Amethyst Reardon writes on Silicon Valley’s attempts to censor leftists
Following the announcement of the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill, a string of protests have erupted around the country. Whilst advertising for some of these marches, I have noted that Instagram appears to be censoring posts associated with the marches. An examination of the community standards of Facebook shows no mention of protest information breaking guidelines, but left-wing groups (including other YCL branches) associated with the Kill the Bill marches have reported images mentioning the protests failing to post on the social media platform. Facebook and Instagram both have a history of censoring mentions of political protests, including the anti-police brutality protests in Nigeria last year.
Censorship was a topic of heated discussion earlier this year following the removal of Donald Trump from Twitter. There were many who revelled in this decision, but by setting the dangerous precedent that social media companies with only the interests of the 1% in mind can have the power to decide which political figures are appropriate for their platform will derail political moves from not only the right, but the left too. This is even more concerning considering the large monopolies of the social media giants, where one controlling interest can influence billions with the sole goal of increasing their unnecessary wealth. Facebook now own several of the largest social media platforms and have recently been acquiring AI software, face-recognition tools, and emotion-manipulating technology.
Another recent example of corporations seeking to prevent left-wing organisations gaining ground is Facebook’s ‘Dangerous Individuals and Organisations Policy’, which was amended last year. Over one thousand left-wing and anti-fascist groups and pages were removed from Facebook, alongside the removal of far-right groups, with the justification that these groups celebrated violence and would look to incite riot. Grouping the far-left and far-right together only seeks to perpetuate the absurd “horseshoe theory”. The theory itself states that extremes of the political scale are in fact more similar with each-other than they are to the centrism. Manipulating the working class’ opinion of communism as their enemy, such actions of censorship implicitly equate the ideology as being comparable to online neo-nazis.
The slander campaign against communism and far-left ideology by social media giants presents several notable issues to the YCL, in particular by hampering our ability to promote our presence at large-scale demonstrations and events. There is also the danger that this could lead to a lower and less radical presence at protests, with many of the protest organisers and attendees remaining being more likely to hold liberal views and in the case of a recent demonstration, more likely to pander to the police request of a silence. It is worth reflecting on whether the ban of right-wing leaders and organisations is positive when our own message is at risk of being crushed by the same institutions.
In the words of Marx, “Above all, the offense of censorship is that it regiments the mind; it exercises tutelage over the highest interest of the citizens, their minds… You marvel at the delightful diversity, the inexhaustible riches of nature. You do not ask the rose to smell like a violet; but the richest of all, the mind, is supposed to exist in only a single manner?”
Amethyst Reardon, is a member of the YCL’s Kent branch