I’m going to tell y’all something that will probably cost me some friendships. At the very least, there will be people I’ve known for decades who will think ill of me and probably speak ill of me either to my face or behind my back.
I voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton for President of the United States on November 8, 2016. So did my wife, Sherri. It wasn’t because we have a great deal of admiration for her character or her economic policies. It came down to her social agenda versus that of the Republicans. Having many close LGBT friends, we just couldn’t in good conscience support a candidate who might gut recent reforms put in place to protect them from discrimination.
But the voters have spoken and elected Donald Trump president. The Democrats, apparently failing to understand that they lost the election because they betrayed large sections of their political base and not just in 2016, have blamed the Russians for costing Clinton the election by conducting a disinformation campaign — in other words, planting “fake news.”
In response, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, has appointed a panel of experts to label certain information as fake and even to keep it from showing up as readily on the site. You’d still be able to post a link to a story deemed “fake,” but the story might be labeled as such. Here’s the more sinister part: The link also might not show up in your friends’ Facebook feeds or in search results, so the only way anyone would see it would be if he or she visited your page directly. That would severely curtail the number of eyeballs on that link.
I’m going to give you two links to read more about Zuckerberg’s plans: This one from the New York Times and this one from Alex Jones’ Infowars. I’m going to let you decide which version to believe and where the “facts” from each intersect. This I’m doing because I believe you, Gentle Readers, are intelligent enough to spot BS on your own and, if not, to suffer the consequences just as I did when I fell for this ruse about a biscuit can exploding in a shoplifter’s vagina.
If all Facebook does is limit access to “exploding biscuit” stories, which are designed to drive traffic to clickbait sites that make their money when visitors click on advertisements, that would be fine. I don’t believe, however, that Facebook will stop there. I know the sting of censorship all too well and so do others.
A Circle High School student told me he was ordered to stop displaying a Donald Trump banner at Tuesday night’s basketball game against Buhler. Flinthills Services also filed a frivolous complaint against me with the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services after I reported on a developmentally-disabled client who had signed over his property rights to the county-funded agency. The mainstream media in Wichita and Butler County have failed to report on these stories.
Some readers, particularly Democrats, are probably asking, “What’s the big deal?” They may even believe that Facebook’s initiative is a good thing that will serve their political interests well in the coming years. They fail to consider that censorship will eventually reach their back yard.
Most of my Democratic friends supported Bernie Sanders in the primary. Many Sanders supporters believe he got a raw deal from party leaders, even going so far as to say that the election was rigged against him. What’s to stop Zuckerberg’s panel of experts from branding stories as fake if they support a Democratic primary candidate they don’t like in 2020 or beyond? The answer is, “nothing.”
Facebook is a business. As such, the type of censorship it proposes is perfectly legal because the First Amendment exists to shield the public only from government restrictions on free speech. But those of us who use Facebook also have the right to stop doing business with Facebook if we do not agree with its policies. We grant Facebook a tremendous amount of power over our lives by posting life events, photos, and other personal information to its massive network of servers. It is time to take some of that power back.
Please join me on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017, in disabling your Facebook account. Click here for instructions on how to do so. You may also download my Facebook profile picture above and use it as your own. Click here for a direct link to the file, or you Windows users may simply right click on it and select “Save image as.”
Facebook has been a wonderful tool for me to stay in touch with family and with friends old and new. It has also allowed me to get the message out concerning issues I feel strongly about. Although I don’t always agree when others do the same, I don’t want anyone but me telling me what is truth. I don’t trust the news media to do this for me because of the experiences I have had both as a reporter and while blogging. I realize I risk Facebook revoking my user account and maybe even suing me for undertaking this protest, but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try.
One of my journalism instructors likened censorship to Carl Sandburg’s poem, “Fog:”