Jewish Voice rarely shows up on my Facebook newsfeed. When I re-post stories that I wrote for the paper, my friends and followers are rarely seeing the content from The Jewish Voice on their news-feed. Is the Facebook algorithm blocking The Jewish Voice? One, can reasonable conclude this.
The Jewish Voice Facebook page used to get hundreds of responses to our posts in addition to all the likes. Since Facebook has made these changes, The Jewish Voice is maybe getting 10 engagements, and that is one of the better numbers.
Remember Zuckerberg mentioned “broadly trusted” news sources when he announced the “improvements” to Facebook, maybe The Jewish Voice is not “trusted enough” to their standards or maybe there is some agenda at work.
Zuckerberg promised Facebook would begin to prioritize “trustworthy” news outlets on its stream of social media posts as it works to combat “sensationalism” and “misinformation”. Now who will be the arbiter that decides what a trustworthy news source is? A left leaning shadowy “fact check” website called Snopes, naturally!
Snopes are such connoisseurs of quality news that just recently hilarity ensued in Facebook land after Snopes flagged a satirical post from a humorous Christian conservative media outlet called “Babylon Bee” as “un-trusted news”. A satirist posted a “news-story” about CNN buying giant washing-machines to “spin the news”. The good folks at Facebook and their trusty “non-partisan fact checkers”, had to let you know that this story “is not trusted news”. Facebook and Snopes either think you are stupid or the social media giants (and CNN) don’t like satire, if it’s coming from the right. One could conclude, yes there is some kind of agenda at work. Still not convinced?
Maybe next Snopes will flag an article from The Jewish Voice and Facebook will gladly oblige.
In the wake of the Florida school massacre, Infowars and its proprietor Alex Jones, a fierce critic of establishment and “left wing” media, posted a series of videos on YouTube about the teenage survivors being coached by CNN news producers for their interviews on the news giant. Infowars also gave an opinion that the survivors were being used by the anti-gun activists and told what to say on TV by anti-2nd amendment lobbyists. These opinions almost got the Infowars YouTube channel permanently removed, and they have millions of subscribers. Sure, these opinions are controversial, but worthy of being censored?
Now with YouTube, if you get 3 strikes against any of your posted videos, that violate their rules, you get your channel removed. It seems one of their hidden rules is: do not question CNN.
One can make the leap that traditional news and opinion outlets like CNN are afraid that these giant social media tools have become an outlet for new competition for news and opinion. CNN is actively calling on advertisers to remove banner ads from the Infowars site, in other words a media giant is using their pull and money to derail their competition because they did not like being criticized.
Could CNN one day decide they don’t our content and call on advertisers to stop running ads on The Jewish Voice site?
Now, let’s keep in mind these platforms are their own business and can do whatever they please and ban whoever they want, but what happens if these outlets are vital necessities for those being censored to survive in business?
Facebook, let’s reiterate, has 2 billion users, if you want to be heard or sell something (information or otherwise) you do not want to be cut off from an outlet that powerful.
The Jewish Voice certainly would not want to get removed from Facebook.
Sounds like some will have to change what they wish to express and keep certain views to themselves to avoid being censored and to receive the “stamp of approval” from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
If you still do not believe that this social media censorship is specifically about silencing conservative voices and opinions, there is still another example. A Twitter user was suspended for saying something mean about a Senator very recently. The Twitter user posted: “Maxine Waters ‘crazy old lying lunatic in a bad wig”, according to The American Mirror. Now, this is rather tame compared to the myriad of comments that have been said about other politicians in the past.
The president has been insulted and maligned on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and all is fine according to the “experts” who determine what acceptable speech is online. Say something insulting about a Democratic senator and immediate suspension?
There are many other examples of censorship on social media platforms. Pamela Gellar, a pro-Israel reporter and frequent critic of radical Islam, has had Facebook posts flagged and removed repeatedly and her account suspended before. Nationally syndicated conservative talk show host Michael Savage was suspended from Facebook in 2016 for posting a story about a murder a migrant committed.
Yes, the social media giants are censoring and controlling information and opinion.
One must wonder if they have only just begun to clamp down on news, opinions, thoughts, even jokes that the controllers of the dominant social media platforms do not approve of. Maybe instead of fighting Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, it is time for new platforms to be built that are more receptive to the free-exchange of ideas, information and content.
If the giant social media platforms can limit the exposure the President receives, they surely can limit the exposure of an outlet like The Jewish Voice.
We encourage our readers to like us on Facebook and observe if you are seeing our updates on your news-feed. We believe we too are victims of social media censorship.
By J. Pachefsky