Social media platforms degenerate from trivia to propaganda and censorship

If you have followed this blog, you understand social media has become a frictionless conduit for the spread of propaganda. Propaganda is messaging intended to encourage a target to take some action.

There are two sides to propaganda messaging – those promoting a propaganda message and those with opposing views. The strongest form of opposition is when platform operators directly censor third-party opinions. Normally, the answer to speech someone disagrees with, is more speech, not censorship.

Today, Reddit censored comments from those quoting published news reports, quoting the FBI – even banning posters from using Reddit. Large scale deletions of comments, factual in nature, were deleted. (Reddit confirms this occurred – see below for their response.)

Separately, Facebook reportedly shut down a 6 year old, 50,000 member group that advocates against “Islamification” (apparently this is a strongly anti-“Islam in the U.S.” group). (Their account has since been restored.)

Update: Allegedly even Twitter began censoring this topic.

Update 2:  Twitter blocked a gay conservative who voices strong views that upset many after making comments about Orlando shooting. (Since reinstated after online uproar to Twitter.)

Update 3: See the end of this post.

Social media has degenerated from useless trivia to propaganda and censorship.

Reddit has responded to their mass censorship today:

We’ve heard your feedback on how today’s events were handled. So here’s the rundown of why certain actions were taken and what we intend to do to rectify the situation:

/r/news was brigaded by multiple subreddits shortly after the news broke. This resulted in threads being filled with hate speech, vitriol, and vote manipulation.

We did a poor job reacting to the brigades and ultimately chose to lock several threads and then consolidate other big threads into a megathread.

Brigades are still underway and there is still a lot of hate speech prevalent in the threads. However, we’re going to take the following steps to address user concerns:

  1. This is the meta thread where you can leave any feedback for our team. Some mods will be in the comments doing their best to answer questions.
  2. There is a new megathread with updated information that has been stickied to the top of the subreddit.
  3. We are allowing new articles as long as they contain new information. Our rules have always been to remove duplicates. We have also unlocked previously locked threads.
  4. We have removed many of the comment filters that were causing comments to be incorrectly removed. We’ll still be patrolling the comment sections looking for hate speech and personal information.
  5. We are also aware that at least one moderator on the team behaved poorly when responding to users. Our team does not condone that behavior and we’ll be discussing it after things in the subreddit calm down. We want to first deal with things that are directly impacting user experience. For the time being, we have asked the mod(s) involved to refrain from responding to any more comments.

While we understand that there is a lot of disdain for our mod team right now, please try to keep your messages and comments civil. We are only human after all.

and

Hey Guys,

And to be clear, we know that we fucked up. This isn’t just about automod or brigades…we made mistakes.

I’ve been replying to comments, but they are getting downvoted so fast that no one has the chance to see. Here are replies to frequently asked questions:

  • What are you actually doing to “address” concerns?

We’ve updated the automod config to report rather than remove articles relating to this. HOWEVER, we have to still work through them to approve them all.

We’ve also unlocked the locked threads. And we’re going to try to go back and approve incorrectly removed comments, though that is a lower priority right this moment.

  • You should be removing that moderator permanently.

Acknowledged. The mod team is discussing it. Only the top mod(s) can remove someone unilaterally.

  • Why were threads identifying the shooter as Muslim immediately removed?

Those threads were being caught by our automod filter as “already submitted” content. They were being submitted so quickly (and still are), that we’re trying to catch up on all of them.

I’m not sure. I imagine some of that was due to automod and some of that was due to overreaction by individuals.

  • Why are thousands of comments being deleted? Surely they’re not all hate speech.

AFAIK, this was the result of the “kill it with fire” mentality when threads got so large and out of control that we couldn’t adequately respond. Not the best way to handle things. We’ve unlocked those threads, but we don’t have the bandwidth to go back and approve comments yet. We’re trying to keep the rest of the subreddit under control first.

  • You do realize that their is tools that show which comments were deleted. Most of the comments that were deleted were not “hate speech, vitriol, and vote manipulation”. In fact you guys weren’t even censoring until word broke that it might have been a muslim. So I guess even saying Muslim is “hate speech, vitriol, and vote manipulation” to you guys?

This is a fair point to make and I’ll likely add it to the sticky comment. Here’s the thing, some comments that seemed benign were removed for vote manipulation, some were removed because the comments that they spawned were egregious. The way it should have been handled, would have been to remove the vote manipulated comments and only remove the egregious comments and leave the benign parent comments alone.

I’ll continue to update this comment with other answers to questions.

Update 3 – Twitter censoring #GaysForTrump tag?

I checked this claim and it appears to be true.

True

As explained below, the censored hash tag is 7 times more popular than another hash tag that voices hate, but which Twitter is auto completing – this is bizarre:

True2

This is odd to see apparent censorship by major social media players on these issues. Their own credibility as neutral platforms is thrown out the window and suggest any “Safe harbor” provisions (they are just a conduit for speech of others) goes away as they appear to be, in fact, selecting what speech goes online. Losing their “Safe Harbor” status means they could be held responsible for anything said by anyone on their platforms as they are no longer a mere conduit (like say, telephone wires).

Twitter censorship of many views is being widely reported on June 15th – link.

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