Alexander Hall is a staff writer for MRC TechWatch
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The left will use any tragedy to call for more censorship of content. Now they are getting Congress involved. The House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, (D-MA) called upon tech companies last Tuesday to prevent the distribution of violent videos after the New Zealand attack. The anti-conservative Southern Poverty Law Center piled on, saying Big Tech companies “don’t think about white supremacy as an international terrorism problem.”
Facebook punished a Pro-Life post by the Texas GOP because it supposedly was considered “clickbait.” Republicans are not convinced. The Texas GOP Caucus on March 17 Sunday posted on Facebook about the “Texas Born Alive Infant Protection Act.” Facebook flagged the posts to reduce their reach, and alerted the caucus that “Your ad’s text (or text in image) was flagged because it could be a negative experience.” When Dallas News reached them for comment, a spokesman from the social media platform said that the company flagged the material because “we have increased our efforts to reduce what we call clickbait or engagement bait.”
YouTube deplatformed a Navy Seal veteran whose Youtube channel showed him exposing fake veterans. Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer Don Shipley used his channel, Buds131, to expose impostors claiming to be Navy SEALs. He helped expose Native-American activist Nathan Phillips of the Covington hoax as being a refrigerator mechanic for the USMC rather than a ”Recon Ranger” who fought in Vietnam as the media formerly reported.
The White House Director of Social Media, Dan Scavino Jr. announced on Monday that Facebook blocked him from replying to posts. “Dear Facebook—AMAZING. WHY ARE YOU STOPPING ME from replying to comments followers have left me - on my own Facebook Page!!?? People have the right to know. Why are you silencing me??? Please LMK! Thanks,” he posted on Facebook.
A video hosting website banned Fairview Baptist Church’s account for streaming a conference that discussed traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality. Vimeo informed the Fairview Baptist Church of Edmond, Oklahoma, that its account violated Vimeo’s Terms of Service Reformation Charlotte reported. “We apologize for any inconvenience and wish you luck in finding a video hosting platform more suitable to your needs,” wrote Marty of Vimeo’s “Trust and Safety department.”
Social media outlets raced to remove content in the wake of the New Zealand mosque shooting. In the aftermath, media members criticized the tech companies for their inability to restrict the shooter’s footage and manifesto of the New Zealand Mosque shooting. Political commentators and journalists condemned tech companies as somehow being complicit with the rise of terrorism. WIRED magazine observed that there is a growing sense that “both YouTube and Facebook have grown too big to moderate.”
Big Tech just ran into a big buzzsaw. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) scorched a Google executive during a Committee hearing on consumer privacy, complaining about “creepy” revelations of misbehavior. Hawley sparred with Google’s senior privacy counsel Will DeVries over user privacy concerns. Hawley condemned the company, asking if they imagine a user would be surprised if he found that Google was “tracking his location” even when location services are deactivated.
Twitter is getting ready to make major changes that are already being criticized as new ways to limit speech and benefit what the company CEO calls “healthy conversation.” Twitter unveiled new changes at the SXSW (South by SouthWest) tech conference being experimented within their Twttr app to be implemented into the main Twitter platform. The company hasmet swift criticism from conservatives like Lila Rose who blasted them for making the platform “more hostile to diversity of ideas.”
While YouTube may publicly deny demoting videos based on their "specific political perspectives,” both right and left wing commentators have noticed a huge drop in recommendations. In February there has been a massive drop in YouTube recommending content for a select group of creators — from 7.8% recommendation rate to a miniscule 0.4%. That’s a whopping 94.87% drop.
CNN is expanding it’s partnership with Twitter to better cater to advertisers on the platform. Where previously companies could only buy ad space according to content category, now they can purchase ad space around the most popular CNN videos shared on the platform.
