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Are the left-leaning engineers at California based social media giants plotting to censor right-leaning people? Perhaps. Are right-leaning people on Facebook being targeted or silenced? Possibly. But maybe the energy put into our complaints about it could be put to better use . . . on Facebook and in other social media platforms.
How so? A clue might be found in asking why these left-leaning companies might wish to do what they appear to be doing and, more importantly, how we can continue to frustrate their efforts.
The country has been inundated with stories of the fear that Russian bots took over Facebook during the election and turned people against Hillary Clinton. True, it seems rarely to dawn upon these fear-mongering folks that Clinton didn’t need much help in turning people against her; she and her perfect contempt for the typical American voter were the single best source of anti-Clinton material. And Americans responded to her cues. I wonder if the lefties are merely looking for a way to blame the Russians when they know that one of the reasons Hillary lost the election is that people on the right are finally catching up to them in the ability effectively to use the platforms their friends created. In short, the Right has been effective on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and other platforms.
During the election, I saw all kinds of wonderful and convincing posts on my Facebook timeline. I continue to see them today. I’ve been able to witness people who were either leaning liberal or situated in the squishy middle transform themselves into right-leaning citizens over the years on Facebook. Perhaps our arguments—made day after day and offering a point of view that is contrary to the ordinary left-leaning and uninspired media—had an influence, not only on their thinking, but on their voting. Perhaps reality is getting through to our friends through an exposure to an alternate viewpoint. Amid all the cat videos, there are ideas that never get the time of day in the culture. But there they are on Facebook often going “viral.”
I don’t believe for one minute those at Facebook, Twitter, and Google don’t understand this. It’s certainly why they react quickly to any complaints about known conservatives on their platforms. And they have an army of assistants who do not get a paycheck from their companies to help them with that. Leftists troll Facebook to find right-leaning posts they can “report.” Facebook will respond and issue warnings to the member if enough people complain about “objectionable” content.
Sometimes Facebook will suspend an account for a short period of time until a real person is able to make a decision about the supposed offensive post. In the majority of cases, the person’s account is reinstated because the report is deemed baseless. In some cases, someone’s account is suspended for a longer period of time. Facebook keeps their processes secret, so no one knows for sure how they make these decisions. It’s possible they are actively looking for ways to reduce reach of right-leaning thought.
That said, Facebook is in the business of making money. The company really doesn’t want a mass exodus of their members to any other social media outlet, not least because Facebook executives imagine that would limit the company’s influence. Twitter has already felt the pinch.
I may be an optimist, but I do believe the executives at Facebook want to walk a fine line between keeping the faith with progressivism and not infuriating valuable members who post right-leaning messages that resonate with a lot of people. I would hope the company’s engineers are working on algorithms to target members who spend the majority of their time looking to find ways to take offense at and report or block other users all day, and reduce the impact of these overly zealous trolls.
Those of us on the Right, especially those who post publicly on Facebook, take risks every day for our beliefs. Our families sometimes turn away from us. We may get a reputation for being aggressive or out of touch, even as we go out of our way to be generous-hearted with those who disagree. It’s a risk many are willing to take. For the most part, I believe those of us who use Facebook as an outlet for our political advocacy are always looking to convince, not aggravate. And I believe we are making inroads.
I know a number of apolitical people who have been moved by the counterarguments to left-wing talking points they have encountered on Facebook. Yes, it’s anecdotal, but multiply that effect by the massive number of right-leaning people on this particular public platform, and you have a critical mass of people who are actually taking a second look at the zeitgeist of liberalism in its many forms.
So, I would encourage those who threaten to quit Facebook or those who have been suspended to hang in there and be clever. Take care to do the things that will prevent your being targeted by trolls who live to report you. First, cull your friends’ list. Remember, you aren’t a celebrity. You don’t need 5,000 Facebook friends. Among those you accept with abandon in order to increase your numbers are bots, identity thieves, desperate weirdos, and political trolls who want to silence conservatives. If you’re suspended, if your identity is stolen, if you keep getting messages from weirdos, you’re wasting your time. Friend smart.
Second, make sure your settings only allow friends to comment on your posts. If someone wants to opine, they need to ask permission. You don’t need to give it. If your goal is the change hearts and minds, you can just as easily do it with 300 well-behaved and thoughtful friends as with 5,000 raucous and therefore uninteresting ones. Focus not on changing the world, but on that one friend you have who has always been apolitical and a bit nervous about speaking her mind. Show her where to find the truth. Show her how she can be courageous by speaking out to her child’s teachers when she finds them reading Howard Zinn. Show her how she can speak up on behalf of the unborn without fear of rejection.
If we concentrate on doing a little on Facebook, we can and will force a correction on our culture and on our politics. It’s already happening. I truly believe it was our presence on social media and not the Russians that caused Trump’s victory. And I think Facebook execs and Democrats know this all too well. Keep up the good work and be smart. Carry on.
Photo credit: Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images