Friday, January 11, 2019

We Recommend

Another form of censorship on Facebook.

As you know, powerful media platforms have gone political and are now censoring and banning people and ideas they deem "Hateful" and, or "Racist." In other words, anyone who has a political opinion to the right of Lenin.

The first time anyone accused me of being a "racist" happened to me before I'd even heard of the internet. It was on the old Compuspec bulletin board run by the Hamilton Spectator. I had written, in one of the political forums, that government-run welfare programs should be abolished. There was, of course, the huge, predictable backlash of moral outrage and leftist venom, but there was something else. One of the offended participants accused me of being a "racist."

In searching my soul for any possible truth to this slur, I also asked myself why anyone would make such a baseless accusation. Finding nothing there, I took a minds-eye look at my accuser and, lo and behold, something became immediately apparent. The accuser was the racist. The accuser had unconsciously revealed a strong belief (or unconscious bias) that a withdrawal of welfare benefits would have a disparate impact upon racial minorities.

That exchange stayed in my mind. It was when I became aware of the use of word "racist" to stifle opinion, sort of like being called a "witch" by a neighbour in Salem in the 1690's. Suffice it to say that this experience prompted me to pay closer attention to the use of that tool over the next three decades. And boy, did my hunch ever turn out to make hay!

None of which has anything to do with the reason I started writing this rant, though it is related.

Last night, I read a column by Rex Murphy. Then I started reading the comments. I don't know why so many dinosaur media outlets have started disabling the comment sections on so many of their reports. Well, actually I do know. Or I think I know, And it's related to this rant. (If we wanted your opinion, we would give it to you.)

Scrolling through the comments, I noticed one familiar name. I clicked on that name and it took me to his Facebook page. I decided to send him a "friend request." After I clicked on the "add friend" button, I got a dialogue box containing this message,

Does This Person Know You?

We recommend sending friend requests only to people you know personally.

The box included two buttons. One said, "Cancel." The other said, "Confirm."

This put me into a quandary. Since I don't know the person, I can't lie. And if I lie, I might be violating the TOS. So I clicked "cancel" and the "friend request," was borfed into outer space.

I felt coerced. Why does Facebook give a shit about whether the people who use it as a social network actually know each other?

Is Facebook's "recommendation" serious about its users actually knowing each other? Imagine if every current Facebook user were to go through their "friends" list and "unfriend" every person they did not know? What would they be left with?

They would be left with nothing but small groups of people with 7 or 8 "friends," each posting photos of their weddings and babies and dinners and cats. Is that what Facebook REALLY WANTS? I say, BULLSHIT!

When I first joined Facebook it was merely out of curiosity. I diddled around with it for a while. I found some friends and acquaintances, mostly from high school. I "friended" them, and had the odd chat over the text app. The chats went something like this,

How you doon?

Great! You?

Not bad.

Where are you living now?

Nova Scotia.

Kewl.

And what are you doon for a living?

I'm the manager down at Slick's Scrap Yard.

Great.

And what else have you been up to?

Well, I opened up an RRSP and I am doing a lot of renovations to my house.

Wow!

The only thing that I can remember from these exchanges was the guy who told me I was the guy who taught him to inhale (tobacco) back in grade seven.

As you can imagine, these conversations got boring pretty fast.

I was just about to abandon Facebook when I started noticing some interesting stuff showing up in my feed. For example, I started seeing a lot of links to the same guy. "Who is this Alex Jones?" I wondered. After some exploration, I became a fan. After being a fan for a while I had bought several books written by some of the guests on his show. Alex Jones turned out to be a very useful bird dog for me, pointing me in directions of inquiry that I would never even know about had I restricted my consumption of news and opinion to the CBC or CNN.

Aha! I realized that Facebook could be an excellent tool for political networking. I could even use it as my own personal soapbox. After that, I started sending out hundreds of "friend" requests to anyone who seemed to have libertarian/conservative sympathies. And it worked. It worked so well that I soon hit the ceiling of five thousand "friends."

Along the way, I started getting warnings from Facebook about "knowing" the people I was contacting. One night, I think, they even sent me to an early version of Facebook jail by blocking any further friend requests. Then, I guess, they realized it didn't make much sense to prevent some people from contacting others on a so-called "social media" platform. And the harassment stopped.

Until last night.

Now they're back at it. Given all that has transpired recently, including the corporate assassination of Alex Jones, I can't help but wonder if the WARNING I received was generated by an algorithm tailored to inhibit networking between individuals with libertarian/conservative views.

What do you think?

Meanwhile, I sit here looking at a list of "friend" requests from people whose profile photos feature hot-looking young women with extremely sparse Facebook personalities who, I suspect, had no qualms about pressing the "confirm" button and who, most importantly of all, I DON'T PERSONALLY KNOW. Tell me again, Facebook. How does your algorithm work?

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