If Facebook has a “Most Wanted” poster in its break room, John Altevogt’s mug is likely on it.
The Kansas City conservative has been in and out of Facebook jail so often he should have to report to a parole officer.
He’s edgy and outspoken, to be sure. He’s referred to Vice President Kamala Harris in an off-color way; reposted a meme suggesting Michelle Obama has a man’s appendage; and is fond of using a photo of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with a Hitler mustache.
He got 60 days’ suspension (later lifted) for the Zuckerberg photo, and 30 days’ suspension for apparently “bullying” the vice president.
“I’m sure [Harris] felt horrible that someone she didn’t know existed said something she was completely unaware of,” Altevogt says wryly.
The thing is, he says, he’s mostly gotten in trouble for fairly innocuous posts – such as telling a liberal to “give logic a chance.”
“Early on you could get zapped anytime a liberal reported you and claimed they were being bullied,” Altevogt says. “But during the same period I reported a guy for saying he was going to shoot a conservative legislator in the head with a .30-06, and they said it didn’t violate their community standards.”
But even regarding his more pointed posts, since when is edgy and outspoken illegal, or even unacceptable? Perhaps since conservatives have been able to air their views without the liberal media’s filters, one supposes.
And are social media’s “community standards” being applied equally to conservatives and liberals? Absolutely not, my conservative acquaintances maintain.
Moreover, there’s data to show ideological favoritism even in email programs: Researchers at North Carolina State University recently discovered that Gmail algorithms sent 59% more Republican fundraising emails to spam folders than Democrat ones during the 2020 election.
Anecdotally, I do a lot of research on the internet – and I’ve noticed that on issues upon which there is equal disagreement between conservatives and liberals, Google searches have a devil of a time locating any stories with a conservative point of view. I’ve also noticed that my more conservative-leaning posts on Facebook receive vastly fewer responses than my other ones. Am I getting shadow-banned – a move in which media platforms secretly make certain posts less visible? I suspect so.
Such a suspicion is unfortunate and completely unnecessary. And I would argue that shadow-banning is commercial fraud: offering a service and not delivering it.
And then there’s this damning information about Twitter: A senior engineer there was caught on video admitting that his colleagues are “super left, left, left, left, left”; that “we’re all, like, commie as f–k”; and that “we’re actually censoring the right, and not the left. … It’s true. There is bias.”
In an unprecedented time of whistling, screeching, screaming news stories competing for our attention, the censorship of Americans on social media may be the most important. It goes to the heart of what we think and are allowed to say we think.
Indeed, Altevogt isn’t as concerned for his own situation as society’s. Big Tech censors, for example, blocked reports and posts about Hunter Biden’s laptop and the origin of the COVID-19 virus that turned out to be either true or quite possibly true. Even the New York Post’s Twitter account was suspended for its reporting on the president’s son – reporting, by the way, that the “mainstream” media now grudgingly admit was accurate.
“The public dialogue is truncated in an extremely harmful way,” Altevogt says. “Look at all of the things that we now know are true that couldn’t be discussed without getting suspended.”
Fact is, the U.S. Supreme Court will have to deal with it at some point. A new Texas law prohibits viewpoint discrimination by Big Tech, and allows Texans to sue for it. The law had been blocked by a district judge in December, but was revived last week by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
I don’t know if the Texas law is a good idea or not, or if it’s even constitutional. Moreover, Altevogt argues that “finding a local lawyer to sue a multibillion-dollar company would be next to impossible.” He touts competition, rather than litigation, as a way to fight viewpoint discrimination.
Then again, maybe the Texas law and others like it will force Big Tech to at least come to the table and negotiate measures to hold it accountable for lopsided content “moderation.”
If so, bring on the laws. Florida has passed one similar to Texas’. Should Missouri and Kansas?
Why not? After all, earlier this month, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced a joint lawsuit with Louisiana against the Biden administration for colluding with Big Tech to suppress views and even truthful information about COVID-19, election integrity and more.
And as far back as June 2020, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley got out in front of a worsening curve by introducing a bill allowing Americans nationwide to sue Big Tech for viewpoint discrimination.
However this gets stopped, it must be stopped. Our freedoms depend on it.