A disclaimer: when I say censorship f--king sucks, I don’t mean that I should be allowed to actually print swear words in The Torch (although I think we’d get more readers if we did, and if the Editor-in-Chief would stop vetoing all of my other brilliant ideas, maybe I wouldn’t be writing this article.)
However, the issue of censorship doesn’t just deal with books or information being kept from the masses, or just swear words. In a technology-driven world, it extends to issues involving who is censoring - and what they’re deciding to censor.
In 2017, ProPublica, a Pultizer prize-winning investigative news source, published an article, “Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men From Hate Speech But Not Black Children” highlighting how Facebook’s specific rules for what content is allowed and what’s deleted aren’t available to the public.
An example of the ambiguous standards arises from observing the online speech about Syrian immigrants. Facebook only censored hate speech when it attacked migrants “in the noun form.” What does this mean? That migrants can be called “filthy,” but not called “filth.” Literally, the only difference is part of speech.
In more general situations, Facebook’s censorship team has been called out on multiple occasions for silencing Black women who use their platforms to discuss social justice. Meanwhile, the use of Swastikas for political purposes - yes, literal pro-Nazi ideologies of violent white supremacy - is fair game.
Kate Klonick was a Ph.D. candidate at Yale at the time this article was written, and her studies were in censorship at tech companies. In her expert opinion, she “fears [the internet] is evolving into a place where celebrities, world leaders and other important people ‘are disproportionately the people who have the power to update the rules.’”
The idea that the upper class is controlling what’s public isn’t some unfounded conspiracy - even though Donald Trump violated Facebook’s rules about attacks on a “protected group” when he publicly argued for a ban on Muslim immigrants, Mark Zuckerberg personally exempted these statements from being taken down.
Maybe you’re thinking, that was 2017, no one uses Facebook, I’ve never been banned - who gives a sh--? Fine.
An article published on the front page of the “New York Times” on November 10th - yes, within the last week - discussed how child pornography follows its victims throughout their lives with relative ease because not just Facebook, but Amazon, Apple, Google, Dropbox, Microsoft, Yahoo, Snapchat (do I even have to keep listing them? You get the point) use “inconsistent and unilateral” means of finding and eradicating these images.
Some of the companies don’t even search for them in the first place. Don’t be fooled into thinking they aren’t capable of doing so; tech companies are more than capable of reviewing the photos and videos accessed on their platforms. They’re just proven more likely to use that technology for finding copyright violations than protecting children. I could go on about the horrors described in the “New York Times.” Like the fact that Google has actively resisted removing images of child sexual abuse, but you can read the article for yourself.
At the end of the day, whether or not I get to publish the word “f--k” in the student newspaper doesn’t matter (and the Editor-in-Chief actually encouraged this article.) Censorship isn’t flawed because it inherently results in necessary discourse.
Censorship f--king sucks because it isn’t used for its intended purpose of decency. Censorship f--king sucks because it allows the public viewership to be controlled for immoral reasons. And censorship f--king sucks because its priorities lay on profits and benefits for those in positions of power, simultaneously exploiting victims while denying them a voice.
The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch.