Facebook and Instagram have, as of a few weeks ago, banned the accounts of far right activists such as Milo Yannipolous (an anti-feminist) and Infowars (a page spreading fake news and conservative ideas). Social media recently has become a platform for outrage. This has been good in a lot of ways, because stories and opinions that were previously ignored are now being heard and victims of discrimination in society are finally being listened to. It has also brought the inevitable consequence of disagreement and backlash as well as blatant racism, sexism and extreme right values that have gained a voice and unfortunately garnered a lot of popularity. This is perhaps a major reason why Facebook and Instagram made the decision to ban these accounts. They shouldn’t have a voice and the fact that they are being seriously listened to by millions of people who agree with them is terrifying. However, the fact that there are people who will look for, listen to and agree with these accounts is not a social media problem. It is a societal problem and it cannot be blocked or deleted. But this begs the question, was this really the best way to go about it? You can take toys away from a bad kid, but you’ll still have a bad kid. Now it’s just angry.
Is this censorship?
When we think of censorship, generally what comes to mind is Nazi Germany or the Taliban in Afghanistan. These are examples, as is usually the case, where far right leaders ban leftist ideas from being spread in order to further their agenda. What is not commonly seen as censorship is when the inverse occurs. But censorship is defined as “the changing, suppression or prohibition of speech that is deemed subversive for the common good”. Although “common good” is a very loose term in the examples I’ve mentioned, at the time, many people in many examples of censorship believed that it WAS the common good. The idea of what is considered by people to be “good” is transient. It shouldn’t be used to make decisions like this. The connection can be made that facebook and Instagram are implementing a sort of censorship. But this censorship is obviously different. It was asked for by everyone. It perhaps really IS the common good. Nobody wants to see people being racist and sexist and homophobic, and it has come to the point where society in general is censoring the far right. No one wants to hire, be friends with or be around someone who has these kinds of ideas anymore. Instead of a censorship being forced upon us, we have created a demand for it. Regardless of the logistics and regardless of whether it is right or wrong, it is happening.
Is this a good idea?
Something important has, however, been forgotten. As history will tell you, censorship is never a totally successful tool. Like I said, it will only make one side angry. It is a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. Banning these accounts is not facing the real problem here, we are only eliminating discussion between two opposing viewpoints and that itself is dangerous. We can’t continually silence the extreme right without addressing them and still find the nerve to be upset when we realize there are enough sexist, racist homophobic people in America to put Trump in power. To think about it is terrifying. Infowars is more popular than some news agencies. Milo Yannipolous has tons of followers. This is not going away. But censorship will hide them from sight. This WILL make facebook and Instagram more pleasant of course, but it is not real. The real thing is ugly.
What do you think? Should far right advocates be banned from social media?