The Curse of Silicon Valley’s Community Standards

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Cupertino, CA: Launch of a new Apple iPhone products on September 12, 1010. (Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
Cupertino, CA: Launch of a new Apple iPhone products on September 12, 1010. (Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Silicon Valley, as the governing realm over cyberspace, has grown to have the most far-reaching censorship capability in human history. Its “community standards” for posting on its social media platforms have become dangerously subjective.

This is in part due to a cocktail of artificial intelligence and algorithms unable to offer human perspective along with other factors, including the political Left’s pilgrimage to Northern California’s tech oasis. What we are now finding are hard-line boundaries against any “deviancy” in current “progressive” thought.

Ironically, these same boundaries can be found in the world’s most draconian theocracies, fascist regimes or the dirt and rubble empires of forgotten Third World warlords. 

In Silicon Valley’s case, “normative” behavior is defined as leftist-friendly politics. Deviation from that now results an ever-quickening rate of censorship — censorship of conservative voices as well as voices openly critical of a number of rigid systems, including Islamism that masks its barbarity through the cover of religion.

I know this because it happened to me. I was silenced by Facebook for daring to publicize vitriolic messages I received from a Muslim misogynist. While he had enough awareness on how to manipulate Silicon Valley’s norms to launch a social media attack on my digital presence, my comments were seen as inappropriate and violating “community standards.”

Although the medium is different, 8,000 miles away, there is another woman who, for the last 10 years has been imprisoned and faces the death penalty for violating “community standards”: a Pakistani Christian woman named Asia Bibi.

Bibi, who many believe was arrested on false charges, allegedly insulted the prophet Mohammad. In 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab and one of the few voices for human dignity in Pakistan, was assassinated for defending her.

As Bibi’s case neared it’s final Supreme Court appeal this month, thousands of Islamist extremists rallied in Pakistan to uphold her death sentence.

Another recent case also caught my attention. In what became a national headline, mixed martial arts fighter Khabib Nurmgomedov jumped the perimeter of the UFC arena  and went on attack immediately after defeating rival Connor McGregor.

The attack was triggered by Khabib’s feelings that his community’s standards were violated — the Islamist standard that mocking one’s family and religion is beyond the pale. In an interview, Khabib’s manager Ali Abdelaziz reinforced this standard, saying, “If you think you gonna talk crazy about my religion, I’m a catch you outside,” implying there are no rules for what measures can be taken when that community standard is violated. 

Community standards were violated as well by Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, known for being critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Khashoggi was lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where was interrogated, assassinated and removed from the premises piece by piece. It took a 15-man Saudi hit squad two minutes to punish Khashoggi for violating the Saudi ruling body’s community standards. 

In 2016, the running theme was to call everyone you didn’t like a Nazi. In 2018, we’re having conversations fearing the rise of a fascism on both sides of the political aisle. Yet, nobody is talking about the dystopian reality of something as small yet crushing as Silicon Valley community standards that punish “deviant” thought.

What we don’t consider when having this conversation is that agents of change (or chaos) don’t have to be individuals; they don’t have to be ideas or political parties. They can be companies. Big companies. And they can quite devastating when they silence your voice and quietly erase your entire existence within their world, letting you know about your total digital annihilation with a polite note informing you of having violated “community standards.” 



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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.

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