When Banning and De-Platforming Becomes Censorship


Image courtesy of Bill Kerr via Flickr

I always get some blow back when I post anything political on this blog, and I’ve been actively trying to avoid it for the past several days (which is why I have twitter and Facebook). However, I was very impressed by an article published by “The Federalist” (yes, they’re conservative) I read today titled The Stigma Against My Conservative Politics Is Worse Than The Stigma Of Being Gay written by Chad Felix Greene. In my opinion, Greene successfully compared his being bullied when he came out as gay at age 16, and how he is sometimes harassed online now that he’s adult and his political views have become increasingly conservative.

You can click the link I provided above to read the whole article, but I want to focus on one thing he brought up. Greene quoted from a story published on “Vox” (which is heavily biased left and not considered all that accurate) called Milo Yiannopoulos’s collapse shows that no-platforming can work. Now before anyone gets upset, I have no use whatsoever for Yiannopoulous. When I first heard about him and the various panic attacks being experienced on college campuses where he had spoken or wanted to speak, I looked up some of his content, and the guy is way over the top.

news source biasHowever, as “Vox” reports, removing all of Yiannopoulous’s online support essentially sank his career, and therein lies the tale.

There’s quite a bit of buzz in certain conservative circles about content bias against conservatives on social network and crowdfunding platforms. Yes, they all have “Right of Use” policies, and if you legitimately violate said-policies, your account can either be temporarily suspended or permanently banned. However, are those policies always applied impartially?

At “Business Insider,” I found an article called A top Patreon creator deleted his account, accusing the crowdfunding membership platform of ‘political bias’ after it purged conservative accounts it said were associated with hate groups. Highly successful liberal, atheist author and podcaster Sam Harris deleted his very lucrative Patreon account (nearly 9000 paying patrons) because he said the platform unfairly discriminated against conservative creators. That earns him “hero of the month” in my book. Too few people are willing (including me sometimes) to look past their politics to see that if it’s unfair, it’s unfair no matter if you do it to a conservative or a liberal.

However, the problem is much worse than what we might see on the surface. I found the BI article on Facebook, and a responding comment said:

In the case of Sargon they don’t even have that fig leaf.

They banned him – by their own admission – for using a slur in describing Neo-Nazis on *somebody else’s Youtube channel* not even his own, when the policies of Patreon explicitly only talk about what you do *on* Patreon.

They literally banned him for activity somewhere else.

The CEO even admitted that he couldn’t have known he was violating their policy because it isn’t even in the policy.

So if a person is “tainted” on one platform, it could follow them on others, perhaps a lot of others. This person went on to say:

The bigger problem is the activists and tech giants doing this are attacking at both ends – they ban whoever they want on their own platforms, but ALSO attack their competitor platforms other ways.

Patreon banned Sargon, so Sargon went to a new competitor whose name I forget at the moment. So they got that competitor black listed with PayPal. It is all very corrupt and unethical.

Once banned, even if you seek an alternative, that crowdfunder would also be torpedoed, making it difficult for conservative creators to make a living. As an aside, I should say that three-time Hugo award-winning African-American SciFi author NK Jemisin‘s Patreon account allowed her to quit her day job as a psychologist and devote all of her time to writing, so we’re not talking about trivial matters. We are talking about sabotaging people’s primary income.

The person who had originally posted the BI story on Facebook responded:

Yep, FreeStartr is gone, and the new one (forger the name, Star-something) is already being accused of having Neo-Nazi connections. They just do it preemptively to send a signal that no one should even try to compete.

Now you may be saying to yourself something like, “Yes, but what if these were all alt-right, racist, sexist, misogynistic monsters spewing hate speech left and right? They should be shut down hard and fast.”

Yes, there will always be that sort of people, but does that mean that ALL conservatives are alt-right hyper-conservatives? In the age of Trump, our tweeter in Chief, and all of his inflammatory rhetoric on social media, I can see why some people might start to believe he represents all conservative voices, but is that really true? According to Greene’s article:

Despite the wide range in differences in style, subject matter, and presentation between Milo and many of us on the right, the left does not see much distinction. I think many conservatives wonder what would happen if their words, which are often mere expressions of unpopular truth, were to invoke the wrath of the left too close to home. Far beyond simple banishment from social media, we realize our lives, careers, families, and safety could be directly threatened.

Let’s take a closer look. Greene said “Despite the wide range in differences in style, subject matter, and presentation between Milo and many of us on the right, the left does not see much distinction.”

Assuming Greene’s statement can be taken as accurate, then just about anyone to the right of center could be lumped together with Milo and “the Donald,” whether we even remotely agree with them or not. If I disagree with a liberal voice on twitter or Facebook, it’s a disagreement, not hate speech, at least the way I see it. The reverse is true as well. It would be arrogant of me to believe that no one will disagree with some or all of my opinions. Only children want their way all of the time and get upset when they don’t get it.

Let me take another example, this time of a Democratic Senator who tweeted something outrageous, but guess what? His twitter account is still intact.

parker tweet

Screen capture from twitter

Senator Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) was criticized for (apparently) misusing his license plate placard by placing it on a vehicle other than the one it is registered for. New York State Republican Deputy Communications Director Candice Giove posted this information on twitter, to which Senator Parker responded Kill yourself!.

