The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Community Standards?

Community guidelines. Content
guidelines. Toxic. Removed for security reasons. What do they mean?

Benjamin Weingarten
on October 26 posted a lengthy and very informative column on Gatestone on the
subject of social media’s ongoing campaign to exorcize all criticism of Islam from the
Internet, “Facebook,
Social Media, Aiding Jihad: Censoring Those Who Counter Jihad.
” His column
is peppered with the aforementioned terms, which exist to help censors direct
the campaign to protect and insulate Islam from criticism, or to simply prohibit
it.
For the past few years, large social media
and other online companies have been seeking to restrict or even criminalize
content that could be construed as critical of Islam or Muslims, including when the material simply exposes
the words and actions
of radical Islamists. [Italics mine]
Social media and online
companies are doing the dirty work of governments committed to turning Muslims
into a protected class, and to treating Islam as a sacrosanct ideology not to
be vilified or questioned. Except for the German government, most Western
governments are shy of being accused of censorship. So they farm out the task
to the private sphere and hold its feet to the fire of punishing fines if it
fails in its duty to regulate speech by proxy. These companies and social media
receive the blessing and sanction of governments that will not excoriate or
cast Islam into a bad light. (Parenthetically, the term “radical Islam,” which
occurs almost a dozen times in Weingarten’s column, is an invalid, redundant
term, as Islam is already “radical.” To call Islam, which is a totalitarian
ideology and only secondarily a religion, “radical,” is as ludicrous as calling
Nazism or Communism “radical.”)
Weingarten goes on:
In September 2016, YouTube released new “Advertiser-friendly
content guidelines,”
according to which: “Video content that
features or focuses on sensitive topics or events including, but not limited
to, war, political conflicts, terrorism or extremism, death and tragedies,
sexual abuse, even if graphic imagery is not shown, is generally not eligible
for ads. For example, videos about recent tragedies, even if presented for news
or documentary purposes, may not be eligible for advertising given the subject
matter.” It is easy to see how such rules could be used against people
trying to counter jihad.
In March 2017, Google revealed that it was seeking to improve its search
function by having its 10,000 “quality raters” flag
“upsetting-offensive” content. The data generating the quality
ratings will then be incorporated into Google’s algorithms for monitoring and
forbidding content. Two months later, Google updated the guidelines for
“non-English-language web pages.” One example cited by Google as
“upsetting-offensive” is a post titled “Proof that Islam is
Evil, Violent, and Intolerant – Straight from the Koran…” In contrast,
Google calls a PBS Teachers Guide on Islam a “high-quality
article…with an accurate summary of the major beliefs and practices of
Islam.”
In August 2017, YouTube posted “An update on our commitment to fight terror content online,”
which is sure to put counter-jihadist content in its crosshairs
Imagine spending days or years
researching, for example, how perhaps two million Europeans were kidnapped from
their homes or villages by Muslim pirates or corsairs and enslaved by Muslim
caliphs or sentenced to Muslim harems in the Mideast or North Africa, never to
escape, but to die in captivity – only to have your work spiked or consigned to
the black hole of non-existence by an anonymous “quality rater.” The finicky Google
wonk could work just as well for Facebook.
Imagine spending days or years
producing a scholarly work that demonstrates that Arab slavers were responsible
for the deaths of millions of black Africans captured and force-marched under
the whip to the Mideast or northern Africa, to perish enroute, or to be worked
to death building palaces for the powerful Arab sheiks – only to have it called
bigoted or racist and a violation of “community standards,” and banished from
the Internet by an ignorant “quality rater.”
What are “community
standards”?
Wikipedia writes
that:
Community standards are local norms
bounding acceptable conduct, possibly going beyond legal minimum requirements in
relation to either limits on acceptable conduct itself or the manner in which
the community will enforce acceptable conduct. Sometimes these standards can be
itemized in a list that states the community’s values and sets guidelines for
participation in the community. Alternatively, informal standards may be
imprecisely described as “I’ll know it when I see it.”
And what are a “community’s
values”?  There is no fixed,
written-in-stone expression of them anywhere. Drexel University
focuses on obscenity, but does not address issues of suppressing criticism of
Islam. Most universities have published their own “community stanards.”
The perceived need to regulate information
dissemination in order to spare certain individuals from ideas of questionable
acceptance can be found as far back as ancient Greek civilization, when Plato
urged the suppression of “indecency” in the creative arts and called for the
censor of writers (Heins, 2001, p. 3). Today, our modern society grapples with
issues of defining constitutionally protected speech. The definition of and
laws regarding obscenity are issues that the United States has continually
revisited in recent decades. This paper begins with an exploration of the
definition of obscenity in the United States, providing an historic overview of
laws that have molded our current definition of what is legally considered
obscene material, and exposes problems relating to the “community standards”
aspect of the current legal definition. Additionally, this paper explores how
libraries are affected by obscenity law in the current information age, with
specific focus on the controversy surrounding Internet filtering in public
libraries.
US
Legal
writes:
The term contemporary community standards is
a standard used to test descriptions or depictions of sexual matters, which was
first adopted by the United States Supreme Court in 1957 in Roth v. United
States, 354 U.S. 476. In the Roth case, the Court put forth its test for
determining whether a work is obscene as “whether to the average person,
applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material
taken as a whole appeals to prurient interest.”
This will normally permit the use of county
standards or federal district standards, if a federal case. In fact community
standards may be utilized without reference to a precise geographical area.
Jurors are the judges of contemporary
community standards, based upon their knowledge of the norms of the community
from which they may come. The juror must also decide whether the “average
person” in applying such standards would find that the disputed material
appeals to “prurient interest” or is “patently offensive.”
Experts testimony may be used to testify about the nature of the contemporary
community standards,’ but such testimony is not constitutionally required.
Perhaps a better question
might be: What is a community? Using
the Google “definition,” a “quality rater” just might be an “average person.”
He and his colleagues, none of whom could have an ounce of intellectual acumen,
would constitute the “community” that sets the standards. These anonymous
individuals would be of a finite number, working in specific geographical
areas. They would decide what violates “standards” with the assistance of
computer-generated algorithms, which would be determined and set by other
anonymous individuals higher up the censorship food chain.

