The blog of Dr Glenn Andrew Peoples on Theology, Philosophy, and Social Issues

Tag: censorship

Let’s digitally decentralise


Let’s shift our conversations about things we care about away from social media giants, and back into the blogosphere.

It’s nearly always a bad idea to have all the power in the hands of a few. This reality has boiled over in the world of social media recently. Twitter and Facebook accounts, not just of President Donald Trump but of a number of political conservative, right-leaning, or libertarian people have recently found their social media accounts suspended. The phenomenon has been described as a purge, and is quite evidently not being done on the basis of worrying posts that might incite violence. Perhaps the most peace-loving politician in America, Ron Paul, wrote about his concerns over social media censoring viewpoints, and promptly found himself locked out of managing his Facebook account. The phenomenon has affected hundreds here in New Zealand as well.

The stories I see are similar: Users learn that their accounts have been suspended on the grounds that they have “repeatedly” violated an unspecified term or condition, in spite of there actually being no previous warnings of any such thing. It has been said for some time that social media giants are strongly left-leaning and applied their policies in a discriminatory way towards those who lean the other way. The claim that this is mere paranoia has increasingly become a ludicrous one, and now nobody with any powers of observation can deny it.

There are several issues going on in this sinister conduct, and one of them obviously concerns whether or not social media corporate giants should act in such a censorious way. They should not. But another issue is here: We should not be arranging our lives and social interactions in such a way that makes us so reliant on so few providers. This much power should never have ended up in the hands of Twitter, Facebook, or Google, and it must be taken back.

The BSA, the ASA and “good taste”


Here in New Zealand we have a thing called the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA).

Their mission statement is that they will “Support fairness and freedom in broadcasting through impartial complaints determination, effective research and informing stakeholders.” I don’t know why they call it supporting freedom – perhaps it sounds nice – but basically what they do is hear complaints about things that have been broadcast on television and radio and decide whether or not to uphold the complaint. Their functions are:

(a) To receive and determine complaints…

(c) To publicise its procedures in relation to complaints; and
(d) To issue to any or all broadcasters, advisory opinions relating to broadcasting standards and ethical conduct in broadcasting; and
(e) To encourage the development and observance by broadcasters of codes of broadcasting practice appropriate to the type of broadcasting undertaken by such broadcasters in relation to –
(i) The protection of children:
(ii) The portrayal of violence:
(iii) Fair and accurate programmes and procedures for correcting factual errors and redressing unfairness:
(iv) Safeguards against the portrayal of persons in programmes in a manner that encourages the denigration of, or the discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, race, age, disability or occupational status or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs:
(v) Restrictions on the promotion of liquor:
(vi) Presentation of appropriate warnings in respect of programmes that have been classified as suitable only for particular audiences:
(vii) The privacy of the individual

(h) To conduct research and publish findings on matters relating to standards in broadcasting.

Recently the BSA upheld a complaint about a TV show called 7 days, a show with a reputation for being a bit on the crass side. In short, there’s a show segment called “my kid could draw that,” where children (in a pre-recorded clip) present a drawing they have made of a recent news item, and show guests have to figure out what the news item is. I think that’s how it works, but the detail of that don’t matter now. A girl showed a picture of some men in a bunk, and it was then explained (after the guests failed to guess the news item) that the picture referred to a proposal – one that had gained some publicity – to double bunk inmates in prisons to save money. The girl explained that the picture read, “No money, plus a lot of prisoners, equals a lot of grossness up ahead.” You can guess the kind of humour that this might prompt, and sure enough a few wise cracks were then made by those taking part in the game about sexual antics between men in prisons.

The TV show was broadcast at 10pm and was preceded by a verbal warning that some content may offend. However, the Authority upheld part of the complaint on the grounds that this was sexually lewd material that was shown to be connected in some way to a drawing made by a specific child. Accordingly the show segment was deemed to have violated standards of decency and good taste. Read the decision here.

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