Culture Beat / October 13, 2016

The Social Media Thought Police

Twitter, YouTube and Facebook have all been censoring conservative content.

Policing thought is, unfortunately, one of the realities of social media. We’ve detailed the censorship and bias of Facebook, but it’s hardly alone. Recently, Twitter suspended University of Tennessee law professor and blogger extraordinaire Glenn Reynolds (a.k.a. Instapundit) over a “controversial” tweet about Black Lives Matter protesters. He was restored upon appeal, but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. This week, Twitter also suspended the account of conservative activist James O'Keefe. This time, it has to do with guns.

O'Keefe had just captured former Sen. Russ Feingold on camera saying, “Well, there might be an executive order” on gun control. A major Hillary Clinton donor also said, “Hillary wants to shut it down. If we can get guns away from everyone in this country, she’ll close the loopholes, she’ll get rid of assault weapons, she will get rid of being able to buy you know, unlimited bullets, she’s gonna make all that stop.”

Think Twitter didn’t want to suppress that? Ostensibly, this is about photos or videos without the subject’s consent, but O'Keefe has a habit of breaking inconvenient stories.

Meanwhile, YouTube has gotten in on the anti-conservative act. Prager University, which was created by conservative radio host Dennis Prager and offers short educational videos on a variety of topics from a Judeo-Christian perspective, has charged that Google-owned YouTube has been censoring a number of its educational videos by classifying 21 of them as “restricted.” Video titles such as “Are the Police Racist?,” “What ISIS Wants,” “Did Bush Lie About Iraq?” and “What is the University Diversity Scam?” have landed under YouTube’s “restricted mode.”

YouTube will restrict videos if they contain inappropriate or objectionable adult and sexual content. In doing so, the ubiquitous video sharing website is making it particularly difficult for students to gain access to their videos as most schools prevent students from accessing restricted content. Elisha Krauss, director of outreach at PragerU, said, “Based on our review of YouTube’s policies and user guidelines, none of our videos meet the requirements of being inappropriate, sexually explicit, or hate speech.”

For several months PragerU has communicated with YouTube over removing the “restricted mode” status from the videos to no avail. In fact, the number of PragerU videos being restricted has increased. In response, PragerU has created an online petition calling for YouTube to stop censoring its videos with the “restricted mode.” So far the petition has collected over 30,000 signatures.

As Facebook, Twitter and Google illustrate, social media giants are putting a finger on the scale, discriminating against conservative content.

(Updated and revised.)

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