5 Garbage Internet Censorship Scandals Everybody Missed
All of us are very used to the concept of a free and open internet, but in reality, every funny cat meme or furry porn video you click on is filtered through the vast algorithms of a mega tech company ahead of time.
This kind of immense control has huge drawbacks, as you can tell, which leads to said tech companies often censoring political beliefs or marginalized people for their own exclusive benefit. A lot of this flies under people's noses because companies are just sorta hoping you don't have a sense of object permanence and will forget all about their gross overreach of free speech, like ...
Google Admitted To Censoring Left-Wing Content
Like all cold bloodthirsty tech giants, Google had successfully managed to exploit its entire labor force, all while convincing the public that they were the best tech company to work for. This all sort of fell apart over time as concerns about harsh working conditions came out, and now Google has recently caught itself in yet another great scandal: censorship.
On October 28, 2020, tech giant CEOs Sundar Pichai, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jack Dorsey attended an Antitrust Subcommittee Hearing on censorship, with present Republicans hoping to prove once and for all that right-wing pundits and general QAnon looneys were being ruthlessly censored by Orwellian corporations. However, the exact opposite came to light. Google had actually been censoring websites like the World Socialist Web Site. Saying, "we have moderation policies which we apply equally ... We have had compliance issues with the World Socialist Review [sic], which is a left-leaning publication." It's not every day that faceless corporate evil is as blunt as this.
The WSWS had conducted its own investigation of left-wing censorship by Google back in April 2017, detailing how Google had not only reduced their traffic by two-thirds but the traffic of multiple other websites somewhere from 19-to-67%, which in layman's terms is a metric shitton. David North, a WSWS chairperson, forwarded a letter to Google after the investigation, which was promptly met with very sympathetic silence.
And that's not all; it turns out Google is a bit more Big Brother than one would think. In 2019, The Wall Street Journal conducted its own investigation that pretty much all but confirms what WSWS said. They found that Google promotes big businesses to the detriment of small ones. It also keeps its own blacklists and special algorithms designed to selectively cut out specific search prediction terms and keep out a list of websites from all searches in general. What a bright idea it was to let one company take control of 90% of the internet's search traffic.
Facebook Won't Let You Vent About Misogyny, Racism, Or Social Justice
Facebook is no stranger to controversies or a lifeless, pale corpse of a CEO like Zuckerberg, so it was only a matter of time before it came full mask off and censored people for expressing basic political opinions.
Back in 2017, ProPublica unearthed and reviewed documents pertaining to Facebook censors and hate speech rules and discovered that the system is hilariously biased in favor of the most oppressed group of them all, straight white men. The way the system works is that censors are taught to look for hate comments towards protected groups, but the "protected" part is pretty loose in its definitions. Take this absolutely insane quiz slide, for example, that teaches censors what to look for.
Hate speech towards "Black children" or "female drivers" does not break the rules, while hate speech towards "white men" is. "Drivers" and "children" are not protected minority groups under Facebook rules, but both "white" and "men" are -- just like real life ... If this doesn't make sense, don't worry, because it's absolute bullshit anyway. There are loads of other rules that Facebook censors operate off, such as removing any posts that glorify "violence to resist occupation of an internationally recognized state," which has led to a ton of activists getting their content removed in places like Palestine, Crimea, Kashmir, and so on.
As you can probably tell, this leads to all kinds of gross censorship, like when comedian Marcia Belsky was suspended from the platform for a month for saying "men are scum." Or when Facebook "accidentally" suspended hundreds of Dakota pipeline protestors and issued a mea culpa that even Elmer Fudd would have a hard time buying. Or when Black Lives Activist Didi Delgado made a post about white privilege and racism, only to get her account banned for a week.
But, you might argue, at least Facebook also targets actual hate speech too, right? Not entirely. A while back, U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins wrote an entire anti-muslim hate rant on Facebook that largely went unpunished. Thanks, Zuckerberg.
Instagram Has Double Standards When It Comes Body Types And Black Hair
If you thought Facebook was the only social media platform with an atrocious track record of censorship, then don't worry, because they're all doing it. On top of being the birthplace of what might be humanity's greatest crime, the food selfie, Instagram is also wasting no time applying double-standards to body shaming. A while ago, Celeste Barber, a famous Australian comedian, decided to parody Victoria's Secret model Candice Swanepoel's side boob photoshoot seen below.
