Censorship on Instagram

I am really getting sick of the censorship jig dances social media companies have been performing over the last few years.

Despite my irritation with social media companies I am curious to see whether their reign over our behavior will increase or decrease within the next 10-20 years.  I can't predict what direction we will be forced to go in, maybe AI will be so advanced then, technology will complete rule over human beings in order to keep us alive.

Will the outcome be complete censorship of every single thing we do that social media companies don’t agree are “ok”?  

We treat social media companies like Gods and we’re worshipping their word as if it were digital gospel.  But they’re not Gods and their fact checking and censorship policies are out of touch with cultures, they’re poorly managed and executed and they are completely overreaching.

Human beings use of technology for education and communication is in my opinion becoming a silent contender for the next basic human right.

If they created and run something we as human beings need to participate in society they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with creating rules that don’t align with what users agree with.  

A company that is big enough and makes enough money to basically be a it’s own small country, should allow users opportunities to vote for rules and policies of user behavior.

Will we finally be able to have the freedoms to express ourselves on platforms we are required to have in order to participate in modern society?

Censorship is the suppression or prohibition of words, images, or ideas that are considered offensive, obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security (Sources: Lexico and ACLU). The First Amendment Encyclopedia notes that “censors seek to limit freedom of thought and expression by restricting spoken words, printed matter, symbolic messages, freedom of association, books, art, music, movies, television programs, and internet sites” (Source: The First Amendment Encyclopedia).

The First Amendment only protects your speech from government censorship. It applies to federal, state, and local government actors. This is a broad category that includes not only lawmakers and elected officials, but also public schools and universities, courts, and police officers.  It does not include private citizens, businesses, and organizations. This means that: 

  • A private school can suspend students for criticizing a school policy;
  • A private business can fire an employee for expressing political views on the job; and
  • A private media company can refuse to publish or broadcast opinions it disagrees with. 

Social Media platforms are private companies, and we learned above that private companies are legally able to establish regulations and guidelines within their communities–including censorship of content or banning of members.

Every advance in technology raises new challenges and questions. For every beneficial use of social media, there are countless harmful uses, ranging from hate speech to fake news to online harassment. In response, social media platforms employ content regulation policies that dictate what content is appropriate and acceptable to be posted. But these policies have come under extensive criticism due to their ambiguity or arbitrary application. Some say these platforms are not doing enough, and others contend that these guidelines impinge on free speech values.  Although the First Amendment protects rights regarding freedom of speech and expression, those protections do not serve as a check on private actors due to the state action doctrine.

Some believe that these policies put in place by private entities are applied arbitrarily. For example, Instagram shut down a photographer’s account after she posted a photo of a naked model, even though the model’s breasts were censored with a leaf to avoid violation of the site’s standards. Facebook removed the same photo from its platform. In a display of arbitrariness, Instagram deleted a post of a 1992 poem advocating for LGBT rights because the poem violated community standards, possibly because it contained words such as “dyke” and “fag.” In protest, various users reposted the poem; some of the reposts were removed, but others were not, even though the content was identical. Later, Instagram restored the original post. These incidents demonstrate the challenges platforms face in accurately and consistently applying content regulations and guidelines.

So what are your thoughts?  Should these companies invest in more efficient methods of application for enforcing their policies (if not new policies altogether)?

At what point do we realize that when Instagram states that its Community Guidelines exist to “create a safe and open environment for everyone” - they  don’t actually mean us?

I hope this blog post helped you.  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments and if you feel this post could benefit or interest someone you know - go ahead and share the link to my blog with them too!

Thank you for taking the time to read my writing, I appreciate it so much.  I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I didn’t have thousands of people online who interact with my content over my various platforms.

(see you in the comments, I hope 🥺)

Your friend,

Ben 

 


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