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OP-ED: Story over a cup: Censorship in the digital age

Michael Cole
Story Over A Cup

Okay, time for another Facebook rant. Once again, a historically accurate Facebook meme has gotten me a ban from the blue devil.

This has caused me to rethink my thoughts on free press, censorship, and the whole current idea of shielding the public from stuff it thinks is inconvenient to dwell on.

I used to think that companies like Facebook had a right as a private company to decide what goes on its platform. To a larger degree, I still do.

I think that social media platforms do have an obligation to censor illegal activities. Pedophilia, drug use, insurrection, activities that call for violence against others.

All of that should be banned.

But what about stuff that a person may not agree with?

This is where it gets very murky and very much a choice between free thought and thought done by others in the guise of protection.

It is a noble idea to suppress hate speech.

It is a laudable goal to silence the voices of racism, homophobia, and hatred in general.

But at what cost? Who decides what is hate speech and what is not?

If I ban anything talking about the Holocaust, slavery, bigotry and anything offensive, have I not just washed it away?

I just erased the Holocaust because of anti-Semitism. So now, future generations will not see the horrors of Nazi Germany. We will no longer see the parallels in this world potentially showing us that history is repeating.

If we suppress speech we find offensive, where does it end?

Above all, why should I cede the right to decide what I find offensive and what I do not consider offensive? Why does an AI bot for Facebook get to decide what I want to see?

I should be adult enough to see differing viewpoints and to decide if I want to be associated with people who make racist statements. I should be allowed to decide if I want to be friends with a vile human being.

This choice should be mine, not an algorithm made by people who are on a power trip.

And where does the need of society to protect itself from someone end and personal responsibility begin?

I think it is the height of laziness when we decide we want Facebook to weed out our friends and save us from what we are offended by.

But, here we are.

We do not have the guts to tell our racist uncle to his face he is offensive. We prefer Facebook to do it.

We have given up the responsibility of deciding if certain speech is acceptable because we do not or cannot be bothered with it.

In doing so, we have decided to let Facebook decide what is right and wrong.

And we are okay with it.

But what happens when thoughts you have which are not racist, not homophobic, not discriminatory are suddenly deemed so?

Who watches the watchers?

I do not like what a lot of my friends say. And to those, I make the adult choice to unfriend them.

Others need to do the same.

And to Facebook, who has undertaken this task with glee, I say this:

In your attempt to make a kinder world, you have made some of us feel we cannot say anything on certain subjects without risking censorship, no matter how innocuous. In that regard, you have created a hostile environment.

In your quest to end bullying, you have become the bully.

Michael Cole is a syndicated columnist that when he is not writing, he is plotting global domination. You can follow him at www.storyoveracup.com