Journalistic standards dictate that real evidence is needed before smearing someone publicly with allegations of impropriety, especially someone who’s running for President. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, I’d heard nothing about the suggestion that some ‘friends’ of Rubio’s campaign (nobody has suggested that it was him personally or anyone directly involved with his campaign) had been talking about #thething to journalists for weeks. Nobody had seen enough evidence to write it up.
However it came to my attention when a few people I follow had commented on Twitter censoring the trending hashtags relating to the scandal and did some further digging, including watching the hashtag for a while, and lo and behold the censorship was real. I’ll explain why that matters to businesses (this is a business mag after all) in a moment, but let’s first look at some of the Tweets that vanished.
Most of the ones referring to new hashtags to use and from non-verified accounts had vanished within minutes as predicted in the Tweets themselves. This is particularly worrisome for a platform which has previously been important in free speech and uprisings against governments. It’s not as if this was mere idle gossip anymore, it had been formally broken by a tabloid and commented on by the candidate and his rivals in public now. People are surely quite justified in wanting to exchange thoughts and discussion about it on Twitter, and it’s not as if the hashtag had degenerated into some kind of hate filled rant.
The main hashtags which were active and at one point trending but faded away to just a few infrequent comments were #thething, #cruzsexscandal, #cubanmistresscrisis.
We’ve seen businesses hit when a ‘network’ or ‘platform’ makes ethical decisions about what is fair for discussion or sale before. PayPal in the US is reported widely to freeze funds from users who make vaping purchases, for example, despite the legality of such actions not being in question. You can read a little more about that on Reddit.
Once a platform becomes a target for lobbyists looking to silence a message or to impede the sale of a particular product, and actually complies with the request, or even worse makes the decision internally for some misguided ethical reason, the slope is very slippery. Suddenly all sorts of things become unacceptable, such as the recent issues on Facebook where even discussion of indigenous women’s issues in Australia is being censored.
Aside from continuing to try to lobby against such censorship, all we can do as business owners is spread ourselves across multiple channels and avoid dependence on any one. If you’re in a higher risk industry, some of these social networks may be places to seriously consider the level of investment you make as it is at a higher risk of ‘damage’ from censorship than more open (I realise this is subjective as there are issues with many these days in our increasingly censored and PC world) platforms and channels such as Google search.
A video purporting to be from internet activist group, Anonymous, also weighed in on the Cruz situation.