Two recent events suggest that the social media censorship and de-personing is not really about preventing these platforms from being used for hate, but rather about establishing a greater level of thought control and banning all forms of wrongthink.
Sims is seen offering $100 to any Twitter user who can give him the identities of three teenagers and their mother.
Exhibit A: Democrat State Rep. Brian Sims of Pennsylvania recently released two videos of him confronting pro-lifers outside an abortion clinic, targeting them for the apparent crime of praying and offering alternatives to scared women who think their only option is to kill their unborn child.
In the first, Sims is seen offering $100 to any Twitter user who can give him the identities of three teenagers and their mother. And in the second, he attempts to intimidate an older woman, repeatedly castigating her as he follows her around with his camera. The Democrat lawmaker used Twitter and its live video broadcasting app Periscope on both occasions.
Despite his provocations, he remains free to continue this type of behavior, encouraging more direct violence.
Would a pro-life user who exhibited identical behavior against, say, abortion clinic workers be similarly tolerated? Given that pro-life accounts have been banned for much less, it’s not difficult to guess the answer.
Exhibit B: Back in January, unhinged progressive activists used both Facebook and Twitter to target a 17-year-old high school student for committing the crime of awkwardly smiling at serial liar and career protester Nathan Phillips.
The minor, Nick Sandmann, found himself at the center of a firestorm after a short video was released showing the teen wearing a MAGA hat while watching Phillips beat a drum in his face.
Almost immediately after the video went public, Twitter and Facebook lit up with progressives targeting the young teen. In addition to the typical overblown accusations of racism and bigotry, however, many users went on to threaten violence and death to Sandmann and his family. Those crossing the line even included some celebrities, who encouraged their followers to throw Sandmann and his classmates “into the woodchipper” and “LOCK THE KIDS IN THE SCHOOL AND BURN THAT B‑‑‑‑ TO THE GROUND.”
Naturally, the accounts tweeting those two examples are still active, though one is now private.
Why didn’t the social media giants do anything to stop the use of their platform to target and threaten not just a pro-lifer — but a minor?
This wasn’t merely a case of an incendiary political statement which could be twisted to nefarious ends. These were literal and direct incitements to violence and hatred against a very specific person — and a teenager to boot. Nick Sandmann and his family have had their lives turned upside down by the social media mob which was unleashed on them, problems they are no doubt still dealing with to this day.
This once again raises the obvious question: Why didn’t the social media giants do anything to stop the use of their platform to target and threaten not just a pro-lifer — but a minor?
Our self-appointed Guardians of Tolerance and Peace at Twitter and Facebook have clearly demonstrated they have the ability and willingness to combat hatred and intimidation on social media through banning, shadowbanning, and limiting the reach of such posts. How is it then that Brian Sims and Nick Sandmann’s many persecutors have escaped such punishment?
The truth is the real purpose of our social media censors is not to shut down violence and hatred — at least, not in an unbiased way. Rather, the primary goal of this censorship has become stigmatizing conservatives and anyone who questions progressive orthodoxy.
This presents a bigger problem.
Both Facebook and Twitter are currently considered to be open “publishers” under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which exempts them from legal liability for the content posted on their websites. As proven above, however, it’s hard to argue that they are acting merely as bystanding “publishers” when they are in fact operating as the exact opposite — promoting the ideas, posts, and people they agree with by allowing them to be viewed on their platforms, and censoring the ideas, posts, and people with whom they do not agree. These platforms would be more accurately classified as content curators, and thus liable for the content they are allowing on their platforms, rather than publishers who enjoy Section 230 immunity.
Facebook and Twitter can still turn this around by supporting the open exchange of ideas on their platforms — as they already publicly claim to do — and dropping the obvious double standard against conservatives. But will they? That seems unlikely as Silicon Valley embraces authoritarian progressivism.
It’s long past time for conservatives to act. Either we all play by the same rules, or we don’t.
Terry Schilling is the executive director at American Principles Project. Follow him on Twitter @pizzapolitico.