Put Down the Phone; Take Back Your Voice

By Daily Editorials

July 16, 2019 6 min read

Former Colorado bartender Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, warned Colorado conservatives Friday about a growing threat: censorship imposed by large tech corporations that control internet search results and social media platforms.

He contends progressives who own and control social media companies are determined to defeat his father and other conservatives in 2020. Toward that end, he says, the companies silence center-right voices and promote the other side with generous distribution.

The president's eldest son spoke Friday night to thousands at the Western Conservative Summit at the Colorado Convention Center, which ran all day Friday and Saturday. His censorship remarks came one day after his father led the "Presidential Social Media Summit" at the White House to discuss high-tech censorship of his supporters and other conservatives.

Trump spoke as the last of Friday's lineup of well-known speakers — including Christians, Muslims, Jews and others — who discussed threats to religious liberty and free speech globally and domestically.

Trump said he "has a bit of the Trump gene," which makes him a compulsive social media pundit.

"It's called Tourettes of the thumbs," he quipped, referring to a neurological disorder that causes repetitive and involuntary verbiage and body movements. In recent years, he said, his experience on a variety of social media platforms has changed. He no longer feels free to communicate without interference.

"I'm looking at my Instagram platform about two years ago and I said 'that's weird.' I had about 75 million impressions in a given one-month period," Trump explained.

Suddenly, "I had zero new followers. Even bots alone ... it's a statistical impossibility, right?" Trump said. "So I went from 15 a week, to 12 a week, to 10 a week. I'm just watching it sort of shrink, and I finally get down to zero."

As Trump travels the country to speak, supporters increasingly tell him they are unable to follow him on social media.

"I've had guys say, 'I had to follow you six times this week because every time I go to check I'm no longer following you, but I am following some leftist account that I never attempted to follow.' So I began to call it out," Trump said. "Thousands began to reach out to me."

Conservatives tell him of social media giants "de-platforming" them by demonetizing their videos, blocking followers, disabling the "thumbs-up" and "love" features on Facebook and Twitter that allow friends and followers to show support for ideas.

"You know what you never hear?" Trump asked. "You never hear about it from the other side."

Trump recounted details of Instagram censoring him for questioning actor Jussie Smollett's claim that two white supremacists in MAGA hats attacked him. Law enforcement later charged Smollett with contriving the hate crime and filing a false police report.

"I was one of first to say, 'if it's true, lock those guys up and throw away the key.' But it seemed a little weird," Trump said. "It was literally the coldest night of the year in Chicago. A really rich activist actor randomly decided to go get Subway at 2 in the morning ... Two white guys wearing MAGA hats were walking around downtown Chicago randomly carrying a noose and bleach ... I started saying this online. I'm asking simple questions and I start getting killed for it."

Trump said Instagram deleted his posts and gave him written notice that he violated their community standards.

"I wasn't even being political," Trump said. "I said it sounds pretty weird, and we should get to the bottom of it. None of it added up to me. But I had the gall to question it. So, my post was taken down."

He reposted, explaining how Instagram censored him. That led to a barrage of followers contacting him with similar stories.

Before and after Trump's talk Friday, summit attendees shared stories of censorship by all major social media platforms. We heard of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram deleting posts and entire accounts that oppose abortion, support Trump, religious liberty, the Electoral College, gun rights and other conservative causes.

Skeptics understandably want proof, not just anecdotal tales. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., responded to the White House summit with a statement that demanded "empirical data" to support claims of anti-conservative censorship.

Data would be useful but may not be possible. It would require accounting for social interactions that no longer exist — information destroyed so no one can see it.

Besides, proving politically motivated censorship would not likely stop to it. Private companies, unlike governments, have the right to censor content. Magazines, newspapers, bookstores, radio and TV stations often reject more content than they accept for publication, distribution or broadcast. When users post on social media, they place their content at the mercy of whoever controls the platforms. We can all hope public pressure will encourage fair and just behavior, but we cannot count on it.

Corporations control only the words we give them. Consumers concerned about electronic censorship should become less dependent on social media behemoths.

Visualize putting down smartphones and reconnecting the old-fashioned way, with real conversations at coffee shops, churches, bars, restaurants and all assortment of old-fashioned social gatherings. Communities built on genuine interpersonal relationships, not whimsical and impersonal electronic exchanges, would be a force no corporation could reckon with.


Photo credit: stevepb at Pixabay

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