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When the Content Police Came for the Babylon Bee

I was a very curious kid, always asking questions, always looking for answers. Throughout my childhood, as far back as my memory goes, I had a recurring fantasy: I wished I had a magical machine that I could carry around in my pocket that would instantly tell me the answer to any question. What a thrilling thought that was to me, to always know the truth, to never have to wonder. But as a kid the all-important question never occurred to me: who would get to program the machine with all the answers?

We’re living in the realization of my childhood dream. And very few people are asking that all-important question.

Our new reality of omnipresent phones, mandatory social media, Google and Facebook dominance, and shady surveillance capitalism has introduced a host of serious and far-reaching concerns. I believe the most pressing and grave danger is the centralized control of information by a handful of far-left tech moguls. My career as a Facebook-focused content creator—first my comics at Adam4d.com, which allowed me to quit my job, and then at The Babylon Bee, which I founded in March 2016 and sold a month ago [1]has led me to this conclusion.

Facebook has always been the main source of traffic to my websites. When I started out, I was just excited that so many people were reading my stuff—I wasn’t worried about the implications of it all. The first hint I got that something troubling was afoot was in November 2015, the first time Facebook pulled something I made off of their platform. I’m just a Bible-believing Christian saying normal Christian things, and this comic I posted was no different. It merely explained, in four panels, that it is not “homophobia” to say “I believe homosexuality is sinful because the Bible says it is.” [2] There was clearly nothing malevolent about the image. It was illustrating a view held by millions in this country. But Facebook felt otherwise. They removed my comic, logged me off of their service on all of my devices, and informed me that in order to get back into my account, I’d have to read and agree to their “community standards.”

change_me

What choice did I have? This was less than a year after I had quit my job of nine years, with three small children at home, to create content full-time. We were struggling to get by. The majority of my traffic came through Facebook. And they said “agree or goodbye.”

Four months later, I launched The Babylon Bee, a Christian-themed satirical news site. It blew up almost overnight, mostly due to its content going viral on Facebook. It became something of a Christian cultural phenomenon and quickly replaced comics as my full-time job. Yet our heavy reliance on Facebook always troubled me—and then on March 1 of this year, on the two-year anniversary of the Bee’s launch, Facebook struck again. This time, its left-leaning “fact checker” friend, Snopes, decided to judge an absurd, over-the-top, nonsensical, satirical story of ours about CNN putting news in a washing machine to “spin” it before publication as FAKE NEWS. Facebook took that big red judgment and used it to redirect our readers to Snopes’ page saying that we were intentionally spreading false information. Think of it! The story was so obviously satire—you can’t put news in a dang washing machine!—but the Snopes police arrested us, and the Facebook judge informed me that if it happened again our very popular page would be snuffed out and demonetized. I thank God that when I tweeted out a screen shot [3] of their threats, it went viral and people started yelling about it. Though Facebook would not reply to me earlier, once reporters started knocking on their door, they admitted their error and promised not to throttle our page’s reach.

I was relieved—we had won. My worries about being starved by Facebook or having Google pull my AdSense account because of Snopes dissipated. But then I became extremely disturbed, because it was glaringly obvious that the whole system was corrupt and we’d fed straight into it. What if we were a bit smaller and had lacked the clout to make a big stink on Twitter? What if the right people hadn’t shared my screenshots and multiple news outlets hadn’t picked up the story and ran with it? I’ll tell you what: they would have stuck by their guns, Snopes would have hit us again in short order, and Facebook would have put our page in a rear naked choke until we went to sleep. Google uses Snopes too, so maybe they would’ve ousted us from their search results and their monopolistic ad platform.

These two experiences helped bring about a disturbing epiphany for me. Here’s the short version: Facebook and Google are extremely liberal and they have massive control over what information reaches billions of people every day. Facebook the company is structured so Mark Zuckerberg—liberal Silicon Valley billionaire—has nearly complete control [4]. Google the company is structured so Larry Page and Sergey Brin—liberal Silicon Valley billionaires—have nearly complete control [5]. These are not co-ops. Facebook has hooked the world onto their service and now controls what information we see as we mindlessly scroll through our feeds all day. Google has a monopoly on search and controls what information we see when we ask any questions about anything. Almost everybody knows this, but it isn’t until somebody starts talking about it that people consider the implications.