This community would be in
constant conflict with outside communities, such as identified groups of
counter-jihad writers or filmmakers. These groups would have individual names
or would be corralled or labeled into arbitrarily assigned collectives
identified as “hate speech groups,” or “Islamophobic” groups or “right-wing”
groups or just plain bigots or racists. Echoes of The Southern Poverty Law Center. “Quality
raters” would be the judges and juries – not any law – of whether or not
certain speech or disseminated information violates vague, amorphous “community
standards,” or “norms,” which could be applied to anything a “quality rater”
and his supervisor may disagree with or just not like.
Weingarten comes to his main
point, about how Internet censorship aids and abets jihadists, and writes:
That major technology
companies are openly stifling the free speech of people trying to counter jihad
is bad enough; what is beyond unconscionable is that they simultaneously enable
Islamic supremacists to spread the very content that the counter-jihadists have
been exposing.
According to the legal
complaint, the names and symbols of Palestinian Arab terrorist groups and
individuals were known to authorities, and “Facebook has the data and capability
to cease providing services to [such] terrorists, but… has chosen not to do
so.”
A separate lawsuit claims
that Twitter not only benefits indirectly by seeing its user base swell through
the increase of ISIS-linked accounts, but directly profits by placing targeted
advertisements on them.
When jihadist content is
permitted to spread unchecked across the globe via cyberspace, it is a matter
of national and international security. Tragically for Western civilization,
its tech and media icons have been colluding — even if unwittingly — with
those working actively to destroy it.
And….
For the past few years, large social media
and other online companies have been seeking to restrict or even criminalize
content that could be construed as critical of Islam or Muslims, including when
the material simply exposes the words and actions of radical Islamists.
Meaning that truth is the new “hate speech.”

The recent attempt by the digital payment platform, PayPal, to
forbid two conservative organizations — Jihad Watch and the American Freedom Defense Initiative — from continuing to
use the service to receive donations, is a perfect case in point. Although
PayPal reversed the ban, its initial move was part of an ongoing war against the free speech of counter-jihadists — those
working to expose the ideology, goals, tactics and strategies of Islamic
supremacists, and who are trying to defeat or at least to deter the Islamic
supremacist
global agenda.
I’m especially amused when I read
that some speech has been deemed “toxic,” as though words, images, or ideas
have the power of a dangerous chemical or gas to physically hurt or kill
someone. Words, images (such as cartoons), and ideas, however, have no
metaphysical, innate, or intrinsic power of toxicity, as mustard gas and 
ethyl bromoacetate (tear gas) had in
World War I. Further, the notion of
“hate speech,” is similarly impotent, but then truth-telling has been deemed
toxic “hate speech” purely on the hypothetical chance that some
hyper-sensitive, Muslim snowflakes might be “offended,” or “insulted,” or feel demeaned or threatened by it.
Weingarten concludes his
column with:
Yet one cannot deny the global reach and
scope of Facebook, Google and the other Internet giants, which make it
extremely difficult for dissatisfied customers to find or create an
alternative. The fact is that in today’s world, individuals and businesses
barely are seen to exist without having a presence on these platforms. If such
platforms wish, they can cripple those who dissent from their ideological
orthodoxy.
This is problematic not only for political conservatives and counter-jihadists who are
treated negatively by the major media firms. It is also worrisome from the
point of view of freedom of expression. When jihadist content is permitted to
spread unchecked across the globe via cyberspace, it is a matter of national
and international security. Tragically for Western civilization, its tech and
media icons have been colluding – even if unwittingly – with those working
actively to destroy it.
Not to mention the FBI, the
State Department, and other federal agencies dedicated to shielding Islam.

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  1. Edward Cline

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