Imagine one morning you wake up check your phone or computer and see your whole life has changed. No, you did not win the lottery. In fact, this is not a positive change in the least – this wasn’t even an event you foresaw coming. You have just been banned online – completely censored – and there is virtually nothing you can do about it.
This has been the story for many creators on current social media and content-sharing platforms. One specific case, that occurred just as described, is that of creator Coffeezilla. You might have seen his videos. He likes to expose fake gurus and criticize scams he sees across the internet (he is even very critical of crypto). He was censored for no apparent reason. Watch his experience in a video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtaFWbZdVKI . Now you might not like his content, but imagine how he felt seeing all his work – his livelihood suddenly removed. And for what reason?
Luckily for massive creators like Coffeezilla, they have an audience and reach big enough to contact platforms and have them reverse their decisions. But this is only the case for the small few – what about the majority who are censored and have nowhere to get answers?
What if this was you?
Sure censorship seems like an abstract concept, one that happens to other people, in other countries – but once you are the one being censored…well…you are likely to then feel differently.
What is censorship
You might be asking yourself – “What is censorship?”. That’s a fair question as censorship can be defined differently depending on the situation. Oxford Reference defines censorship as:
"Any regime or context in which the content of what is publically expressed, exhibited, published, broadcast, or otherwise distributed is regulated or in which the circulation of information is controlled."
It's not limited to one platform
The way the internet is currently constructed is so that censorship is the easy and often the first option that centralized web2 platforms use to mitigate controversy, and as they think, "protect users". The issues we see are not limited to one or two platforms, they are widespread and are risks to everyday users. On Web2 platforms, if you are censored by one platform, then often it spreads like a virus to other platforms. Before you even have a chance to argue with the policies, you are completely removed from almost everywhere on the internet. Unless you have a massive following, that spreads beyond big tech's reach, you will have basically just disappeared online.
In case you don’t believe us, let's look at some of these examples of censorship on Web2 platforms. You will see this is not a left vs right problem. Censorship is a risk for all and needs to be fixed for all.
Facebook has been plagued by over-moderation and overt censorship for years. First, they began as a fun social network platform – but those days are long gone. Let’s look at two examples from two different sides of the political spectrum and see how Facebook censored voices that were doing nothing other than sharing alternative opinions.
The first example is when Senator Elizabeth Warren had ads removed where she was advocating for a breaking up of big tech. She argued (and continues to) that platforms like Facebook have too much power and need to be regulated more strictly. When trying to spread her message about how Facebook has too much power, Facebook basically proved her point by using their centralized monopolistic powers to ban her. While they eventually allowed the ads to be on the platforms, this kind of censorship shows how if you question big tech, they will simply remove your ability to criticize them.
Next, we have the example of the sudden and seemingly unprovoked removal of content from Prager U. This right-wing non-profit had several of its videos removed by the platform. Once again, Facebook apologized after public backlash and allowed the videos back on the platform. However, imagine if they did not have such a strong presence online? How many other creators have been banned that we do not even know of? This type of censorship has led to a real lack of trust and severe discontent amongst users.
Twitter has been notorious for the voices they have censored. There are the infamous examples of the banning on President Donald Trump or the removal of the story the New York Post did of Hunter Biden’s laptop. While these are widely known and often seen through a partisan lens, there are countless other examples of censorship. Independent journalist Alex Bernson is fighting Twitter after being censored on the platform. Alex was banned from Twitter after raising Covid-19 vaccine concerns. The debate isn’t if Alex was right or wrong in raising concerns – the issue is that Twitter did not even let debates occur on its platform. If something is misinformation or incorrect why not just let dissenting voices call it out and correct it? On the other hand, if you are a journalist, when you see platforms removing those who question the mainstream opinion, how are you supposed to do your job correctly? Aren’t journalists supposed to question what is being shared by those in power?
Even if you are not censored the constant threat of censorship impacts how people operate and in turn forces many voices to self-censor because of this fear.
Censorship on Youtube - Patreon - Google
While there are countless examples of censorship they are not limited to just Twitter and Facebook. As has been discussed, YouTube/Google have been increasingly censoring content on their platforms. Examples range from Cofeezilla to even organizations promoting Socialism. Here we see that almost no one is safe. You might that at a minimum crypto-related content would be exempt from censorship – false. There have been several examples of crypto creators being banned and censored online. Some of the most famous examples have been on YouTube with the platforms defending their actions by claiming breaches of policies were made.
Even on platforms that have helped creators monetize there are examples of censorship. Patreon caused major controversy by banning creators from fundraising on their platform.
What this means for you
Imagine you were one of these people who were censored by a supposedly 'freedom of speech' platform. Imagine you are a journalist, looking to hold those in power to account, or if you were a creator trying to make a living online. The risk of losing your audience at any moment might make you think twice about posting something that might even remotely risk that.
Most likely however this isn’t you, and you have not yet been a victim of censorship. But just as many of these people discussed in this article – you might not suspect the possibility of being censored, but once it happens you are virtually helpless and limited in how you fight it.
Solcial is a permissionless social network that gives users the power of web3 by allowing people to interact with each other without fearing censorship, and allowing content creators to be rewarded fairly at market value.
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