It took a minute for social media giants to start reacting to what seems to amount to partisan pressure coming from America’s liberal media and politicians – forcing them to begin “cleaning up” their platforms of political ads that are promoting “the other side.”
The “other side” here being the digital, media-savvy campaign of US President Donald Trump, and his bid to be reelected in 2020. Twitter was the first to throw in the towel early in the making of a controversy that probably could have had any trigger – but the trigger happened to be an ad that the Trump campaign ran on Facebook in September, targeting the policy of Joe Biden, at the time perceived as the Democratic primaries front-runner.
Biden’s campaign said the ad had been pure “fake news” – and the media friendly to him repeated this statement – many times. And yet Facebook somehow refused to remove the ad. That caused a portion of US media to create “a case” and along the way try to bring tech giants all at once to heel.
And this is what seems to be happening now as some of these companies look to be falling into the places designated for them by the dominant, traditional, and powerful media/political forces.
CBS News reports that Google, and its video behemoth YouTube, have by now taken more than 300 Trump campaign ads down.
Before we are allowed to learn why – the article talks about “the rate” at which the digital media, compared to traditional, are capable of spreading any manner of (election campaign) lies.”
“Compared to TV, online ads can spread lies at an alarming rate – bolstered by machine-learning algorithms that can identify target audiences at enormous speed and scale,” the CBS News article says.
Shortly after this, we are told that nobody really knows why the 300+ “problematic” Trump ads had been taken down by Google/YouTube. Verbatim, from the article:
“But the archive [of removed video ads] doesn’t detail what policy was violated. Was it copyright violation? A lie or extreme inaccuracy? Faulty grammar? Bad punctuation? It’s unclear. The ads determined to be offending are not available to be screened. We found very little transparency in the transparency report.”
Talk about burying the lede.
In the end, the CBS piece manages to come off as a wholesome Google ad: painting the giant not only as having squashed as many as 300+ Trump ads – albeit for unknown reasons – but in addition, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is honest-to-god quoted as saying that, “Our systems, our algorithms, they don’t have any concept of understanding what’s a Democrat, what’s a Republican.”
Once again, we see tech industry leaders attempting to impress upon their “unwashed masses” that algorithms are some sort of impartial entities descended from above – instead of being what they are: written by people, to do exactly what people who wrote them want them to do.
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