It’s been a big, bad week for social media, with Facebook in the news for an apparently fake “whistleblower” interview on 60 MINUTES meant to justify more online censorship of conservatives. Then Facebook –- the whole blasted thing –- crashed for hours on Monday, sending its value crashing, too, albeit only temporarily, on paper.
Also this week, our staff writer Laura Ainsworth reacted to the attempt by another social media platform, Nextdoor, to control what jokes “neighbors” get to laugh at after someone posting non-PC “blonde jokes” was completely denied access to the site. They call it “being in jail.” Her pointt: that this platform isn’t a REAL conversation among neighbors, because real conversations aren’t monitored, censored and shaped. Deciding what people can laugh at is just one of numerous ways they do it.
On Thursday, she posted the link to her article on Nextdoor as well, as a few people there had asked just how “local” Nextdoor is. Answer: It might look local, but it’s not. It’s HUGE –- based in San Francisco, headed by people from around the world, many with backgrounds in academia in fields such as social psychology, and quite global in its scope, as it’s now in 11 countries and is valued in the billions of dollars. It will be interesting to see if they send Laura to “jail” for starting a conversation about this (or maybe daring to tell a few “blonde” jokes herself). But we’re happy to “out” another social media behemoth that refuses to just let us talk to each other, that insists on shaping and tweaking our conversation.
But as we come to the end of our week, there’s still more social media news, starting with Google, which used to admonish its employees not to “be evil” but from what we understand no longer does. Google is shaping the conversation as well, and is in the news today for its decision to de-monetize advertisers, publishers and YouTube creators (YouTube is part of Google) whose content denies the existence of human-caused climate change.
Here is the new policy in Google’s own words…
This policy will “prohibit ads for, and monetization of, content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change. This includes content referring to climate change as a hoax or a scam, claims denying that long-term trends show the global climate is warming, and claims denying that greenhouse emissions or human activity contribute to climate change.”
Google arrived at this policy after consulting “authoritative sources,” notably “experts who have contributed to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change.” Well, we certainly wouldn’t want to contradict THEM.
The Google Ads team says they’ll use a combination of “automated tools and human reviews” to enforce this new policy. They say that “other climate-related topics” are still okay, including “public debates on climate policy, the varying impacts of climate change, new research and more.” But these all have to start from the assumption that human-caused global warming is a scientific fact.
Question: what if the “new research” cast doubt on “well-established scientific consensus” concerning temperature predictions or the role played by greenhouse gasses, for example? Would they even allow that discussion?
By the way, Google’s new climate change policy ties in nicely with the Department of Homeland Security’s new focus. We all know our homeland could use a lot more security right now, but pish-posh. DHS has been busy putting together a “Climate Action Plan” for its employees, monitoring employees’ progress in “climate literacy” (that means using the right vocabulary) as they complete their training on the climate, and assessing “employee understanding of climate change impacts and environmental justice.”
It looks very involved. But for those who desire extra credit, there’s even an employee honors program to reward the wokest of the woke. Meanwhile, we have NO security on our southern border, and unvetted Afghans from Taliban-istan are being flown to America and then disappearing from our military bases.
Anyway, these new attempts to shape our national conversation on climate change come on the heels of YouTube also banning “misinformation” on vaccines. Their definition of “misinformation” in this context is any claim that “vaccines approved by health authorities are dangerous or don’t work.” This isn’t just for COVID-19 vaccines, but for all approved vaccines. At the moment, however, the decision mostly impacts YouTube content that discusses possible risks of COVID vaccines.
YouTube will allow video of people sharing their “personal experiences with vaccination” but will remove that as well if the channel it's on “demonstrates a pattern of promoting vaccine misinformation.” They might also require "context," such as statements from experts, to counter negative information. We call this "micromanaging the message."
They’re also terminating the channels of prominent anti-vaxxers. Some of these already had been taken down, but now the rest will go. These were part of what was dubbed “the Disinformation Dozen” by a group called --- get ready --- the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
We were curious about what something called the “Center for Countering Digital Hate” might be. They describe themselves as “a not-for-profit NGO [non-governmental organization] that seeks to disrupt the architecture of online hate and misinformation.”
As I have made clear repeatedly, I am vaccinated myself and would never tell someone not to get vaccinated. But the government shouldn’t be forcing vaccination on anyone, or nudging businesses to do it, either. Vaccination for COVID is a decision that should be made by each one of us with the help of good, trusted medical professionals. At the same time, there is a lot of valid information out there about the risks of these vaccines, and when YouTube starts censoring channels and terminating accounts, some of the valuable stuff it is bound to get caught in the net.
We’ve linked to studies and commentaries that, if they were presented in video form, would no longer be permitted on YouTube, as they discuss the risks and questionable effectiveness of the vaccines. We’ve also talked about natural immunity and how well a growing number of experts say it compares to vaccine-induced immunity. Will talk about natural immunity be verboten, too? And will stories like this one about rare, fatal reactions be squelched?
So, class, here’s what we’ve learned this week: Google says that on YouTube, you can’t present research on climate change that goes against the “consensus,” or else you’ll be de-monetized. Also on YouTube, you can’t critically examine the possible risks and drawbacks of vaccines, or else your videos will be removed and your account likely terminated. And on Nextdoor, you can’t even tell a “blonde” joke, or else you’ll go to jail. What’s the world coming to?
At least some Republican legislators were looking at the problem this week.