Deeper dive into censoring violent content on Twitter, Facebook

Jan. 07, 2021 5:30 AM ETTwitter, Inc. (TWTR), METATWTR, METABy: Yoel Minkoff, SA News Editor98 Comments
  • The disarray seen in Washington yesterday also shifted online as both Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) suspended President Trump from posting on their sites. It marked the the social media industry's strongest actions to date to rein in controversial content, citing "risks of violence" and "repeated and severe violations" of their policies. Twitter, which locked Trump's account for 12 hours, also warned that further violations of its rules could lead to a permanent suspension.
  • What happened? The platforms have been labeling election-related tweets by Trump since November, which made declarations of victory and claimed there was a plot to steal votes. The final straw appeared to be a video circulated by Trump, in which he described those who showed up for the rally as "very special," called the election "fraudulent" and said he understands how the protesters "feel." "It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side," he added. "But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order."
  • Thought bubble: Censorship bias concerns over violence were raised during a recent U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing, when Twitter's Jack Dorsey was asked how Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran was allowed to glorify bloodshed in many of his tweets without any takedowns. His response: "We did not find those to violate our terms of service because we considered them 'saber-rattling' which is part of the speech of world leaders in concert with other countries. Speech against our own people, or countries on citizens, we believe is different and can cause more immediate harm."
  • Outlook: Some have pointed to Parler as a free-speech-focused alternative to the giants of Silicon Valley. The service leaves virtually all moderation decisions up to individuals, collects almost no data about its users and doesn't use content-recommendation algorithms (it shows users all the posts from everyone they follow, in reverse chronological order). However, many that have emigrated to the platform have continued posting on Twitter, raising questions of whether Parler will eventually fizzle, complement or replace larger platforms with much bigger audiences.

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