RANT: The Grand Illusion

In the last month:

Facebook has half-heartedly apologized for a “breech of trust”  resulting from a political advertising company exploiting data about Facebook users that employed methods fully in compliance with Facebook terms of service at the time. Oh, and they also admitted they’re reading your private messages in order to insure compliance with those terms of service.

Twitter has implemented new safeguards to prevent bot accounts from tweeting and retweeting messages to create an apparent trend or viral topic, in the wake of recent discoveries of bot networks numbering in the hundreds of thousands that were “for rent”.

Tumblr has sent out a series of emails regarding the expulsion of false accounts operated by the Internet Research Agency, a group with “close ties to the Russian government”. The emails include the statement that “You aren’t in trouble” just because you may have reblogged, liked or followed these accounts.

Apparently there were similar accounts on other sites such as Reddit. As I’m not a member there, I didn’t get any special messages from them. I’m not sure why I got the message from Tumblr, since I didn’t reblog, follow, or like any of the accounts in question.

Ever. I checked.

Now, for the record, I fully accept and agree that these corporate entities have the right to deny service to any person or group that may be operating in violation of their Terms of Service. But to the best of my understanding these incidents were not in violation of the TOS, at least at the time they occurred. I will also agree that these corporate entities have the right to amend those Terms of Service and apply the amended Terms to clearing out accounts which become in violation. But this all seems rather too familiar to me.

Tumblr’s statement is most disconcerting. I am not sure which brilliant mind at Tumblr corporate thought it appropriate to imply that I might think I was “in trouble” for possibly being connected to these “propaganda” accounts. It is a violation of the Constitution to be “in trouble” just because you are associated with someone, have a particular point of view, or otherwise disagree with a majority opinion. I grant you we’ve pushed the limits on that in the past, going back as early as John Adams in the 1790s, and prominently with the UnAmerican Activities Committee in the 1950s. In both cases the argument was that we needed to be “protected” from the undue influence of foreign powers in our government.

Well, maybe we do. But the same corporate entities that are making such a show of protecting us from foreign influence are the same ones preaching globalization, a borderless planet and the unity of all peoples.

Except, I guess, the Russians, of course. And people who voted for Trump. And folks that question climate change. And anyone else who doesn’t agree with “the people in charge”.

The public and private companies that operate social media have every right to determine who uses their systems.They have the right to favor one group over another if it pleases their stockholders. They can set whatever policy makes them the most money.

But they don’t have the right to lie to your face about it, and claim to be protecting you, from the people they deem you need protection.

Because you’re too stupid to make that judgement yourself.

And maybe you are.

Hey, you voted for ….., didn’t you?

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