Friday 22nd June 2018

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Yours Truly Hits An Obstacle… Conservative Opinion May Not Flow So Freely Even In Internet Age

June 12, 2018 Frontpage No Comments


Spigots are important control mechanisms, and not only for hot-weather backyard water fights with the garden hose.
In season and out of season, a big energy spigot is a vital valve for a nation’s economic health. Back when stereotypical sheiks had a hammerlock over oil flow, the United States was in a more fragile position, before the advent of freedom-friendlier alternatives like domestic fracking.
At least as important to the national interest, the information spigot could control crucial decisions in the public forum that might turn upon what sort of facts flowed to voters, and in what volume.
Thankfully, the fact-constricting days of “The Seven” media biggies lost their concrete chokehold with the advent of alternatives.
It wasn’t so long ago when a pretty uniform liberal bias critically skewed daily news as well as opinion decisions at — count ’em — the nationally dominant New York Times, Washington Post, Time, and Newsweek magazines, and electronic eyeballs ABC, CBS, and NBC.
If these outlets didn’t gush with an issue as meriting front-page and prime-time attention during the news cycle, it was considered not too pressing for the public’s agenda.
A rare conservative opinionator like George Will might be given his corner at the Post’s columnists’ page, but he no more governed all the priorities in the daily news diet than two raccoons at a zoo decided what the elephants in their enclosures were given to eat.
Contrary conservative opinion journals like National Review or Human Events, with a limited weekly or biweekly print circulation, suffered a distinct disadvantage — although it certainly never hurt that an up-and-coming Californian like Ronald Reagan read their pages.
It would be left to the thus-informed Reagan types to win over voters to stage revolts that shocked the unaware establishments. But conservative agendas didn’t prevail at private Manhattan editorial conferences devising consequential front pages or minute-by-minute national scripts.
The development of major electronic alternative and social media within less than the lifetimes of current high school seniors perhaps was even more liberating to our daily lives’ choices than commercial jets for travel, or refrigeration for food preservation.
There still were tidal waves of liberal media viewpoints, but no longer were conservatives and traditionalists struggling against the stream with only a small paddle. The many rightist blogs and websites give them unprecedented access and influence, even if President Donald Trump with more than 52 million Twitter followers exceeded many others’ reach.
One problem with social media arose, however, when massive players like Facebook along the general public’s access highway didn’t perform with the disinterest conscientiously to be expected. People knew where to go to see particular viewpoints, but many assumed Facebook was neutral territory for travel by all, like the roadways.
The Highway Patrol isn’t assigned to enforce viewpoint prejudice by dispensing violation tickets based on motorists’ political bumper stickers. However, doubts about the administrative impartiality of Facebook and Twitter, among others, have only grown as leftist bubbles have become more resistant to others’ ways.
In late May, Brad Parscale, President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign manager, and Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, sent a letter to Facebook and Twitter executives demanding upfront honesty on their censorship of conservatives.
A May 24 story by Breitbart News, citing a report on Fox & Friends, said: “Noting that the tech giants ‘live in a liberal bubble’ in northern California, Parscale listed off a range of bias incidents against conservative(s) in social media, including the reduction in the reach of President Trump’s Facebook posts, a story exclusively reported by Breitbart News.”
Breitbart quoted Parscale: “We saw this during the 2016 campaign, where they were manually manipulating the trends. We’ve seen this with the algorithm changes, we’ve seen reductions in Donald Trump’s reach on the platform — 25, 30, even 40 percent reach decrease.”
Parscale was Trump’s digital media director in the 2016 presidential campaign.
McDaniel also expressed concern: “It’s a legitimate fear, and I hear it all the time as we’re traveling the country. People are very concerned that conservative voices are going to be suppressed on social media.”
A May 25 report at the Fortune magazine website said: “Parscale and McDaniel point to the suppression of content from conservative bloggers ‘Diamond and Silk’ on Facebook as an example. Facebook never actually blocked their page, but did send an erroneous message — later rectified — suggesting that their content was ‘unsafe for the community.’
“Pointing to the ‘liberal corporate cultures’ in which Facebook and Twitter operate, Parscale and McDaniel note that ‘rampant political bias’ is nevertheless ‘inappropriate for a widely used public forum’,” Fortune said.
In their letter, Parscale and McDaniel also said: “Since Facebook and Twitter are platforms used widely by the majority of voters, we request an explanation about how you will ensure all content is managed equally and fairly. How will you safeguard voters’ access to fair content on your platform? How will you guarantee that conservative voices are no longer censored, and conservative news no longer buried or otherwise hidden?”
An article in the April 30 issue of the Washington Times’ national weekly edition noted some current problems of Facebook, with the online giant’s liberal CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, having to testify before Congress.
The Times story noted, “Facebook already has faced intense criticism from the political right for suspected censoring of posts from the popular pro-Trump duo Diamond and Silk, among a host of other content that Republicans say is filtered on solely political grounds. . . .
“Facebook’s handling of the duo has become a rallying point for conservative critics, and it was the latest in a string of controversial steps,” the Times said. “The company two years ago came under fire for appearing to suppress conservative news sources in its trending topics feed, and its actions since then have done little to calm those who say Facebook’s liberal bias is out of control.”
The article quoted conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) that he expected to see more scrutiny devoted to this legal question of censoring political speech.
Nor are questions about Facebook’s conduct only recent. In one of many possible examples, a columnist for the international daily Financial Times wrote in its May 13, 2010, issue that CEO Zuckerberg “has recently been displaying a disregard bordering on disdain for Facebook users’ right to maintain control over personal information.”
Columnist John Gapper wrote that Facebook is important “to everyone interested in the future of the Internet, which is practically all of us. If it decides, in Google’s phrase for deceiving or messing around with its customers, to ‘be evil,’ then millions feel the effects.”
Gapper’s column was headlined, “Facebook’s open disdain for privacy.”

