Social media platforms better take care when it comes to politics. “Community Standards” can just become another name for “Censorship,” but when it comes to interfering with the political process it is purely a power play, an attempt to control what and who the public can see. Even Robert F Kennedy is not excluded.
Just as I expected, as soon as I got done writing this article and editing it twice over, Meta pulled a “Twitter,” and reversed the decision of banning the RFK Presidential Campaign from Instagram. Last week, the controversial documentary “What is a Woman?” by Matt Walsh, was suddenly yanked from Twitter because it violated “community standards.” Elon Musk would step in and reverse that decision, attributing the decision to be a “mistake” made by middle management. It did not surprise me that the same happened with Instagram.
Both Walsh and Kennedy have some bad karma when it comes to social media. Both have addressed controversial issues. Both have been the victims of de-monetization or outright banning from various social media platforms. Kennedy’s faux pas was questioning the necessity of applying COVID vaccines to children and the mandates forced on adults. For that he was banned from Facebook and Instagram in February 2021 and August 2022. All because he was contributing to “misinformation”.
This time, however, is much different. RFK is polling around 20% or more amongst Democrats, not bad for a run-up to the first primaries in 2024. There is actually a possibility that Biden may not even be on the New Hampshire ballot due to an internal skirmish against the Democratic National Committee. What RFK is facing has been true for both Democrats and Republicans – you just don’t run against a sitting President of your own party. But despite that, challenges have been made. You would think the emergence of social media would provide more opportunities.
Kennedy is definitely an outsider. The first thing that grabs your attention is his name. Yes – he is that Robert F. Kennedy’s son. The second thing you notice is his voice. When I first heard him, I thought he had a cold. Then I heard him much later and he sounded even worse. RFK suffers from Spasmodic Dysphonia, a condition that affects the voice box. Yet he comes across as a breath of fresh air when comparing his energy and style to that of the geriatric elite that currently constitutes the leadership of the Democratic Party, whether you are looking at Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinsten or John Fetterman. The Democrats are in desperate need of a new generation of leadership. RFK may be the man – he is only 69.
Social media platforms better take care when it comes to politics. “Community Standards” can just become another name for “Censorship,” but when it comes to interfering with the political process it is purely a power play, an attempt to control what and who the public can see. Can you imagine any other time in American history when “community standards” were applied to prevent “misinformation?” It seems John Adams tried it once by signing the Sedition Act. That didn’t go over well. Meta wrestled with the same type of controversy, all in the cause of determining what the rest of us should be exposed to, deciding to define who will participate in the political process. Fortunately for RFK, and America, they changed their mind and allowed his campaign to set up an account on Instagram.
For some reason, RFK did not have a problem with Instagram’s cousin: Facebook. His personal page remained active, as well as two presidential campaign accounts (It is a bit confusing.). RFK’s visibility on Rumble is through a third party (Matthew Tower). In fact, a scan of activity on Rumble reveals that RFK is one of the few Democrats who has networked with conservative news platforms such as Newsmax and The Gateway Pundit. He has a presence on YouTube under Team Kennedy.
In my article “Are You Ready to Rumble?”, I made a prediction regarding the future of “Big Tech.” Their tendency to meddle with the public dialog could eventually bear serious consequences to them economically. Monopolists can get blind-sided because they can develop a narrow view of their customer base. They think “They have no other place to go.” But there are alternatives out there and certain key events could unravel their power and control. The firing of Tucker Carlson, for example, will eventually reshape the social media marketplace. Controlling who can participate in the political process will certainly change things. RFK is no stranger to censorship from Big Tech. His campaign staff are already advancing the fine art of arbitraging where and how they can maximize RFK’s visibility in the social media marketplace.
The biggest lesson from this event is that censorship is a bi-partisan problem. RFK, Libertarians and Conservatives have a lot in common when it comes to fighting Big Tech. It is also apparent that the “middle-management” folks that make these decisions are ill-equipped to understand the world around them, often making judgments from a narrow ideological base. Their duplicity does not help, either. They extend the definition of “harm” to any perspective they do not like, while totally ignoring postings where people are actually encouraging others to physically harm or harass people (like marching in front of the homes of Supreme Court justices or posting the movements of their children).
Elon Musk is a systems guy – and I can sense he is onto something when he reversed a censorship decision made by a middle-management person. I found it interesting that he did not blame his newly implanted CEO who has a reputation for being censorious. He is attempting to re-engineer Twitter’s decision-making structure so these kind of things do not happen again. One place to start is to simply apply the definition of “harm” to be physical, rather than implied.
Meta can (and probably will) learn a lesson from this. Facebook and Instagram are not the same as Twitter, but when it comes to politics it has to decide whether their platforms will participate in politics or not. I often jokingly refer to Facebook as being only relevant for posting selfies and cake recipes. It’s crusade on stamping out “misinformation” has been a royal mess. Meta will find the upcoming election season to be exceptionally intense and stepping into the arena to control the narrative will not be pretty. Best to keep it hands-off. And trust their audience to figure out what is misinformation (see Fake News).
“Kennedy’s Voice Draws Attention to Rare Disorder,” ABC News, by Lauren Cox, January 7, 2009
“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been banned from Instagram,” CNN, by Rishi Iyengar, February 11, 2021
“Instagram and Facebook suspend Robert Kennedy Jr’s anti-vaccine group,” The Guardian, August 18, 2022
“Zuck Loves Biden: Facebook Prevents RFK Jr. from Launching Instagram Campaign Account,” Breitbart News, by Allum Bokhari, June 2, 2023
© Copyright 2023 to Eric Niewoehner