There’s been a lot of talk about social media censorship lately. In late May, President Trump issued the Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship, a declaration that has no legal effect—yet.
Censorship is something, I think we’d all agree, that’s not right and goes against what the United States is founded upon. It’s something our country has fought against for most of its history. You don’t have to look far to find people expressing anti-censorship sentiment.
While big-company and governmental censorship is widely thought of as wrong, there’s another type of censorship that’s common, practiced often, and, by association, accepted. To coin a phrase, let’s call this practice peer censorship. I touched on an example of it in my last post. Basically, this form of censorship involves the deleting of a comment from a social media post that expresses a differing opinion.
There are times when peer censorship is necessary, such as when a comment contains offensive, vulgar, or indecent sentiments and wording. However, a comment that expresses a differing or unpopular opinion does not automatically qualify as offensive, vulgar, or indecent.
It’s easy to beat our chests and cry foul at the people and organizations we think are censoring people, but do we feel the same about intolerant peer censorship?
On our own social media posts, we are the publisher and editor of that post, vested with the power to silence (delete) differing opinions or accept them as an opportunity for a civil, respectful, and tolerant conversation.
Somewhere along the way, it became common for people to see differing opinions as personal affronts.
The peers who censored me on social media are individuals who call for equality and tolerance in many of their posts. Ironically, it’s these things—the ones they claim to want—that seem to escape them in dealing with differing opinions on a post they’ve made.
What can you do?
While we can’t immediately control the censorship practices of social media outlets and the media, we can immediately control unnecessary censorship on our own social media pages. If you oppose censorship on a grand scale, you should oppose it on a personal scale, as well.
Tolerance and civility cannot prevail if we, on a personal level, are unwilling to be civil towards and tolerant of differing opinions. If someone makes a comment you don’t agree with and that doesn’t cross the line of decency, do the tolerable and civil thing: leave the comment there. There’s probably something you can learn from that person’s point of view. If not, agree to disagree and move on with tolerance and civility. Plain and simple.