Social media companies are increasingly coming under fire for arbitrary and alarming censorship.
I’ve written in the past about my love-hate relationship with social media, and why I’ve chosen to delete my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Now a huge company and social movement, CrossFit, is joining the exodus. CrossFit describes itself as a fitness movement that promotes an alternative to mainstream convention when it comes to health. After Facebook suspended one of its groups (with 1.65 million users) without explanation, CrossFit decided to ditch Facebook entirely. Who could blame them?
On their website, they listed eight reasons why Facebook has become a terrible company, including:
- Facebook collects and aggregates user information and shares it with state and federal authorities, as well as security organizations from other countries.
- Facebook collaborates with government security agencies on massive citizen surveillance programs such as PRISM.
- Facebook censors and removes user accounts based on unknown criteria and at the request of third parties including government and foreign government agencies.
- Facebook collects, aggregates, and sells user information as a matter of business. Its business model allows governments and businesses alike to use its algorithmically conjured advertising categories as sophisticated data-mining and surveillance tools.
- Facebook’s news feeds are censored and crafted to reflect the political leanings of Facebook’s utopian socialists while remaining vulnerable to misinformation campaigns designed to stir up violence and prejudice.
I don’t agree with CrossFit’s criticism of modern nutritional science, but that’s ok because we live in a free country where discussion and debate over ideas and alternatives should be commonplace. Censorship has been tried many times in the past, and it never works in the long term. When ideas are labeled “dangerous” and “subversive,” people naturally want to seek them out to see what all the fuss is about. It has the opposite effect of what the censors intend.
Throughout history, people have been shunned, censored, burned, tortured, murdered, and jailed for holding opposing views, but history also shows that ideas are seldom fully extinguished. As John, Viscount Morley said in 1874, “You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.”
A free and open society is great because discussion, debate, and access to information is the best way to determine the right course of action. The best way to combat bad ideas is with good ideas. I thought we had learned this lesson.
Whether Facebook’s purge of political dissenters and nonconformists is motivated by its corporate philosophy or pressure from activist groups doesn’t really matter. The backlash from users is growing, and CrossFit’s exodus is just the latest and largest example.
Social media companies like Facebook have every right to determine who uses their platforms, but we also get to decide whether we want to use those platforms. Do we want to utilize and promote a website that sells our personal information and bans users and deletes posts they disagree with? I think a growing number of Americans say, “No.”