Christopher Pyne: Pauline Hanson's Twitter Ban Doesn't Mean Conservatives Are Being Silenced
Just last week Senator Pauline Hanson was censored by social media.
Her posts concerning the use of cattle prods to move on protesters was deemed so offensive by Twitter that they were removed and a temporary ban was placed on her Twitter account.
Pauline Hanson is an interesting political phenomenon. Many of her views are extreme and distasteful, but in person, she is disarmingly charming. She really believes the things she says -- it's not an act. Other right-wing politicians put it on in order to play to the ‘peanut gallery’. Not Pauline. She’s the real deal.
I was a bit surprised last week to see that she was shut down by Twitter. Of course, I don’t agree with her that cattle prods should be deployed on protesters, but doesn’t she have the right to say it? If it causes voters not to vote for One Nation, isn’t that her look out?
President Trump often claims that social media platforms shut down conservative voices. He went to the trouble of holding a meeting of conservative social media commentators at the White House to discuss the topic. Methinks they agreed they were being censored.
But are they?
Hanson probably got more publicity for being shut down than she would have if she had been ignored.
Trump can hardly claim to be hiding his social media light under a bushel! He has 63.5 million followers on Twitter. He uses social media to avoid the mainstream press and it has worked for him these last four years and is likely to keep working for him.
If social media is closing down conservative voices like President Trump’s, I can’t imagine how many followers he would have and how much greater profile he would have if he was allowed to roam free!
In my view, most conservative commentators, politicians and would-be politicians use social media skilfully to create a profile they could never have afforded to muster through pre-social media campaign platforms.
Social media is cheap. It's virtually unregulated. Users of social media platforms like Twitter get away with statements they would never be able to say in any other form of media.
The commentary on social media is often so base that when I told Anthony Albanese I was going to finally relent and join Twitter and Facebook years ago, his advice was, “never read the comments”. I took his advice. I never have.
The credibility of social media and its effect on our society is overstated. It seems to track differently between the generations. My children use social media daily. For so many applications. But do they believe everything they read on social media? Far from it. In fact, they believe very little of what they see or read in social media. They require a statement to be corroborated from a number of different sources before they will believe it for sure. They qualify statements they repeat from social media with words like, “remember I heard this on social media, so…”.
My 90-year-old mother and her generation on the other hand, have grown up believing that if it's published it must be true, otherwise, the source of the statement or story would be sued for defamation.
My own generation, is somewhere in between.
So the question remains -- does social media self-regulate appropriately? Does it even matter? If most people don’t believe what they read on social media anyway, who cares what it says?
More importantly, these companies are privately owned. As long as they abide by the law that legislators create they can do what they like. The general public doesn’t own Twitter or Facebook.
In the end, we are consumers and the only sanction we can impose on social media is to withdraw our custom. People do it from time to time, but most can’t resist the pull of their 15 minutes of fame.
My own view is that the kerfuffle about Hanson and the claims by Trump about the silencing of conservative voices on social media are all ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing’. Everyone gets what they want out of the debate -- attention. Twitter gets people talking about its platform, conservative voices get people talking about them, particularly their outraged base, trolls get people talking about the inappropriateness of their comments.
Everyone's a winner. Social media fulfils its role as a pressure-cooker of narcissism! That’s probably useful in its own way.