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By Dr. Michael Brown, a Senior Contributor, The Stream, August 29, 2018
When we conservatives cry foul and accuse the social media giants of acting unfairly, we are often met with this response. “Look, these are private companies, and they have the right to operate however they choose. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else.” But this objection misses the point. Allow me to explain.
Let’s say your company announces a holiday raffle for all 1,000 employees: “We’re asking every employee to put $5 into the raffle, and then one of you will be chosen at random to receive a $5,000 holiday gift.”
You would not expect that to mean that the random selection would be among female employees only, or among employees over 50. Random means random, and if you found out afterwards that the system was rigged, you’d have every right to cry foul.
Playing Their Game
When it comes to the social media giants, we were invited to play their game. Join Facebook to connect with your friends. Post your videos on YouTube for the world to see. Express yourself concisely on Twitter and become part of the online news flow.
Everybody plays by the same rules and everybody lives by the same guidelines. Sound good?
So, we agreed to play the game, and for many of us, it became more than a game. It became a useful tool of communication, of disseminating information, of sharing new ideas, of advancing a cause, of so much more. What a great platform!
Consequently, some of us worked very hard for years to develop that platform, as a result of which these social media giants racked in billions of dollars of income — on our backs, as it were. We learned when and how to post. We found the best memes and quotes. We worked hard on our videos — all with the goal of getting our message out to the maximum number of people in the most effective way.
Some even spent large sums of money advertising in order to reach more and more people, all the time playing by the company’s rules, the very rules by which we were invited to play the game.
And then, one day, the rules suddenly changed. We learned that it was fine for one group to mock the Bible and vilify Jesus and post blasphemous memes. But it was forbidden for another group to post a verse from the Bible about homosexual practice. You have violated community guidelines!
We learned that it was fine for one group to advocate the destruction of Israel — in the most graphic terms, at that. But it was forbidden for another group to speak against radical Palestinian activism. That is hate speech! You are hereby blocked for seven days. Do it again, and you’re blocked for life.
Suddenly, this network we so painstakingly built was shut down. Suddenly, the reach we had worked so hard to attain was stifled and reduced. And it was all because the rules changed. (Or, perhaps I should say, the enforcement of the rules changed.) How is that fair? How is that right?
After I was first punished by Facebook for an alleged violation of community guidelines, I tried an experiment, reporting the most egregious pages to Facebook. I mean ugly pages. Vile pages. Highly offensive pages. I mean memes that were disgusting. Quotes that were disturbing.
Yet time and time again, I’d receive the message back: This post does not violate our community guidelines. Seriously? But a picture of aborted babies does? Or a page sharing testimonies of people who left homosexuality breaks the rules? This is wrong, wrong, wrong.
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And what are we to make of the utter inconsistency of it all? In the last two weeks, to my surprise, I had two controversial videos approved for monetization on YouTube. During the same period, I had two videos demonetized (among others). Yet these two videos simply answered Bible questions from callers. Nothing controversial about them, yet they were deemed unfit for monetization.
How can you even try to comply with rules when they are unevenly (and, apparently, randomly) enforced?
Even without the anti-conservative, anti-Christian, anti-Israel bias (or whatever other biases there may be), the inconsistency of the application of guidelines creates a very unstable environment.
Why We Can Call Out the Social Media Giants
When it comes to search engines, why did we start using Google in the first place? It offered the most comprehensive searches. It told us which sites were the most popular. It provided the information we wanted without bias or prejudice or partiality.
Only it didn’t. Or at least that’s what many are claiming today. Yet we helped make Google what it is with our intelligent searches, based on our trust that the system wasn’t rigged. That’s why it’s right for us to call out the social media giants.
So, to Google and YouTube and Facebook and Twitter I say this: We agreed to play the game based on fair and even rules. Don’t change those once we helped make you what you are today and after we invested so much of ourselves in the process.
PLEASE PLAY FAIR.
Otherwise we will take our marbles and go home.