Media WATCHThe seemingly omnipotent media cultural complex have silenced the single most newsworthy public figure on the planet. And to what end?
Yes, we speak of Donald J Trump the very popular and populist former U.S. president whose tweet feed drove the national conversation and whose Reality TV performance captured imaginations worldwide. News of Facebook's extension of its suspension of Trump's account was greeted with yawns.
There is still plenty of heated rhetoric on the airwaves and online. But the drama, the unexpected, the human interest, humor and yes the truth. All of these are missing. Was this necessary or desired by "we the people?" Did anyone ask us?
The real story not being covered by even the conservative press, is how the institutions and agencies of the United States of America not only allowed but actively participated in a four-year rolling coup against a duly-elected president that played out with impunity in front of a disbelieving and increasingly fearful world.
And all this was done with the full-throated support of a Media-Big Tech juggernaut that seems to regard itself as a sovereign nation state.
The real hammer was the obliteration of First Amendment rights [religion, speech, press, assembly] in a single year, 2020.
In retrospect, irrational fear appears to have been the decisive force that consigned the "land of the free and the home of the brave" to a psychological Gulag Archipelago. Did anyone ever think this could even happen in the USA?
What is most jarring about this scenario are the glazed expressions on the faces of our "thought leaders" who have accepted all this with a ho hum attitude. Surprised? Not me, they seem to be saying.
So Facebook Inc. said it is suspending Donald Trump’s accounts for two years, formalizing a long-term penalty for the former U.S. president, after its independent Oversight Board said the company was wrong to keep the ban open-ended.
The company announced it would revisit the suspension two years from the date of its initial move to suspend him on Jan. 7, the day after the riot at the U.S. Capitol. If reinstated, President Trump will face a “strict set of rapidly escalating sanctions” if he commits further violations, including permanent removal of his pages and accounts, the company said.
Facebook’s announcement on Friday came a month after its independent Oversight Board ruled that the social-media giant was justified in suspending Trump because he urged his followers to go to the Capitol as lawmakers were certifying the votes of the electoral college. However, it ruled the company must support its reasoning if it decides to permanently ban him from its platforms.
Since corporate media and the liberal tech giants’ narrative about Trump’s role in the events of Jan. 6 are considered by many of his supporters to be disinformation itself, the banning was controversial and foreign heads of state denounced it.
Trump responded to the ban during a rally in North Carolina on Friday with a measure of humor and seriousness, saying, “Next time I’m in the White House there will be no more dinners, at his request, with Mark Zuckerberg and his wife. It will be all business!”
More to the point, Trump stated, “Facebook’s ruling is an insult to the record-setting 75M people, plus many others, who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win. Our Country can’t take this abuse anymore!”
On Friday, Facebook went even further in raising concerns about the subjective and arbitrary censorship of previously protected political speech, when it announced it would overturn a policy dating from 2016. The company said it would no longer consider posts from politicians in general to be “newsworthy,” and therefore protected. Instead the company will make its own judgments about those that qualify and those that do not, and then label those that merit the exemption.
This new policy represents a departure from Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s long-held stance of largely not interfering with politicians’ posts on its platform. Previously Zuckerberg said such decisions were not appropriate, requiring as they would for the company to rule on what is and is not true.
The 2016 policy had exempted from punishment posts that violated its rules if the content classified as newsworthy or otherwise important to the public interest. When Donald Trump was on campaign and took office, that policy then extended to him also.
Facebook’s two-year suspension of an popularly elected President who gained at least 12 million votes in his bid for reelection, would have been considered excessive to an extreme only a year ago. However, given Twitter’s permanent ban of the former president, such extreme restrictions of free speech have become seemingly banal.
But don't dare to compromise Silicon Valley's freedom of speech.
Facebook and Twitter have found themselves embattled in India. There, the ruling party has deemed censorship and user surveillance the prerogative of the government and not of the social media giants.
On May 31, a special squad of Delhi police made an unannounced surprise visit to two of Twitter’s offices.
This visit came in response to Twitter labeling one of the tweets by the spokesperson for India’s ruling BJP party as “manipulated media.”
The offending tweet, by Sambit Patra, like many flagged in the U.S., concerned the handling of COVID-19 and alleged that the opposition party was pursuing public relations rather than genuinely effective measures. There were also calls to ban Patra permanently.
Because the criticism focused on portions of the opposition’s proposal that emphasized outreach through social media and the press, the criticism does not appear unfounded.
After the police visit, Twitter made a response many on social media found ironic, stating the company was “concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve.”
Like Twitter, Facebook is also facing scrutiny on the subcontinent as the two companies face a deadline to comply with India’s new guidelines to regulate social media.
Last month, New Delhi ordered Twitter and Facebook to take down posts that were critical of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this year, conflict and threats of legal prosecution erupted when the social media giants failed to comply fully by removing accounts that had posted tweets critical of government policy.