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Posts Tagged ‘freedom of speech’

The world has gone crazy. How do we count the ways? Politics. Social media. Pandemic. So much is coming at us on a daily basis that it is difficult to sort it out. But that does not mean we should not try.

Take Los Angeles Times writer David L. Ulin: He has embarked on the first step toward a post-Trump presidency recovery — by admitting what many have not: Trump Derangement Syndrome is a genuine phenomena. “For five years I believed — I still believe — that Trump represented an existential threat to the republic,” Ulin writes. “One way or another, though, we’ve all been traumatized by the Trump administration and the lawlessness and cruelty it encouraged or enacted as policy.”

Indeed.

Donald Trump’s participation in the “Save America” rally on January 6, 2021 confirmed worst fears: that the former President would not abide by a peaceful transition of power, a crucial element in a democratic Republic.

In a presidency marked by controversy, the Capitol breach stands apart — and rightly has been broadly condemned. Few supporters, for that matter, deny that the stream-of-consciousness Tweeting Trump often dug his own pits into which to fall. Time and time again, Trump departed from the usual presidential speechwriters and handlers to directly engage the public in unscripted, fact-check free, off-the-cuff remarks. For all his criticisms of “fake news“, he apparently has never met a TV camera or a microphone he did not like — all of which qualifies the former president as a loose cannon in the truest sense of the word. Still, there comes a time when one must step back. A new administration has been ushered in. And yet before we can move on — in order to move on — a less emotionally-charged look at the Trump presidency is in order.

For leaders who are looked upon more favorably, the long view of history may nonetheless bring to light significant, yet lesser-known, failings. In Donald Trump’s case, however, no stone has been left unturned in effort to call out his many flaws in real time. Consequently, recovery from TDS requires the counter-intuitive: Refrain from giving Trump more credit — power — than he deserves.

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Upon news that Robert Mueller III’s exhaustive special counsel investigation found no evidence of collusion between President Trump and Russia, I attempted to do what many Internet users have done over the past week: share my 2¢. One comment was contributed in response to a Yahoo news story: “Does the media owe Trump an apology?“. Another was submitted in response to the Breitbart headline: “Jeff Zucker: No Regrets on CNN’s Russia Hoax Coverage, ‘We are not investigators’.

What did my comments have in common? They were on topic. They were coherently written. They did not troll anyone. Yet they were deleted within minutes by what I can only assume are anti-SPAM/abuse algorithms.

Unfortunately, for me, this is nothing new. And perhaps some who are reading this — if by some miracle you are! — can relate.*

I have been aware that my voice has been shrinking for some time — long before the term “shadow banning” came into use to describe the practice of limiting Internet users’ exposure to others’ content without suspending the offending creator/contributor’s account. In the late 1990s I published an e-zine — that’s what they were called before the term “blog” was popularized — which was noteworthy enough to make it into an Internet archive known as the Wayback Machine. In fact, this blog, The Social Critic, is an outgrowth of the efforts I began in 1998.

Today, however, there is no evidence on the Wayback Machine that this blog’s predecessor existed.

Approximately 10 years ago, Social Critic posts stopped indexing on Google. I combed through WordPress and Google’s webmaster tools to no avail. I had no idea what happened and I was unsuccessful finding answers. As a result, this blog is but one of millions of obscurities online.

About two years ago, I noticed that my decades-long DISQUS profile contributions had all but been blotted off the face of the Internet: No matter the topic, no matter the website, no matter how thoughtfully-worded the content, it was yanked — often so fast that I came to conclude that I was being nixed not by any human intervention but by a DISQUS algorithm (“bot”). I reached out to DISQUS and was told that for all the comments “Detected as SPAM”, I would have to individually petition each website moderator to approve my comments. When I pointed out that over the past three years my comments have been pulled so fast that no human moderator could have been responsible for their removal, I was told that there would nonetheless be no effort to address how the DISQUS bot operates on my profile. When asked if the length of my comments or the fact that I sometimes edit them for typos could be responsible for the pervasiveness of the problem, DISQUS refused to be specific. Why, I asked, does DISQUS allow users to post an unrestricted number of characters or make use of an “edit comment” option in the first place — if in fact writing more than one paragraph or performing an edit can trip a SPAM bot by which to nullify any and all efforts to participate in a discussion? Again, DISQUS refused to elucidate. As a result, I am left with years worth of posts — including early contributions that had accrued numerous “up-votes” by readers — that are no longer visible because they have been slapped with a false SPAM designation. (more…)

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