Conservatives are playing victim once again and whining about yet another instance of some supposed anti-“conservative” bias by a company. Now it’s Facebook apparently limiting the reach of “Diamond and Silk” on Facebook’s own network. It is important to put “conservative” in quote marks here. Diamond and Silk are a pair of Trump surrogates, named Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, who speak at Trump campaign rallies, sell Trump merchandise, appear on racist white supremacist radio shows, and make pro-Trump videos. Like many of the pro-Trump social media genre, they don’t talk about conservative policies or appear to have any considered beliefs. They can hardly be called conservatives.

I quote a brief excerpt just to illustrate:


blockquote>”This week’s bowl of stupid goes to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Both of these here two morons exhibiting moronic behavior. Now, this one right here, Chuck Schumer done shut down the government because he is trying to tie DACA to the government spending bill. Now we gotta fund the government. Now what he want to do is he want to not fund the government and he want to fight for these DACA [inaudible] that’s illegal aliens that’s in our country and not fight for the American People.

Really, high-brow stuff. Intellect on level with the president of the United States. If this is what American Senators (Ted Cruz) are spending official time asking Mark Zuckerberg about during Congressional testimony, we must fear for our republic.

Editors need to control what they publish in their papers, and platforms need to control what they publish and broadcast just the same. Facebook is a private company with its own network and its own algorithms, and somehow people think that they should have full control over someone else’s platform. One week ago, an extreme lunatic shot up the YouTube offices because she was upset that her ad revenue declined after an algorithm change. Ben Shapiro is moaning that Facebook’s apparent algorithm changes to improve the quality of its feed are supposedly impacting him and other low-quality viral conservative pages.

“Toleration implies the existence of a distinctive procedure for testing ideas… It has nothing to do with a cacophony of screaming fakers marketing political nostrums in the public square.” – Barrington Moore

What these entitled outrage-mongers forget is that it’s Facebook’s network in the first place! How did they think their websites were getting so much traffic? Facebook created an algorithm in the first place that favored low-quality clickbait bullshit. They benefited from it and molded their websites and their social presences to leverage it. Now they talk about Facebook trying to “control” what we read; Facebook already was controlling what was showing up in our feeds. The 2016 election showed just how destructive this kind of viral garbage, partisan hackery, and outright lies and conspiracy theories can be to the quality of our public discourse.

Lies and fake stories got more Facebook engagement in the final three months of the election than actual news did. MIT data scientist Soroush Vosoughi, who conducted a large scale study on fake news, said, “It seems to be pretty clear [from our study] that false information outperforms true information.” A Stanford study found that actual news sites that report true stories got 10 percent of their traffic from Facebook, while fake news sites get 40 percent from Facebook, showing the disproportionate push of social media.

(For the record, I would categorize Ben Shapiro’s site, The Daily Wire, as a separate category: “viral aggregator sites,” which rewrite actual news, often irrelevant cultural grievances, from real news websites and add sensationalist headlines. Examples: “Leftist Critics ENRAGED ‘Progressive’ Lisa Simpson Ripped Into ‘The Problem With Apu.’” “’The Atlantic’ Fires Kevin Williamson. This Is How You Got Trump. Really.”)

Leading newspapers and the nightly news didn’t used to publish articles about how 9/11 was an inside job, how school shootings were done by crisis actors, how Obama is orchestrating Trump’s impeachment from his DC bunker, and such. Not every opinion is equal to another, and not everyone’s “personal reality” is actually reality. Objective truth is able to be found through the scientific method, through research and study. Even when it comes to pure opinions, some are higher quality than others. Some are more logical. Some are expressed in articulate and enlightening language.

See also: Blatt and Maitra on Anti-Science Regressivism from the Left and Right

We are at a point in American social history, where many social standards have been chipped away at and sledgehammered and now the radical right-wing, as well as the radical left-wing, wants us to think that Milo Yiannopolous, Diamond and Silk, Mike Cernovich, Lola Olufemi, and Anita Sarkesian are just as worthy sources of information as anyone else.

Barrington Moore wrote in A Critique of Pure Tolerance:

Toleration implies the existence of a distinctive procedure for testing ideas, resembling due process in the realm of law. No one holds that under due process every accused person must be acquitted. A growing and changing procedure for the testing of ideas lies at the heart of any conception of tolerance tied to the scientific outlook. That is genuine tolerance. It has nothing to do with a cacophony of screaming fakers marketing political nostrums in the public square.

Facebook is not even a public square[1]. They, above anyone else, should be able to, as a matter of right, and should indeed, as a practical matter, control what is published and promoted[2] on its own platform. Who would argue that it is a social good for #PizzaGate conspiracy theories to be propagated in libraries and on TV? Why should the internet be any different?

[1] – Public squares can be regulated, too, but that’s the subject of another article. Briefly: Lying or unintentionally (due to being ideologically blinded or not thinking clearly) misinforming people are not equal to free speech. Many democracies hold much higher legal standards against lying and still maintain freedom and democracy (of a higher quality, even). Taiwanese courts, for example, have held that, “The defendant should at least have reasonable suspicions regarding the truthfulness of the defamatory statement,” and have convicted a protester and a legislator who espoused an unsubstantiated (and untrue) rumor on stage about the First Lady leaving the country with millions of dollars (89 Shang Yes Tzi 1960/Wang Da-Chin case).

[2] – Publishing and promoting are two different things. Facebook still allows Diamond and Silk to publish videos. The claim is that Facebook is not pushing their videos to as many people any as it used to. That is the promoting side—how often published videos show up in feeds and how often the page is recommended in the sidebar. Facebook ought to have the right to regulating publishing, too. That’s not what happened here. But they really would be in the right to ban Infowars and other pages that frequently publish lies. Conservatives would be angry about that, too, but why should Facebook allow the publication of outright lies?

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