What if social media existed in the Dark Ages? Users posting a quote by an Enlightenment era figure, and getting censored for it, might have just gotten some idea of what that would be like.
Facebook’s “dumb algorithms” are most likely (or at least, hopefully) behind the decision to “fact check” and censor none other than a quote by Thomas Paine, an 18th century Anglo-American figure whose work was instrumental in inspiring the declaration of independence of the United States.
Even in the current climate of out of control online censorship, it would be a bitter pill to swallow if it turned out there was a human behind this particular decision.
Whatever the case, multiple Facebook and Instagram users were saying on Twitter on Monday and Tuesday that their posts were either removed or that they had their accounts temporarily blocked for uploading a picture of Paine and his quote, reading, “He who dares not offend cannot be honest.”
According to Facebook’s censorship machine, that is false information, worthy of bans and deletions.
The irony of yet another instance of suppression of speech is particularly painful here (no pun intended) given Paine’s own pro-freedom, individual liberty and human rights, as well as anti-slavery stances, that made him a prominent Enlightenment figure.
Well, those quoting him today on social media, like evolutionary biologist Colin Wright are discovering that they live in a different era – where Instagram informs them that their stories containing the image and the quote had been removed for “false information” that goes against the giant’s community guidelines.