This week, Facebook locked the door against a number of extremist hatemongers. These are people I don’t want anything to do with, and yet something gnaws at me.
It reminds me a little of book burning. Freedom of speech is sacred. On the other hand, some people are better silenced.
Take one of the Facebook “victims,” Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist who continues to harass the parents of the children shot at Sandy Hook elementary school in the U.S. with the theory that the tragedy was staged to enact stricter gun control laws. As the captain of my old football team always said when he demanded silence, "Shut your mouth.”
I also don’t want to have anything to do with the ideas of the banished right-leaning blogger, Milo Yiannopoulus or the leader of the radical organization Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan. Into the trash with it.
At the same time, it annoys me a little that Facebook plus its subsidiary, Instagram, is depriving people of their voice on the world stage. With its 2.3 billion “friends,” Facebook is, in fact, the largest opinion factory in the world, but it remains an American company. And if anything is sacred in the U.S., it is freedom of expression. Aren’t we strong enough ourselves to recognize racism, hate, anti-Semitism, misogyny and so on, and dismiss the nonsense?
Of course, Mark Zuckerberg’s company has the right to do so, but now we leave it up to some vegetarian hipster in Silicon Valley to decide what the whole world may know. “Victim” Yiannopoulus is somewhat right when he wonders, “Today me, tomorrow you?”
Mentioning those hipsters was a bit silly, but I cannot help it. I just read a report in The Telegraph about a meeting that takes place every two weeks at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, where Facebook discusses what can and cannot be posted on its site. The meeting was about nipples, among other things; they can be pictured when breastfeeding, but not when the meaning is sexual. Cannabis, is medical marijuana allowed? And what about swear words and other such dilemmas.
It is a little depressing. The internet once promised freedom. But just as with cable TV, what promised to be hugely enriching in fact yielded more of the same. It has not become an online paradise. Groups of people have become fantastically well informed as a result, but hordes remain stuck in pornography and hate.
The first rules for Facebook were written by one man and fit on one A4 piece of paper (approximately 8.3 inches by 11.7 inches). Now the rules fill a book. Nothing is simple anymore.
Hate does not deserve a stage, but I long for the time when people could take a punch and form their own opinion.