“SocMedia” refers to Social Media platforms, e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and iTunes. It also includes video platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo. These are websites that ostensibly a wide variety of users to post content. The attraction of such sites is that they allowed consumers easily to find a a wide variety of content in one place. They allow content providers to put content in one or two places and reach a wide audience. The platforms, in turn, capitalized on this arrangement by selling to advertisers the number of users and sometimes information about those users who see themselves as consumers or providers but who, in reality, a commodity being sold to advertisers. That worked well enough until Social Media became BIG SocMedia. Billions of people across the globe use social media. Governments and their agents use SocMedia to achieve their (not always honorable) ends. Ideological interests use SocMedia to shape political and cultural opinions. In other words, the golden age of uncensored internet speech is quickly drawing to a close. BigSocMedia is no longer a “free market of ideas” where content creators compete to try to persuade consumers that their view is the one that ought to be adopted an implemented.
The truth is that the platforms (BigSocMedia) have picked ideological sides and are picking ideological winners and losers. Much of what happens on a platform is controlled by automation and the automation is does what it does according to an algorithm, a set of predetermined rules. Those rules can be very complex but they are increasingly written to exclude ideas no longer in favor. My friend Janet Mefferd recently co-hosted a conference advocating a politically incorrect view of human sexuality, God’s Voice. It was a response to the Revoice Conference held last summer in St Louis. The video platform Vimeo recently removed the videos of the conference. They also removed the content of the congregation that hosted the conference. Despite the absence of actual evidence, it is a core belief of those who run and operate BigSocMedia that human sexuality has only two norms: no one may deny any identity claim (e.g., the “transgender” claim that a biological male is really a woman etc) and any claim that sexual identity can be changed, even by divine grace, is heresy. In late modernity sexual identity is allowed to move in only one direction, away from nature and contrary to God’s moral law. It is the worst sort of ignorant, blind, religious dogma. It is the sort of dogma of which they accuse the Middle Ages but they practice it themselves blithely unaware of the irony.
BigSocMedia is run by Baby Boomers (born 1944–64) and GenXers (born 19964–84) but the daily levers are pulled by Millennials (born 1984–2004), who have little memory of a world in which homosexual marriage not only did not exist but where homosexual and transsexual behavior was widely considered immoral and was prohibited by law. After all, it was it was just over a decade ago that the voters of California voted against legalizing same-sex marriage 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent. In electoral terms that was a fairly decisive victory. It was reversed in the courts and made moot by the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision. As in Roe v Wade (1973) the court ended the arguments and imposed a minority view upon the rest of the country. The Millennials who operate the levers and pulleys of BigSocMedia were taught only one side of the argument in university. Opponents of the sexual revolution are painted only as bigots. Supporters of the sexual revolution are portrayed as virtuous. Thus, when someone complains to a platform about speech that offends, those who arbitrate such disputes typically side with the censors. The BigSocMedia deck is stacked against any sexual ethic that predates Obergefell. Orwell warned us that this would happen.
The internet existed before the rise of BigSocMedia. There was an internet even before there were internet browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox). When the browsers appeared and the internet began to turn into what it is today, users kept a list of “favorite” sites that they checked manually by clicking on saved links. Your browser still has that function even if you have never used it. After that developed a function known as RSS (really simple syndication). RSS allowed users to click on the orange broadcast icon so that sites would send content directly to their “feed readers.” Eventually browsers and mail programs absorbed that function but Facebook, of course, revolutionized the way people use and view the internet. Facebook created BigSocMedia. Instead of using RSS consumers could go to one place (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) and see all their content. This created a bottlenecks. Now, the flow of content was run through a funnel supervised by BigSocMedia. They decide when you get to see things, what you get to see it, or whether you get to see it. This works well enough until BigSocMedia decided that they do not like the content you want to see. It does not work at all when content simply disappears down the “memory hole” (is wiped off a platform).
There is good news. You can still go to your favorite websites to find the content you want. RSS still works. You need not rely on fickle, arbitrary algorithms and operators to determine what content you are allowed to see. For the Abounding Grace Radio podcast click here. For the AGR Live Blog click here. This is true of most sites and content providers. When you subscribe a direct connection is created between you, the consumer, and the content creator. It is not mediated by BigSocMedia. By subscribing you are defeating their algorithms. Who knew that subscribing to the Heidelblog or to AGR Live would become a “transgressive act” but here we are.
—R. Scott Clark, Escondido