US President Donald Trump has lashed out at tech companies for deplatforming “millions” of users, arguing that people must be allowed to decide for themselves what is true.
In a Friday tweet, the US president took aim at what he perceived as widespread censorship on social media. “Social Media Giants are silencing millions of people. Can’t do this even if it means we must continue to hear Fake News like CNN, whose ratings have suffered gravely. People have to figure out what is real, and what is not, without censorship!” he wrote.
Social Media Giants are silencing millions of people. Can’t do this even if it means we must continue to hear Fake News like CNN, whose ratings have suffered gravely. People have to figure out what is real, and what is not, without censorship!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2018
Facebook and Google have come under scrutiny after what appeared to be a coordinated effort to remove right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from their platforms. Jones was later suspended by Twitter. The high-profile de-platforming coincided with a number of troubling suspensions issued by Facebook.
Telesur, a well-known news channel funded by several Latin American governments, had its Facebook page removed twice, before the company reinstated it, claiming the bans were erroneously issued.
The Facebook bans come as the social media kingpin steps up its content policing and news filtering efforts. In deciding what news is ‘real news,’ Facebook has enlisted the help of several reputable mainstream media outlets, most of them leaning to the left.
But no dissident voices from the right or the left are safe. Facebook has also partnered up with the Atlantic Council, a neo-liberal think tank set up in 1961 to promote Western ideology around the world. Dubbed “NATO’s propaganda wing,” the Atlantic Council will help Facebook “expose and explain falsehood online,” and weed out the West’s favorite bogeymen – the ‘Russian bots.’
This partnership, and tech censorship in general, was described by journalist Max Blumenthal as a “war on dissident narratives in online media.”
In a speech given earlier this week, Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU), warned that the social media de-platforming faced by Jones’ InfoWars could set a dangerous precedent.
Wizner said that while private companies had a right to regulate speech on their platforms, regulating speech – even if deemed hateful – was a slippery slope.
“If [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions, for example, were deciding what’s hate speech, he would be less likely to think KKK and more likely to think [Black Lives Matter],” he said.
Trump echoed a similar sentiment on Monday during an interview with Reuters.
“I won’t mention names but when they take certain people off of Twitter or Facebook and they’re making that decision, that is really a dangerous thing because that could be you tomorrow,” Trump told the news agency.