If you thought the removing of content and the suspending and exiling of individuals from social media platforms has been bad over the last few years, expect the problem to worsen now that coronavirus is on the scene.
With coronavirus fear affecting social media companies’ operations, more of these sorts of decisions will likely be handed over to computer programs, with the programs, or algorithms, erring on the side of increasing restrictions on speech.
For example, YouTube has announced that, due to coronavirus causing an increased dependence on the company’s “automated systems,” YouTube will be removing more videos, including videos it admits are fine under the social media platform’s rules. Here is how YouTube explained the situation on Monday at Twitter:
With fewer people to review content, our automated systems will be stepping in to keep YouTube safe. More videos will be removed than normal during this time, including content that does not violate our Community Guidelines.
We know this will be hard for all of you.
YouTube provides more information about the matter here. Included is this explanation about how actions on appeals of the removal of videos will be delayed as those removals increase and how an increased number of videos put on YouTube will be made very difficult to find:
If creators think that their content was removed in error, they can appeal the decision and our teams will take a look. However, note that our workforce precautions will also result in delayed appeal reviews. We’ll also be more cautious about what content gets promoted, including livestreams. In some cases, unreviewed content may not be available via search, on the homepage, or in recommendations.
We can also expect to see social media companies blocking the communication of “alternative” views questioning the extent of danger from coronavirus or critical of steps governments take purportedly to counter that danger. Consider, for example, Twitter’s deleting of two Twitter posts by former Milwaukee Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr., which was reported Monday by Will Sommer at the Daily Beast. Sommer describes Clarke’s removed tweets as follows:
On Sunday night, Clarke sent a series of tweets suggesting that the newly enacted measures ordering bars and restaurants to shut down were part of a scheme to destroy capitalism. Clarke urged local businesses to defy the law and stay open.
“It is now evident that this is an orchestrated attempt to destroy CAPITALISM,” Clarke wrote in a since deleted tweet. “First sports, then schools and finally commercial businesses. Time to RISE UP and push back. Bars and restaurants should defy the order. Let people decide if they want to go out.”
Clarke also told his more than 900,000 followers on Twitter, in a now-deleted tweet, that coronavirus is the “DAMN FLU.”
Got the message? Don’t question either the degree of danger coronavirus poses or whatever actions governments take in the name of countering coronavirus.