We like to lull ourselves to sleep with the notion that Facebook and Google are controlled by some mindless, unbiased algorithm that would never do us wrong. But algorithms are programmed by people, and people have biases. Even if a legitimate attempt were made at impartiality, people cannot help but operate according to their biases. This is human nature. Our worldview informs our actions. Facebook’s and Google’s worldviews are very similar—they believe that Christianity and conservatism are not only untrue, but harmful. Homophobic. Bigoted. These same people create the programs that decide what news, opinions, content, and all other information everyone sees every day. The titanic scale these companies operate on has become a serious problem. BILLIONS of people use them as distributors of information. Take a moment and think about the long-term effects this could have on humanity at large over a long period of time. If you set out to influence masses of people toward a certain worldview, what more perfect system could you create?

And lest you left leaners reading this conclude that Big Tech’s biases are a good thing because you agree with them: how do you know who will be at the helm of all that power 10 years from now? Twenty? Fifty?

The majority of people get their news from Facebook. Because of this, publishers everywhere base everything they do around appeasing Facebook. Especially for any new venture launching into this environment—it’s Facebook or nothing. Facebook is where all the people are, so do whatever they say! Make sure to share status updates—no, links—no, images—no, videos—no, live videos—whatever they say! And don’t you dare do anything that might irk them or transgress their progressive values, or they might cut you off!

The majority of people go straight to Google whenever they need to find information about anything, so publishers bend over backwards to be as Google-friendly as possible. Jump through hoops every time they update their algo! Mobile-first! Implement AMP! Whatever they say—can’t lose that search traffic! And don’t you dare tick them off, or they’ll bury you in the search results and suspend your AdSense account—then you’re done!

Publishers have been worshiping at the altar of the Facebook and Google Information Duopoly for too long. Users have floated along as Facebook and Google have strategically implanted themselves as the gatekeepers of the world’s information. The internet has become centralized around these two tyrants, even as they’ve been demonstrably hostile to Christianity and conservatism. They run it unopposed.

The stakes couldn’t be higher: what’s an oil or telephone monopoly compared to a monopoly on information? The latter is exponentially more important. We’ve somehow allowed ourselves to get to a point where information, before we are allowed to see it, is first filtered through a couple of uber-progressive tech companies. As arbiters of truth, we’ve granted Facebook and Google the power to decide what’s real news or fake news, what’s virtuous or malicious—for the love of everything, they literally decide what’s true and what’s false!

It’s time to say “enough.” It’s time to push back.

The idea of separating completely from Facebook and Google is terrifying to many people, so if that’s too much for you, let me suggest another smaller step: visit websites directly, instead of when Facebook and Google tell you to. Are you old enough to remember when people used to do this? People used to actually type website domain names into their browser’s address bar to go to their favorite internet locations.

Has a website earned your trust? Visit that website directly and regularly, not just when Zuck decides to put them in your feed, not just when you enter a search and Google decides to spit them back out as a valid option. What sites have earned your trust? Go visit a few right now, and remember to visit them every day. That way you can push back against the centralization of the internet.

A small group of people who are hostile toward Christianity and conservatism are in control of those magical machines in our pockets that offer answers to all of our questions. We should be disturbed by privacy abuses. We should be concerned about the long-term effects of addictive phone and social media use. But the clear and present danger of the Google and Facebook Information Duopoly should be enough for us to make changes—right now.

Adam Ford is the founder and editor of the Christian Daily Reporter [6].

60 Comments (Open | Close)

60 Comments To "When the Content Police Came for the Babylon Bee"

#1 Comment By C.A.R. On June 8, 2018 @ 11:59 am

Use duckduckgo instead of Google for searches.

#2 Comment By Josep On June 9, 2018 @ 5:44 am

Never had a Facebook account, and probably never will. I don’t have Twitter either, and I’m wondering how bad Twitter’s business practices are compared with Facebook’s.

I currently own an Android phone. I also have a Google account, and by extension a YouTube channel where I upload episodes of an animated series that I make myself. Since neither Microsoft nor Apple seem to be any better, I’m debating whether my next phone should be another Android or a conventional flip phone. Given the various dumb decisions made by YouTube lately, I’m also thinking of moving my videos to another video sharing site.

P.S. If Google is really that bad, then I think it’s time for TAC to engineer its own search and CAPTCHA systems to replace Google and reCAPTCHA.

#3 Comment By Youknowho On June 9, 2018 @ 11:11 am

@Fran Macadam

Why, when discussing priorities on what to focus you assume that I expecting libertines to help out.

I am expecting that people who say are for “family values” to value THIS family and be outraged on their behalf. I expect to honor family values by protesting the policy of separating mothers and children and the border, and warehousing the kids in prison camps. I expect them to honor family values by insisting that being poor is no disgrace, and to help out those mothers and fathers who struggle to get their children the basic necessities, and to blast those who make their lives harder.

But if all you family values demand of you is that you blast gays, who commit sins that you are NOT tempted to commit, then yours is a very easy virtue.

