Freedom of speech. It is one of the most fundamental liberties of the United States. Generations of Americans have enjoyed this basic right, largely thanks to ongoing battles to prevent the government, or any other force, from destroying it.
But around the world it is still a novelty. Before the birth of the United States, the right of all citizens to say what they want without fear of repercussion was just an idea, floated by very radical thinkers.
Since the founding of the USA and the ratification of the Bill of Rights, many other nations--notably our friends across the pond--have granted similar rights to their people. However, most countries' freedom of speech isn't as ironclad as ours, protected by an amendment that is not easily revoked. So many nations, even democracies, have the power to erode their people's freedoms. Very easily.
Just look at the state of the United Kingdom's civil liberties and how radically different they are to ours. It's isn't pretty.
Then there are the nations of the world with zero rights to their citizens. These are nations in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East who--for various reasons--are still stuck in the medieval era as far as rights are concerned. In these nations the freedom of speech is nonexistent. Voicing a dissenting opinion can get you jailed, tortured, and killed. Citizens risk everything to speak out in the same way we do.
Way back in 2009 it looked like there was hope for these nations. Social media, a burgeoning idea, was giving countless people around the world a chance to express themselves. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and others allowed people--particularly in Arab nations--a way to speak that circumvented their nations' totalitarian control.
It looked like our modern technological solutions were paving the way to a new age of world-wide civil liberties.
Then it all went away.
The bloodshed and horrors going on right now in the Middle East have a variety of sources. Undoubtedly, Obama and Secretary Clinton did much to botch the growing movement known as the Arab Spring by withdrawing U.S troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention their foolish meddling that has led to the rise of ISIL and ISIS.
But beyond that, we have to look at the platforms that helped spark the movement. When once social networks looked to promote free speech and expression of all users, they now are accused of gross censorship and violation of user's rights.
This week we learned the shocking truth that online service Yahoo was spying on every user for the U.S. government. This violation of rights broke the 4th Amendment and will be instrumental in bringing this company down for good. While not a social network in the strictest sense, this is clear example of how tools meant for free speech can be easily corrupted by the powers at be.
The moment news of Yahoo hit, all eyes went to the leading social media platforms online. Companies from Google to Apple, Facebook to Twitter, vehemently denied they ever agreed to help the government spy on their users, going as far as claiming they were never even approached to do such a thing.
But this isn't the first time we've seen groups like the FBI or NSA move to violate the trust between users and an online service. Earlier in the year the FBI pressured Apple to create a backdoor into their devices (which Apple refused to do). Years ago, Twitter filed lawsuit against the government over a request for personal information of its users. Clearly there is battle going on between security agencies and companies that guard our digital lives. And it looks like the government is winning.
Despite all this, there are greater dangers to social media, and it comes from the companies themselves. Few people don't know about the troubles Twitter is in. Financially the company is faltering, with lawsuits leveraged at them by their shareholders. It's getting so bad, that they are looking to sell.
Twitter is reportedly in talks with companies including Google, Salesforce, and Verizon for a potential sale after the social network’s user decline over the past year...
Twitter has come under heavy criticism over the past year for their censorship and restrictions of conservative speech.
After removing his verification badge, Twitter went on to permanently suspend [conservative personality Milo] Yiannopoulos in July after he engaged in a spat with Ghostbusters (2016) actress Leslie Jones.
The social network has since gone on to suspend other conservative accounts and even a Saudi Arabian women’s rights group, after the non-profit organization criticized Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women, while simultaneously refusing to intervene when conservative women receive death threats and sexual harassment. (Breitbart News)
While certain government forces aim to erode our free speech by undermining our privacy online, the very platforms that promise us freedom are taking it away. Twitter is only the most recent perpetrator. Its war against conservative voices has been going on for a long time. People wonder why Twitter allows radical Muslim accounts to stay active, while they ban or silence outspoken right wingers.
Could it be that their second-largest owner is a Saudi prince? I can't imagine a man from a nation implicated in terrorism would espouse virtues like freedom of speech or religion.
Then there's Facebook's ongoing war of censorship. During the presidential election, conservative users have found their posts being taken down and accounts locked, over erroneous claims. Earlier in the year, Facebook blocked a user who questioned the president's stance on transgender bathrooms. This after her photos went viral.
Then there are the numerous reports of Facebook blocking pro-Trump pages, but leaving up anti-Semitic, pro-ISIS pages. You don't have to look far to learn about how selective Facebook is when it comes to politics.
Then there are the recent terror attacks on U.S. soil. Both in San Bernardino and Orland the killers used Facebook as a platform for expressing their vile hatred for America. But not only did Facebook look the other way, the killers continued to post content while their acts of murder occurred.
You'd think if Facebook is so quick to take down "offensive" conservative content, they'd be doubly quick to take down hate-filled posts from radical Muslim terrorists.
This growing war against conservatives and greater acquiescence to social justice lefters is making sites like Twitter and Facebook less and less attractive. Sites that grew to prominence thanks to their support for free speech around the world are becoming the very abusers of this liberty. They kowtow to governments (here and abroad) who demand power over their citizens. They willfully harass, silence, and ban people with views opposing their own, clearly as an attempt to manipulate the rest of their users.
Couple that with a growing tendency to appease corporations, flooding their services with ads and commercial accounts, the whole "social" aspect of these sites is going out the window. Twitter is no longer a fun place to see what your friends and favorite celebrities are doing over the weekend. It is now another generic platform for companies to pitch you their products.
You can't even share photos or posts to your friends and family on Facebook, without spending $2. You have to spend money on a free site, just to make sure your posts rise above the political ads, suggested pages, and general product whoring Facebook so openly endorses.
Then there's the saturation point. Back in 2000, there was what we called the Internet boom. New companies and stores were opening up every day, trying to capitalize on the technology's new popularity. Experts were saying that year's Christmas shopping would be done almost entirely online, with startups reaping rewards in the millions.
Christmas came around and everyone shopped at their local malls and department stores. Thousands of online retailers imploded. Millions were lost. All because too many people jumped on the bandwagon.
Today we are seeing the same thing happen with social media. Every day a new platform pops up, remarkably similar to the last one. Have you heard of Ello or gab? Guess what, they're exactly like Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. All these networks are vying for an ever-shrinking piece of the pie, spending millions in venture capital in hopes that users will flock to their fields.
But the bottom line is these networks have little to offer that is fresh or new. As pressure from companies, governments, and social justice liberals continue, they will be force to become something nobody will like.
So how long until Facebook, Twitter, and all the others are gone? For some it will be a fast death; they will be acquired by a larger company and dismantled overnight. For others it will be a slow death, gradually losing their customer base, forced to change repeatedly until there is nothing left of the original service.
Down the line Facebook will be just another Amazon, with a more robust comments section. YouTube will be no different than corporate-run Netflix or network TV, with users paying large sums to post their content or forced to pitch to Hollywood.
But Twitter will be dead, you can be sure of that.
What do we do in the meantime? Through all this, it's we the users that are forced to suffer. Forced to endure violations to our privacy. Forced to endure manipulation from the self-righteous left. Forced to see our comments and opinions swept away by dictators overseas who are threatened by us.
The answer is simple: we fight. We pull our support from platforms that aim to silence us. We launch our own blogs, social accounts, and video channels, expressing our ideals and opinions on platforms that support us. And we only put our dollars into services that aid us, not deter us.
So no matter what the "social media" landscape will become, we will only support the ones that give the people the power.