The social media platforms Twitter and Facebook restricted the distribution of a story posted in The … [+]
On Wednesday, social media platforms Twitter and Facebook restricted the circulation of a story that appeared in the New York Post reporting an unconfirmed claim about Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. The Biden campaign had driven the report that Joe Biden had met a representative of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings in 2015.
When the story that appeared on the newspaper’s front page under the headline “Biden Secret E-Mails” made the rounds on social media, it was quickly closed. Facebook limited the spread of the story after its outside fact checkers verified the claims. As a result, the platform’s algorithms did not place posts referencing the story that high up in a person’s news feed. This would reduce the number of users who could ever see the story.
Twitter went even further, blocking users from linking to the post’s two articles about the Biden emails, while preventing users from posting pictures of the alleged emails mentioned in those reports. Attempts to share the story on Twitter were returned with the message “Tweet could not be sent. Your tweet could not be sent at the moment and was saved as a draft. Please try sending again later.”
#TwitterCensorship is making the rounds
The actions of social media platforms, especially Twitter, have led to complaints from conservatives that information criticizing Joe Biden and his son Hunter has been censored. This of course led to a new round of tweets on Twitter with the hashtag #TwitterCensorship.
User Brian (@brainfortrump) tweeted: “FACEBOOK AND TWITTER are THE RUNNING MAN’S ICS NETWORK!” A clear reference to the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger science fiction film The Running Man, which featured a dystopian society where misinformation is spread via television.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) (@tedcruz) went further and tweeted, “My letter to @jack regarding @Twitter’s censorship of @nypost,” where the Senator called the CEO of Twitter directly along with a picture of the letter sent the company.
Many other users on social media also accused Twitter – like Facebook – of censorship. One user, #IAmAntifa #BlackLivesMatter (@ Freethoughts212), brought this debate from a different direction, tweeted, “@jack funny, you censor stories about Joe and Hunter Biden but haven’t gotten around to proud boys and white supremacists- See you Jack ass! “Almost ironically, this tweet, which clearly called for the closure of individuals and groups, was followed by #TwitterCensorship and #CensorshiopIsBadActually.
Is that really censorship?
Obviously, many people see this as censorship and even some think that maybe some individuals or groups should be silenced. However, this is not really a case of censorship – and we have been on this path before. Just a year ago, YouTube was asked to remove a controversial video.
“Social media companies, like other companies, have the freedom to choose how they conduct their business, as long as they comply with applicable law,” said Robert Foehl, executive in residence, business law and ethics department at Ohio University Online Masters of business administration program, explained at the time.
“A major concern that has been raised in recent years concerns freedom of expression, censorship and the role of social media in the free expression of ideas,” added Foehl. “There is growing concern about the impact that decisions about social media content have on this freedom. However, it is important to remember that the constitutional right to freedom of expression in the United States only requires undue restrictions on expression by state actors (government and government) protects related institutions). Our freedom of speech generally does not apply to non-governmental organizations such as private corporations. Therefore, freedom of expression does not apply to language included on social media platforms. “
Senator Cruz, who served as Texas’s longest-serving attorney general from 2003 to 2008 after graduating magna cum laude with a Juris doctorate from Harvard Law School in 1995, should know the answer far more than the average American. Twitter can’t really be accused of censorship, at least not in the way the government could be.
At least one person on Twitter (@katypicklejar) asked a valid question: “Would you rather have #TwitterCensorship or Government Censorship?”