The first social media site was called Six Degrees. It was named after the ‘six degrees of separation’ theory and lasted from 1997 to 2001. Six degrees of separation is the idea that all living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.
Six Degrees allowed users to create a profile and then friend other users. Six Degrees was the seed from which grew social media platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter.
The idea is that friends may freely share their ideas, beliefs, thoughts and personal lives with other friends.
Facebook’s slogan is, “Be Connected. Be Discovered. Be on Facebook.” For Google “Don’t be evil” is their informal slogan. But “You can make money without doing evil” is Google’s official slogan. Twitter’s slogan is “Yours To Discover.”
All of these slogans have become untrue as Facebook, Google and Twitter began creating “community standards” and policies that embraced some but censored others. Facebook is actively preventing certain people from being connected. Google is making money by doing evil and some on Twitter cannot be discovered.
Many members of various social media sites use them as a means to distribute their political views, policies and positions (e.g. President Trump’s Tweets) to their followers. Followers become force multipliers in sharing the link, tweet, or web-page, with other friends. The six degrees of separation becomes larger and larger until it can actually change public policy.
How and Why is this happening?
How this is happening:
- Each of the biggest social media sites, Facebook, Google and Twitter, have refined their community standards and policies.
- Some of the social media have changed their algorithms which changes how searches on Goggle, for example, appear and which sites come first and which last.
- Several of the social media sites have partnered with other entities, e.g. the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League, to censor their content.
- Social media sites restrict certain speech by its members, i.e. shadow banning, on their platforms.
- Social media sites delete accounts based upon their community standards, when a site is reported and if the site is black balled by their partners as “hate speech.”
Why is this happening?
- Social media sites have seen growing numbers of organizations with a political position and/or affiliation. These friend organizations are also media outlets and have grow exponentially both in terms of number of organization but also in the number of followers.
- Facebook began as individuals connecting, now more and more like minded groups are connecting many focused on political and social issues.
- The founders, senior leadership and/or management of social media sites have their political views, which they want to promote.
- Those individuals, organizations and institutions that conflict with the political views of the owner/leadership of social media are subject to restricted speech or shut down completely.
- Social media derives income from advertisements. Some groups are not allowed to advertise on certain social media sites because they are inconsistent with the political views of the social media platform.
Watch this video of Twitter engineers talking about how they “shadow ban” the speech of some members:
What can you do to stop this censorship?
Here are some ways to deal with social media platforms that you believe are stifling your freedom of expression.
- Tell the social media site about your concerns.
- Leave the social media site entirely.
- Stay with the social media site and put up with their multiple ways of censoring freedom of expression, but understand that they are censoring.
- Find a social media site that does not censor freedom of expression (e.g. social media site Gab.ai and search engine DuckDuckGo.com)
- Create your own social media site.
We have created the following confidential survey to learn which social media site(s) are censoring you and how it has impacted you personally or as a business. Please tell us your story. We will publish another column on this issue of growing concern to all.