The parody was an exact replica of the original, yet only Barber's went against Instagram's community guidelines, while Swanepoel's was allowed to stay up. Doesn't help that Swanepoel is basically a paragon of conventionally accepted beauty, which might have a lot to do with why Instagram saw no problem with it. As you might imagine, the feedback was not positive, leading Barber and many others to question the body-shaming double-standards of the platform. Turns out Instagram is as saturated with discrimination as it is vaping videos.
It's also not an isolated incident, as back in June, plus-sized Black model Nyome Nicholas-Williams also had a similar topless photo removed for breaking the rules. In case you might be wondering whether this was just some automatic report mix-up, that's not entirely the full picture, as Instagram also employs more than 15,000 employees working around the clock to ban offensive material. That's thousands of person-hours dedicated to blocking titty. Sexy algorithms are the most powerful mathematical force in the universe.
And it doesn't stop there either; Instagram user Quakerraina also had her post deleted after asking for Black hair help in Portland, Oregon, adding "no white people." Given how white people compared her hair to a poodle's in her DMs, you can't exactly blame her for wanting people experienced with Black hair. Yet Instagram saw this as "anti-white racism" and promptly removed the post for violating community guidelines. Maybe a multi-billion dollar corporation isn't exactly the best arbiter on Black experiences.
Twitter Is Suspending Activists For No Real Reason
Being a social media oligarch often has its perks, like being able to silence the voices of activists and blame it all on 'spam filter malfunctions,' which is exactly what Twitter did after loads of Occupy Wall Street activists suddenly found their accounts suspended without any further explanation.
The mass suspensions happened in 2018, despite the Occupy movement having happened in 2012. Many of these accounts are still associated with and engage in political activism, so a suspension out of the blue years later is highly suspicious.
Part of this comes from how Twitter runs its automation program, which conflates activists promoting other people or retweeting news with automated bots. It's hard to separate humans from bots when moderation is automated, meaning that a lot of activists just get suspended without any specific reason and never get their accounts back. But this explanation doesn't exactly hold water either because the activists suspended were all exclusively connected to activist movements and were only doing actions that are allowed under terms of service, such as retweeting. It's almost as if a company like Twitter will cover up any potential bad PR causing event under the guise of "stopping Russian bots."
It doesn't stop there either. Back in September, Twitter suspended the account of Ugandan environmental activist Nyombi Morris and, as you guessed, wasn't given any explanation as to why. Even Twitter's Help Center basically told him to go scratch, and it wasn't long before he put two and two together and realized that his activism being in direct conflict with mega-corporate interests probably doesn't sit well with some.
Twitter blames the suspensions on "spam filters" and promptly restored access to the account after public attention was drawn to it. Still, by then, even people like Greta Thunberg had denounced Twitter over it's 'very fair' moderation policies. Twitter is free for all to use, just don't do any scary anti-establishment activism, or you're basically a terrorist.
YouTube Still Demonetizes And Penalizes LGBTQIA Content
Every YouTuber knows that a successful career depends on monetization, the money you get from ad revenue, subscriber count, and views. Without this, you better have some Scrooge McDuck cash stashed away under your mattress. This is why it's all the more disgusting that YouTube has deemed some LGBTQ+ content creators unworthy of the privilege of affording basic things like rent and food by basically demonetizing YouTube videos that have any LGBTQ words in the title.
A group of YouTubers and data researchers decided to reverse-engineer YouTube algorithms over the course of four months to see if all was fair play. Spoiler: Nope! They discovered that YouTube basically has a blacklist of words that automatically flag a video if they are present in the title and that words associated with LGBTQ or have LGBTQ related content are disproportionately higher than other categories.
It's so bad that even basic harmless words like "gay" or "lesbian" will automatically set a flag on a video, regardless of what it's about. At least YouTube isn't openly allowing anti-LGBTQ content, right? Whoops, turns out they're doing that too by slapping homophobic ads on videos.
There's an entire history behind this, as YouTube has been doing the practice since early 2017. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has vehemently denied this, despite there being substantial evidence that says otherwise, and has all but confirmed that the "You" in "YouTube" means "straight cis You." Some YouTubers have had enough of this and have actually filed a lawsuit against YouTube, citing that their channels were demonetized and age-gated from views.
Let's hope YouTube does something about this in the future, but given their track record, you're better off waiting for the eventual heat death of the universe before a tech giant decides to have a heart.
Top image: Sabrina_Groeschke/Pixabay, Instagram, Andranik Hakobyan/Shutterstock