As recently exposed in several news stories, many conservative bloggers are reporting selective enforcement of rules and alleged policies by the social networking site Facebook in a way that is disproportionate against conservative users.
Now it should be clear what kid of “censorship” is being referred to here. The more formal definition of censorship, which is very much related to the issue of free speech rights that are recognized by the First Amendment, is when an agency of the government inappropriately uses the authority of the state to infringe free speech rights. That, properly, is actually censorship.
Then there is the more informal definition of “censorship” that is commonly used to refer to an act of a non-governmental agency or organization, usually a private entity, to limit the communication privileges of someone using the web site or forum or something owned by the entity. The difference is that a private entity does have the legal authority to censor, even if it may not be good business practice or right for it to do so.
Social networking sites, like all online communities, are not required by law to grant members free speech rights. But guess what, for the sake of respecting members and creating online communities based on the values of freedom, they should voluntarily choose to respect that values of freedom and free speech. But many of these sites are run by left authoritarians, who don't trust individuals with freedom, so they engage in implementing authoritarian policies very that are 180 degrees out of phase with the values of freedom.
Online communities that govern themselves in an authoritarian manner do so at their own peril. Remember the days when America Online (AOL) had 30 million members using both their connection services and their online and web-based content? You may also remember the authoritarians and big-brother nature of their terms of service, and how on many instances just a single complaint filed against you by someone with an axe to grind was enough for AOL to suspend your account. AOL even had a very 1984-sounding department called “The Community Action Team” that handled those complaints and shut down accounts. They were arrogant about it, and they didn't care who they suspended accounts on, etc.
They lost millions of customers who decided they would find internet communities where they don't get treated like dirt. Today, AOL only has about 3 million customers left using their connection services. I have to suspect they are almost entirely low-information voters.
Facebook, if they don't change, will go the same way. They are getting increasingly authoritarian on how they limit users ability to use the cite, and post messages, and communicate, and what not. I understand they are increasingly targeting those who aren't politically correct for suspending and even closing their accounts. They may think they're “too big to fail,” but AOL used to think that too, and they are headed for failure once their few remaining customers find better services to use.
Right now it's early, but soon there will be more alternatives to Facebook, and more members leaving Facebook to find better services and more freedom on other sites.
Facebook needs to change its ways, because people won't tolerate much longer their authoritarian policies. Sure, they have a right to have such policies. They also have a right to run off their users and destroy what they've built too. The little fascists that run these sites will find that is their future if they don't show a little more respect for the freedom of members.
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