Needless to say, liberal and conservative twitter rightfully went berserk. Senator Parker deleted the tweet, apologized, but then continued to attack Giove, drawing the online ire of other Senators and journalists, as well as the general users on twitter.

parker tweet

Screen capture from twitter

He hasn’t directly tweeted since accusing Giove of being on the wrong side of history about six hours ago (as I write this), but he’s made a few retweets. About 30 minutes ago, Parker retweeted Senator Luis Sepúlveda (D-Bronx) who praised Parker for apologizing, but said his (Sepúlveda’s) mother committed suicide, and “NO ONE deserves to be spoken to that way. If you are thinking about committing suicide please know that you are not alone. Call @800273TALK at 1-800-273-8255. #NotAJoke”

I don’t know if a Republican Senator would also emerge with his/her twitter account intact, but it does make me wonder. And no, again, before someone accuses me of racism, I’m not attacking Senator Parker because he’s African-American. What he said was insensitive and even cruel no matter who happened to be the source.

Getting back to Greene’s BI article, he also quoted from a “Refinery29” story called Twitter Is Now Clamping Down on Anti-Trans Abuse referencing twitter’s new terms of service:

Research has shown that some groups of people are disproportionately targeted with abuse online. This includes; women, people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual individuals, marginalized and historically underrepresented communities. For those who identify with multiple underrepresented groups, abuse may be more common, more severe in nature and have a higher impact on those targeted.

In response, Greene stated:

Under Twitter’s safety section they state: “Free expression is a human right. Everyone has a voice, and the right to use it. On Twitter, you should feel safe expressing your unique point of view with every Tweet––and it’s our job to make that happen.”

The truth is, I have never faced abuse on Twitter for being gay, but I certainly have for being conservative. I am confident my expression as a gay man would be free and celebrated there and elsewhere, but my unique point of view as a conservative is viewed with suspicion and hostility.

I had briefly considered creating an account on twitter alternative Gab, but after doing a bit of research, discovered that the “free speech” platform is so free that it’s become a haven for every alt-right, sexist, racist nut ever to lay fingers on a keyboard (or at least that’s the perception). No thanks. Sure, probably a lot of people using Gab are just ordinary (conservative) folks who want to say things like “I think President Trump is doing a great job” or “I love the special Chick-fil-A is having this week,” but it would also be like swimming with sharks (though twitter feels that way sometimes as well).

You may be wondering if I have a point. Yes, actually. I’m concerned that there is a concerted effort to silence conservative voices online. No, not racist or sexist or dangerous voices, but simply people who disagree with leftists and progressives on at least some of the issues. Even if you and I disagree on a matter of opinion, no one gets hurt, and like I said, disagreement isn’t hate speech, and it’s unreasonable to expect people to accept your viewpoint 100% of the time.

Except that’s what the people running these online apps seem to be shooting for. If we placidly accept events of suspension, banning, and de-platforming for no other reason than because we fly in the face of the political and social viewpoints of the folks running these platforms, even while we’re complying with the actual terms of use agreement, then we are allowing censorship of a significant portion of the population. I’m willing to play by the rules in order to use twitter and Facebook, and so far, to the degree that I’ve never had my accounts suspended, I believe I have.

But if Greene and others like him are right, how long will that last? I’m not just talking about me. I’m talking about a world where only one side of the coin is permitted to express themselves via social media, which is a huge marketing tool. I’m talking about where only liberals or progressives are allowed to make an income using crowdfunding platforms. Maybe we’re not all the way there yet, but I can see it on the horizon.

Oh, and if you’re interested, you can follow Chad Felix Greene on twitter HERE.

Find Sam Harris’s twitter account HERE.

5 thoughts on “When Banning and De-Platforming Becomes Censorship

  1. Maybe everyone being online is a bad idea. I don’t know. Just throwing it out there. Why are some groups protected and not others? It’s not okay to hassle someone for being gay but what about being fat? Maybe people just can’t behave.


    • To the degree that I’m blogging and you’re commenting, we’re both online, Paula. And like it or not, it’s a big disadvantage to not being online, especially if you’re an author, blogger, podcaster, or creator of other original content. If twitter really believes that every voice is important, they and the other high tech platforms will have to start acting like it.


  2. There has been plenty of pro-Trump/conservative social media spamming. It’s part of how he got elected (only part, as he is a symptom of a larger problem or set of problems).

    It always amazes me when those who have used things like boycotting (hit people economically) get upset with turned tables. The tactic was only supposed to be for our side.


    • I’m not quite sure to what you are referring. I was citing specific platforms such as twitter, Facebook, and Patreon, how they all have “right to use” agreement, and how, at least on occasion, they either misuse that agreement or are suspected of doing such.

      I certainly don’t argue against these platforms policing their user base and legitimately suspending or banning people or organizations that, in fact, do violate these agreements. I do, however, object to them denying access to social media/crowdfunding merely because a person or organization doesn’t fit a particular political demographic.


  3. Both sides have been guilty of censorship in the past, with the Democrats/Liberals attempting to rewrite some aspects of Civil War history, and WWII history, and Vietnam War history. Conservatives have been known to attempt to silence gays, voices deemed blasphemous to Catholics and/or Christians, and various films and shows from the 90s and earlier (all the way back to the late 1800s actually). Whoever does it, whatever the intention, it usually winds up causing more harm than good. In the present day, it’s primarily liberals doing the censorship, mainly because they have the most control over the entertainment industry, mainstream news, and social media, let alone the schools.


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