- Elon Isn’t the Problem; Social Media’s Censorship Problems Extend Beyond Twitter
Elon Isn’t the Problem; Social Media’s Censorship Problems Extend Beyond Twitter
By Brad Luttrell, Cofounder, CEO of GoWild
For years when I’ve mentioned how biased the treatment of people like me is on social media, I’ve been met with eye rolls, mocking smirks and doubting accusations.
I’ve pitched investors that have gone so far as to say I was making the problem up and there was no need for a platform like what we’ve built with GoWild. Needless to say, GoWild never worked with these people.
By “people like me,” I don’t mean any radical political or ideological affiliation.
I just mean me, Brad, the hunter and angler.
For the last six years, our team has worked on solving this problem. I cofounded and cobuilt GoWild, a social commerce community for outdoorsmen. Our company is fighting back against Silicon Valley’s treatment of not only the outdoorsmen, but our entire industry. From the frontlines of this battle, I’ve seen the biased treatment from blue chip giants. Simply put, big tech is silencing, throttling, shadowbanning and flat-out removing content from hunters and anglers (latest example here).
And yeah, they’re even coming after fishing, one of the most popular outdoor hobbies in the world. Salt water photos are disappearing from Facebook groups because the fish are dead.
I don’t need the metaverse to see this is a reality I don’t care to join.
It’s their platform
When I talk about this publicly to raise awareness, I’m met with the same feedback, usually from people who spend very little time outside:
“It’s their platform, they can do what they want.”
I find it comical that now that Elon Musk has acquired Twitter, these same people have a different take. The new version of this mantra?
“It shouldn’t be his platform, he’ll do what he wants.”
I am sure Elon is going to screw a few things up with Twitter, but this concept that any of these social platforms are utopias is fraught with lies and ignorance. These platforms have historically been controlled by billionaires like Jack Dorsey, Ev Williams, Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Spiegel and so on. It’s not hard to find a book on how Reddit, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter have swayed elections, been abused by communists, or caused suicides.
I’ve maintained that in this new era of communication, social media has approached the importance of the phone lines of the past. These communication giants are more akin to being common carriers than a private message board—it’s how our country communicates with friends, family, coworkers, etc. At the very least, big tech needs to be more careful about the blatant silencing of voices they don’t agree with, which is approximately half the country. We’ve blurred the lines from blocking information that was dangerous to advocating for silencing groups simply because we don’t like their opinions.
This is book burning at an unimaginable scale.
Elon Musk’s bid for Twitter was been billed as “hostile,” but I call it revolutionary. It’s clear the narrative has changed. Senator Elizabeth Warren was quick to take to Twitter to warn of the dangers of Elon Musk buying her communication platform. She chirped:
“This deal is dangerous for our democracy. Billionaires like Elon Musk play by a different set of rules than everyone else, accumulating power for their own gain. We need a wealth tax and strong rules to hold Big Tech accountable.”
Warren failed to mention she has run about 48,000 political ads on Facebook alone, highlighting her own efforts to use these platforms for gain.
Twitter and even LinkedIn have sounded off with similar concerns (Facebook probably has too, but I would not know, I deleted my account three years ago). It’s clear that many Democrats and liberals are afraid of losing their control over the filter of what is appropriate and what is not.
You don’t need to be able to read between the tea leaves to see it wasn’t that people don’t like billionaires running these platforms—they’ve been run by billionaires for more than a decade and there has been no action to effect change.
The critics just don’t like this billionaire.
The system needs this
The truth is, modern content moderation has failed audiences that are not represented by Silicon Valley’s ideals. Jack Dorsey has acknowledged that Twitter has been “destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet.” He also expressed concerns over Twitter’s future in texts to Elon.
As these platforms lean further and further into banning content and conversations among certain audiences, it’s clear why the Elon era of Twitter would be feared—it levels the playing field. This statement will be met with contrast and vitriol, but first, a few examples of the failed landscape “for people like me”:
• Facebook deleted hundreds of Groups it publicly deemed dangerous after the Capitol riot. They failed to mention that many of these groups were merely well-moderated, hunting-related groups with hundreds of thousands of members. Our team personally spoke with several of these Group admins after it happened.
• Last summer, YouTube demonetized hunting content creators who showed how to process ethically sourced wild game. This content is not only promoting legal behavior, it’s showcasing how to be more human by taking control of your food source. Given that hunting and fishing licenses fund conservation through the Pittman Robertson Act and Dingell-Johnson Act, shouldn’t YouTube find ways to incentivize this content? That would be the epitome of “do the right thing,” which is the company’s mission.
• Meta as a platform recently banned advertiser’s ability to target hunters. Our company, GoWild, was banned from advertising on Facebook twice in 2021 (we stopped spending with all Meta platforms on Oct. 31, 2021). On both occasions, we were flagged for selling weapons. The offending product? Binoculars.
• Facebook Groups of saltwater fishing enthusiasts have, for more than a year, had content deleted because the fish are often dead. Note: From my industry experience, I have met many wild game chefs. They all recommend against eating living fish.
Censoring reality doesn’t work
What a strange world we’re living in. According to the approved big tech narrative, my lifestyle—where I hunt my own natural food, spend time outdoors, and contribute funding into conservation—is not worthy and should be censored. Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg is designing an alternative reality where humans can exist virtually to escape reality.
I don’t want to escape reality. I spend time in nature to escape the digital culture wars, the pompous politics, and so on.
It all makes me wonder what exactly we’re doing here. Despite being the founder of an app, I don’t want my life to be any more virtual, but I also don’t want to continue down the path where I’m not allowed to bring my stories from nature into the digital landscape. Instagram is disabling the ability to link out for firearms brands. Facebook has blocked our promotion of fishing products because fishing lures have sharp edges. TikTok uses artificial intelligence to flag, censor and outright delete content it doesn’t like. LinkedIn blatantly admitted to me they censored my content because it wasn’t their flavor of professional.
The fact is, the Chicken Little narrative of “Elon Musk buying Twitter is dangerous for democracy” is an assault on free speech. In fact, this may be one of the most pivotal moments in social media history, because it’s a chance to give some sense of actual neutrality. Days after the madness started to unfold, Twitter started unbanning accounts, according to many of the banned accounts. The timing is suspect at best. Now Musk says he’s putting together an advisory board before he starts his rebuild, which I support.
The critics know that if Twitter doesn’t moderate, it will be removed from the Google and Apple app stores—that example played out with the Parler cesspool last year. Some have called for Elon to stop allowing users to block and ban each other, as it would enforce less behavior that’s likely to result in harassment, but this, too, would violate the AppStore’s guidelines. Elon cannot run Twitter without content guidelines in place, but he can build guidelines that are fair.
And that’s why the critics are crying foul.
Join us on GoWild
Elon hasn’t called me personally to advise him on Twitter. I can’t do much for that platform, but I can comment on it. What I can do, and our team has done, is to provide a great place for hunters and anglers to celebrate who they are, and to learn from each other. Join the hundreds of thousands of people using the GoWild platform to share their story, shop for gear with authentic reviews, and earn Rewards all along the way. Find us in the app stores or visit DownloadGoWild.com.