World leaders are having their social media posts deleted under the guise of the pandemic, but is this just the beginning of socially destructive subterfuge?
A few days ago, Facebook and Twitter decided to delete contributions from two world leaders. The first was Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who shared a video and aired his view that “hydroxychloroquine is working in all places” to treat Covid-19. Facebook decided it was against what the World Health Organization had decreed and trashed the video. Twitter followed up by removing two of Bolsonaro’s tweets.
They also deleted a tweet by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, in which he spoke of a “brew” that would eliminate any infectious genes.
Even former New York Mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani got his knuckles rapped. His tweet quoting someone else stating that hydroxychloroquine is 100 percent effective had the vanishing spray applied too.
Whatever the scientific truth behind what works in the fight against Covid-19 is another debate. The bigger issue here is now that Facebook and Twitter have crossed the threshold, will they ever go back?
It’s been established that they can and are willing to step in, if the mood takes them.
Bolsonaro isn’t everyone’s cup of tea due to his hardline views on race, women, and homosexuality. But he is the democratically-elected leader of South America’s largest country.
Maduro’s case is even more troubling, as he’s locked in a power battle with rival Juan Guaidó, who over 50 countries regard as the rightful leader while Maduro retains the support of the military.
The meddling of Silicon Valley’s multi-billion do-gooders is giving legitimacy to one over the other, and sending out a signal of who should be afforded greater respect. That’s dangerous ground for any organization to be on – never mind supposed instruments of free-speech whose raison d’être is to let people around the globe communicate.
You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.
The surprising thing is that there’s been little pushback against Facebook and Twitter. The underlying consensus seems to be that, “well, they were only correcting errors.” But what happens when mission creep sets in? And make no mistake, it almost certainly will.
Technology behemoths have continually displayed how they’ll push things and see what they can get away with.
God knows where we would be if Edward Snowden hadn’t done the noble thing, put his head above the parapet and told us all just how far they had gone with their spying. And instead of being lauded for that, he was given the shaft and is now in Russian exile.
The difference here is not what was being said, it was who was saying it. Facebook and Twitter have decided they aren’t interested in respecting certain world leaders, so they’ve rolled over them just like the Chinese government did to the Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989.
That takes us to the world’s most impactful social media user, Donald Trump.
Over the years The Donald has come out with some classics that have been ridiculed, mocked, and dismissed by some sections of society. Can you see Facebook supremo Mark Zuckerberg giving the order to start deleting his commander-in-chief’s posts, or Twitter’s Jack Dorsey doing the same for his tweets?
The social media feud with Trump and his supporters over freedom of speech are well-known, but if they went that far, it would spark a storm they won’t be able to weather – yet – and it’s more than likely we’d see Mark’s and Jack’s empires start to disappear down the toilet.
The same with Vladimir Putin – for the sake of argument, since he’s not on social media anyway. He’s another Facebook wouldn’t click ‘Empty Trash’ on – even if the entirety of the US political establishment cheers for such a move, the sheer survival instinct won’t let the social media giants do it, opening the door for all future Snowdens to seek shelter under Putin’s wing.
But the pesky leaders of two South American countries can’t touch Zuckerberg or Facebook. The thought process is, they can’t do squat aside from restricting his access to coffee beans and good quality fruit.
You can imagine some African leaders being the next in line to have their communications tinkered with.
It’s allowing social media to slip into promoting this alleged enlightened view of the world, where a few powerful and wealthy groups get to decide what should be allowed and what shouldn’t.
They get to pick when someone has said the wrong thing, because according to them, they know what the right thing is.
We’re at a very disturbing precipice. The motto has to be: once bitten, twice shy. If we don’t put Facebook and Twitter back in their boxes now, soon we won’t be able to.
They can’t be allowed to decide what is right and wrong.
By Chris Sweeney