Alleged Advertisements

As it happens, yours truly recently experienced a couple of instances of Facebook pushing back that look suspiciously like semi-censorship.
Here’s a little background. Once one of my Wanderer articles goes up at the newspaper’s “Online Daily” page, I post it over at The Wanderer’s own Facebook page, as well as at my own page and the home page.
Facebook sends emails to my private inbox inviting me to boost my post so it reaches a larger audience, as well as inviting me right at The Wanderer’s page to do so, for a fee of a few dollars. I usually haven’t done this, but when I have, there was no problem, until recently.
Then, for two separate articles I requested to boost, I was told, “Your ad was not approved because your Page has not been authorized to run ads with political content.” It wasn’t an ad; it was an article no different than many others I’d written. Anyway, I was told I’d need to supply my photo, my address, and the last four digits of my Social Security number to get started becoming authorized.
Heck, this is Facebook. It already has my photos, and if it doesn’t know my address, it shouldn’t take long to discover. As for giving out some of my Social Security number, just who does prying Facebook think it is?
Facebook generously said the supposedly objectionable articles wouldn’t be removed from The Wanderer page, but they simply wouldn’t be boosted to a larger audience.
I didn’t bother appealing the first rejection, but then I got curious about the second. What’s going on here? Pro-life newspaper articles are “political advertisements” that need special vetting? Even though the boost would mean a tiny bit more revenue for Facebook, here’s an obstacle erected against more widely disseminating opinion uncomfortable to elitists.
The first of my two alleged political advertisements went up at The Wanderer’s Facebook page on May 27, “President’s Keynote Talk: Trump Not Letting Democrats Set Agenda For Their Culture Of Death” (published atop page one of the hardcopy Wanderer dated for May 31).
I posted the second one at the newspaper’s Facebook page on June 3, “Betrayal By Globalist Pols: Russia Shows How Ireland Could Change Its New Pro-Abortion Ways” (published atop Page One of the hardcopy Wanderer dated for June 7).
Who knows what threats might emerge if I don’t, as it were, present my special passport with photo, address, and SSN to the Facebook TSA?
Really free, responsibly presented opinion isn’t the world the way the Zuckerberg crew want it?

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