Social Media Censorship and Hate Speech

Gracie Hendrix, Editor

  Social media has been at the center of many problems, controversies, and questionable decisions. 

  As of recent, social media has come under fire for suspending certain conservative accounts.

  Facebook, owned by Mark Zuckerburg, and Twitter, owned by Jack Dorsey, have recently come under fire for some of their policies. For reference, Facebook states that any post with “hate speech, credible threats or direct attacks on an individual or group,” will be removed, and Twitter states that “You may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people. We also prohibit the glorification of violence…you may not threaten or promote…violent extremism.” Both platforms have the power to suspend accounts or take them down if they violate one of their policies, and that is exactly what they did. 

  On Wednesday, January 6, crowds gathered for Trump’s “Save America Rally.” He gave a speech and then told the crowd that they were going to go together peacefully to the capitol building and cheer on the congressmen and women, who were going to begin counting the Electoral College votes. However, it was anything but peaceful. Rioters stormed the Capitol steps and began fighting with the police, eventually getting past them and into the building.

  As the riot escalated, Trump tweeted saying “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving states a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth.” Only a few minutes later Trump tweeted again saying “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” About 30 minutes later Trump continued tweeting and said, “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order-respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!” He then uploaded a video saying that the election was stolen from him and the people, but that they needed peace now, and then told people to go home and go in peace. 

  Trump was originally banned for 24 hours from Facebook and 12 hours from Twitter, but was later suspended indefinitely from both. Their reasoning was simple, they banned his account due to the risk of the further incitement of violence. 

 Social media platforms have specific guidelines that prohibit certain things and what gets taken down is up to those employees. Trump supporters who took place in the riots, posted things, or live streamed the event are now being arrested and charged with various things. A lot of these videos have been taken down, but some still remain up.

  Brandon Straka, a gay conservative who used to be a Democrat, pushed through crowds of people to get to the front of the capital doors. He was heard yelling “take it away from him,” when the crowd began to take away an officer’s shield. Starka was not seen actually entering the capital but was charged withimpeding a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct and entering a restricted area without lawful authority” (forbes.com). Straka rose to the public eye in 2018 for posted a video on Facebook with a caption #WalkAway detailing how he walked away from the left side and how others should follow. However, the very platforms that gave him a voice also took it away. Before being charged, Straka posted on his personal account writing, “They have cancelled #WalkAway and silenced hundreds of thousands of voices. Not only did they remove the #WalkAway Campaign Facebook Group with over 500k members, they’ve disabled our pages and the personal accounts of staff and volunteers associated with the group.”

  John Sullivan is perceived as a certified journalist to some, and a criminal conservative to others. In a series of videos that he posted that was then bought by CNN, Sullivan claimed he was filming them to document the event. However, he can be heard saying things like, “We did this together…Let’s burn this…down.” Sullivan was arrested and charged, then placed on house arrest. His social media accounts remain up despite the videos he posted at the Capital. 

  However, it is not just Facebook and Twitter that needs to be looked at, YouTube has kept up videos of violence over the years without thought. There are various videos of reporters or news anchors being shot on live TV and posted to YouTube that are still kept up today. These videos do not “violate the terms” and therefore, are kept up. Alison Parker, a television news journalist was shot in 2015 while doing a live interview. Her father has been fighting for years for the videos to be taken down, he flags the videos he sees but they do not get taken down. The channels that are posting the videos are profiting off of her murder, but somehow they remain up. Other families for other victims have been fighting for years for these videos to be taken down, but no one listens to them. Which begs the question, if videos of literal murder are allowed to be kept up, why are tweets of “inciting violence” taken down? Every platform has different terms on what it allows or does not allow, but the things that contain violence seem very pick and choose.

  In 2017, Kathy Griffin posed for a picture by holding a mask made to look like a severed Trump head, in response to his win of the 2016. She faced major controversy and apologized for her actions. However, in 2020 as the election results were coming in, she the picture to Twitter. The tweet remains up today and is a prime example of Democrats promoting hate on social media and not being censored. Other videos of celebrities promoting hate for Trump and conservatives remain up but people bashing Democrats get taken down. Madonna said “Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House,” at a Women’s March in 2017. She claimed that it was taken out of context but either way, she promoted hate and it remains up.  What the censorship boils down to is that conservators are being censored for violence when Democrats promoting violence in posts across various platforms remain up.

  Facebook and Twitter have both continued to ban conservative accounts that are inciting violence and will likely continue to do so.