This writer recently became aware of some censorship issues you might want to think about.
Like many of my generation, I share email memes and jokes with folks I think will appreciate them. Often, these memes have been forwarded to me by another email friend, from a right-leaning website and are, to me at least, hilarious. Recently, I became aware that some of what I was sending people was being censored by at least one internet service provider.
I won’t specifically name that ISP because an ISP who would stoop to censoring email probably would stoop to suing the Lewiston Tribune about anything I might say about them by name.
Suffice it to say that there were certain email addresses (like somebody@ISPprovider) that were sending me a message that my forwarded meme had been blocked by the intended recipient. At first, I thought it an error. Then, perhaps, some folks just got tired of me. But when a son-in-law’s inbox blocked a particular meme, I became suspicious. He, of all people, would be first to enjoy the particular political meme that got my attention when it was blocked.
So when I told him and all the others with the same email suffix (who had also apparently “blocked” my message) about this, he decided to experiment. I had suggested he just fire that ISP provider in disgust. But he just went to a different email address to see if that was the key. Sure enough, when I re-sent the meme to the new address, it went straight through.
So it appears that the ISP was only censoring this particular meme to customers with email addresses that included the ISP’s name, as in “subscriber@ISPprovider.net.”
The provider happily forwarded the identical meme to a different email address. So I informed all the other intended recipients of the new information and suggested they ask the ISP why they would engage in such selective censorship. So far, I haven’t heard if any of them did or received an answer.
I discovered that some of them had previously known of the issue, which amazed me. I find it surprising that anyone who shares my particular political bent would continue to do business with an ISP that censors anything on what is supposed to be the last bastion of communication freedom — the internet.
I then learned of a right-leaning political commentator who had been permanently banned by name from a popular instant messaging service. Then another who had been permanently banned by name from a popular video-sharing site.
As a staunch “big-C” Conservative, I’m somewhat torn as to how I feel about the companies who are doing this. Certainly, as private companies, they are not required by any law to adhere to the standards of the Constitution’s First Amendment. This is key to the freedom guaranteed by that amendment, which is the same vehicle that allows me to express my opinion here — and indeed for this newspaper to even exist.
Also, my conservatism and advocacy of American capitalism leads me to champion the right of these companies to do anything they wish with their businesses.
I also have certain rights in this regard, as do you. And I am exercising them here.
I’m calling attention to what I consider customer service stupidity, and will do so every time I see it. I also have consumer choice in a free market regarding with whom I do business. You can be assured that I will never do business with any member of the communication industry that censors free speech in any way.
I’ve been told that this attitude might find me with no outlet at all, should they all become convinced that censorship is a good idea (the concept behind “Big Brother” in the evolved civilization described in George Orwell’s novel, “1984”). Of course, that would require the Lewiston Tribune to also begin censoring things I think and write.
So far, at least, my disagreements on that front have resulted in deference to my First Amendment rights, and not firing me from this space for anything I say. There have been a couple of serious discussions about this. But we are in complete agreement to disagree and in maintaining my First Amendment freedom while writing for the newspaper.
In closing, the question put to the readers to figure out is what, specifically, any of these companies hope to gain, individually, corporately or for society by suppressing or censoring speech.
Do they think that right-leaning ideas (or any ideas) can or will be suppressed within society so thoroughly that they will never again bubble to the surface? I suggest that they are naive if this is their belief. Entire societies have certainly blossomed (and exist today) under that belief, but knowledge and the communication of ideas simply continues underground. These societies will eventually crumble under the weight of humanity’s fundamental need for freedom.
I think that these companies have convinced themselves they can suppress right-leaning ideas to the point that left-leaning, even socialist, ideas will eventually swallow America whole. For example, they believe that folks such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez portend the wave of America’s future.
I’ll risk predicting here that Sanders, AOC and her “squad” will eventually go slinking back into the obscurity from whence they came. That’s the message sent in the last presidential election, and the one to certainly be repeated in the coming one.
Rogers of Clarkston is a retired manager at CCI-Speer (now Vista Outdoor). His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.