Narrative is a public resource and it should be expected that political factions will try to exercise control over a narrative in order to validate their authority to administer other public resources and implement policies for society. Arguably China is among the most stringent in controlling expression of thought while pursuing a path of collective prosperity for its citizens.
The American model for expression places an emphasis on the individual and places the onus to pursue prosperity on the individual with certain safety nets in place to take care of the individual should she fail to capitalize on the opportunities provided by a predominantly capitalist and democratic society. But is the promotion of individual expression and pursuit of prosperity more façade than reality in American society? I think the attack on social media is peeling the onion on that façade with a suspect business model providing the knife for a brutish peeling of this tear causing bulb.
President Donald Trump and conservatives have made no bones about their perceptions of treatment by social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. They believe that Twitter and Facebook have used their algorithms to divert or silence conservative messages exchanged on their platforms. Conservatives have been building the narrative that these platforms silence free speech and the narrative has fed the idea among the conservative rank and file that their free speech rights are being violated.
On this point the conservative rank and file should take a quick read of the United States Constitution and stay consistent in their support of the private sector. Facebook and Twitter are not the government. They are not state agencies. The right to free speech is a restriction on government behavior and private sector agencies such as Facebook and Twitter are free to associate with and facilitate the inclusion on their platform of the type of subscriber of their choosing pursuant to the behavior they prescribe in their subscriber agreements.
Sections 230(c)(1) and (2) of the Communications Decency Act provide Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms additional protections by holding them harmless for any indecent or libelous content produced on their platforms by their subscribers. This code was birthed by a policy to encourage commercial growth on and use of the internet as a communications medium.
As a medium for exchanging political messages, it should really be no surprise that political factions would target the applications that run on internet infrastructure and enable the exchange of information to a global public. If political messaging is managed properly, the most potent narratives could be created that shift political power from one faction to the next. Conservatives, who already perceive social media platform owners as liberals, are wary that stifling conservative messages as policy serves to weaken their ability to acquire, expand, and maintain political power.
What Americans should be mindful of is that the end game of a political faction in the United States is no different than the end game of a political faction in China, The Gambia, Ghana, or Italy. The end game is to control the matrix of narratives that validate a political faction’s authority over public resources and speech is one of those resources. Democracy introduces inefficiencies in the end game strategy, but these inefficiencies are the costs incurred from maintaining a social policy of freedom of expression.
What the politician must constantly be mindful of is maintaining the strategic position of controlling the narrative and ensuring that position via tactics that disclose a preference for squelching public opinion. I have heard this concern expressed by administrators and regulators behind closed doors. This is the reality of democracy and its relationship to free speech and media. It’s a front and the best politician paints the best narrative to maintain this front.
Unfortunately for social media, it has unwittingly become the target for the front …