The blog site news blog Zero Hedge complained that Facebook has banned users from sharing its posts. Zero Hedge pseudonym "Tyler Durden" (named for the rebellious anti-hero from Fight Club.) has claimed via his blog that “some readers were prevented by Facebook when attempting to share Zero Hedge articles.” According to "Durden," “every attempt to share or merely mention an article, including in private messages, would be actively blocked,” with the explanation that the link “goes against our community standards."
Democrats have warned they are coming after big tech. Now presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, says she wants to break up the major tech firms. Warren has joined a chorus of political leaders on both sides of politics voicing their concerns about the impact of Big Tech on America’s well being. She published an opinion piece on Medium on March 8 proclaiming that big tech companies have “too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy.” She later added “we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor.”
YouTube is launching new initiative to combat what it calls fake news and “misinformation.” A YouTube spokesperson told Buzzfeed that “As part of our ongoing efforts to build a better news experience on YouTube, we are expanding our information panels to bring fact checks from eligible publishers to YouTube.” While this was originally launched to combat serious and malicious misinformation in places like India, there is concern that it will be weaponized in the future.
Facebook has been the public image of social media with 2.5 billion users. Now Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he wants the company to focus on making things private. While tech commentators have debated his motivations, Zuckerberg vowed a new commitment to private information in a March 6 memo. He proclaimed, “People expect their private communications to be secure and to only be seen by the people they've sent them to -- not hackers, criminals, over-reaching governments, or even the people operating the services they're using.”
Twitter CEO controls what people say on his platform. He found out he doesn’t have the same power appearing on the latest episode of the Joe Rogan podcast. It featured Rogan and journalist Tim Pool teaming up against representatives from Twitter in a fiery debate that has since gone viral. Rogan and Pool blasted Dorsey on everything from banning conservatives over “learn to code” to threats against the Covington Catholic High School students. Dorsey was joined on the defense with its head of Twitter’s “Trust and Safety” Vijaya Gadde.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt spoke recently about how he has worked with Silicon Valley tech elites to crush speech he finds offensive. In a February 26 panel hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, Greenblatt announced that he has worked with big tech companies like Google, YouTube, and Facebook in order to restrict what people are allowed to say online. He emphasized his goal was to, “protect users right to not be harassed or hated.”
When Google investigated itself for gender wage gaps, it found a result few would have expected: it was underpaying men for doing the same general work as women. Google’s “pay equity analysis” released on Monday March 4 revealed unexpected truths about its gender pay gaps. Lead Analyst for Pay Equity Lauren Barbato began the memo titled “Ensuring we pay fairly and equitably” by proclaiming “Compensation should be based on what you do, not who you are.” She followed by explaining how it was drastically adjusting the pay rates for many men who had received less discretionary funds than women.
A computer game job applicant claims his final interview was made up of nothing but political questions, nothing about actual job skills. A developer for the game program “Dragonpunk” lamented via Twitter on March 3 that most game developers don’t openly discuss the bias of the game industry “because they don't want to get blacklisted.” This unnamed developer tweeted a copy of a rejection letter from Gearbox, claiming that the final interview featured “only political questions — not a single game or technical question!”
Facebook has banned another right-winger, but Wired UK isn’t impressed, slamming the ban as disingenuous. The magazine apparently wants Facebook to get serious about repressing conservative speech, and even has a suggestion about who to ban next. The tech news publication tweeted about an article, saying: “Facebook has banned Tommy Robinson. Here's who it should ban next.” In the actual article, Wired UK slammed Robinson’s activism. It also critiqued Facebook itself, claiming that its “criteria for removing extremists” are “nebulous and asserted on an ad hoc basis.”
Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin gave a speech at the 2019 CPAC conference on Friday, which included a fiery call to action against big tech censorship. “Nice is not enough,” Malkin said. “Logic and facts and appeals to decency and fairness are not enough. Bemoaning double standards is not enough.” She proclaimed that the future of the party is conservative “disruptors” who will fight on the frontlines, by stating “our future will not be secured in a Fox News anchor chair or a think tank office or on a cruise ship or at a cushy GOP retreat. The future is on the frontlines.”