#4 Comment By Youknowho On June 9, 2018 @ 11:20 am

By the way, I did put the link there in the hope that you would contribute. Their child had the misfortune of being born with a malformation of the rectum and the anus that make defection painful for her. You can see what it costs, and they have no way to pay for it – public or private.

If I have to shame some of you in order to notice that there are OTHER issues besides SSM and religious liberty to focus on then so be it.

After all, Trump that many voted for, because religious liberty, is cutting CHIP which will means more children will be reducing to this kind of begging. So, if you voted for him, and defend your vote, please contribute – it will get you brownie points in my book.

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#5 Comment By Tony D. On June 9, 2018 @ 2:11 pm

It is SO much easier to attack gays than to take on the gospel of prosperity “the rich are rich because they deserve it. If you are poor it is your fault”

The BB makes plenty of fun of prosperity “gospel” types:

[8]

[9]

…and that’s just from looking around for about 5 minutes.
[10]

#6 Comment By bb On June 10, 2018 @ 3:46 am

“Blessed are you when men shall revile you and curse you for my sake (even though I never said anything about gay people, strangely enough. The rich and the religious hypocrites were my focus) …

… Be outraged and play the victim! Post widely on social media about persecution and blame leftists for all the evil things in the world! ….

Just kidding guys, you’re supposed to rejoice and be exceeding glad, cause I’m gonna reward you in heaven for being persecuted…

…Except this guy, he’s just an entitled, whiny bigot with a big mouth. Verily I say to you, he has his reward of 15 minutes of earthly fame.”

–Jesus (paraphrasing)

#7 Comment By Youknowho On June 10, 2018 @ 8:41 am

@Tony D.

These are the easy targets, and those targets invite ridicule in most people’s minds.

But take to task Paul Ryan who professes to be a Catholic while worshippig at the altar of Ayn Rand? Try to suggest that the Free Market is not the all powerful god that must always be obeyed?

When they start doing this I might reconsider my stance.

#8 Comment By BF On June 10, 2018 @ 12:44 pm

“Much more fun to be scandalized by transexuals than by the fact that in the richest country in the world a hard working couple have to beg complete strangers for an operation their baby needs.”

One might credibly point out that the libertines themselves have no interest other than their own appetites.

So let’s see. In English, this would seem to boil down to, “yes Christian conservatives who claim to be defending ‘family values’ are not at all interested in a desperate family (and many like them) who cannot afford necessary medical care, because ‘family values’ just means condemning transsexuals. But that’s ok because ‘libertines’ (whoever that is) are only interested in their own appetites.”

Am I the only one who thinks this is a massive non-sequitur?

#9 Comment By Youknowho On June 11, 2018 @ 1:06 am

This is somethig that never comes in your radar.

Even though those children are Catholics, they do not exist for you, because you are so BUSY fightig the gay agenda

,,,,,

I’m U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, and I believe that in America, we must never intentionally inflict trauma on children.
And that’s why I’m writing to you today.
At a Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, I witnessed something that is now seared into my mind: A large warehouse facility with cells constructed of fence posts and chain link fencing—like dog kennels or large cages.
But the style of construction isn’t the issue. What is the issue is that in that facility U.S. agents are tasked with taking the children out of their parents’ arms and putting them into cells with other children—with neither the children nor the parents knowing if they will ever see each other again.
Imagine a family that is persecuted abroad for its religion or political engagement, or a family targeted by a vicious drug gang. The family escapes to the United States, surviving harrowing experiences en route. Finally, they arrive to the shores of the United States, knowing that the U.S. has time and again treated families fleeing persecution with respect because so many Americans have a parent, grandparent, or ancestor that arrived to the U.S. fleeing persecution.
But instead, the Border Patrol—under a new plan concocted by Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump, and John Kelly—arrest the asylum seekers as criminals and proceed to take the screaming children from the arms of their protesting parents.
Let me state the obvious: This is wrong. Terribly wrong. Ripping the children away from their parents induces enormous anxiety for the parents. Where are their children going? Will they ever see them again? Who will care for them?
But even worse, this inflicts enormous trauma on the children. In a strange new land with a new language, the only security the children have is to be with their parents. Experts tell us (not that we need experts to tell us) that this is causing huge emotional trauma.
Harming children for any reason, including for the purpose of discouraging persecuted families from seeking asylum, is evil.

#10 Comment By Pastor Matt Furse On June 12, 2018 @ 11:35 am

I’m not “pre-trib”, so this article doesn’t surprise me, nor alarm me… but I hope it wakes up a lot of “Bible-believers” as to what is really happening to our “freedoms”!
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” – 2 Timothy‬ ‭3:1‬ ‭
Thank you for your willingness to expose the truth to your brothers.