The iron fist of censorship does not act in plain sight. That iron fist of censorship hides behind the provisions in implied agreements everyone has no choice but to agree to. The social infrastructure of the modern era exists now only in part through traditional print publications like newspapers, magazines, and network radio and television.
The modern and clearly still emergent digital infrastructure that has arisen through innovations in the private sector, solidifying as essential hosting platforms for online content — from videos on YouTube, to posts on twitter and facebook, to newer delineations of content on emerging platforms such as that which I will now recount — are the new methods of human communication being censored.
To say “you agreed to the terms” is the universal defense for any site with which a creator of content finds themself silenced, but when one has no choice but to accept blanket terms and conditions (which few if any even have the technical expertise and patience to review in full to begin with) there is no true choice. The only choice to be made is do I want to be heard and seen or not? Because let’s face it, these bodies of communication and exchange of thought and idea have become the modern town square.
The platforms are remarkably transformative town squares that add an incredible dynamic to the process of human communication, and platforms which have become essential for millions of people to reach, maintain, and grow audiences. Symbiotic relationships form between users and platform facilitators have come to sustain both parties, and through the integration of targeted advertisements, for some being able to supplement their incomes and even fully provide for themselves through the creation of unique content consumed by people all around the world, new economic ecosystems emerge.
These processes will presumably continue to develop to the point many commentators, artists, thinkers, speakers and creators of every sort can find a niche and put their talents and passions to work in a win-win-win sort of way.
Unfortunately, the rampant rise of these corporations running the infrastructure’s tendency to censor content broadly deemed “inappropriate” or “offensive” or “spam”, by other users, has reached troubling degrees. Furthermore, there seem to be no signs these trends will self-correct. To use the quintessential modern example, just the other month, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones found himself ousted from YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter all at once.
This is unprecedented in that not only was some of his “most controversial” content taken down, his entire body of work — several years and millions upon millions of views worth — was destroyed overnight, in a manner clearly analogous to a book burning.