American companies are in a frenzy to get ahead of the current moment of woke moral panic. That sometimes means sacrificing an unlucky employee to the political mob or buying copies of the best-seller “White Fragility” to encourage workers to define themselves by race. Now large firms are joining a campaign to turn social media platforms into tools of political surveillance and enforcement against conservatives.
Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Verizon, North Face, Eddie Bauer and other major brands have paused Facebook advertising after left-wing activist groups claimed that it does not censor enough political speech. CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week promised further controls, including flagging posts by politicians. This predictably did nothing to satisfy the activists, who see the opportunity to expel more of their political enemies from the public square.
Facebook already takes down content promoting violence and has a broad definition of impermissible hate speech. Yet the coalition of left-wing groups urging the corporate boycott, “Stop Hate for Profit,” wants a progressive power-grab. It demands that Facebook “empower permanent civil rights infrastructure” to search for speech it deems biased.
If you think that means merely striking insults and threats based on identity—Facebook already does this—you haven’t been paying attention. America is in an environment of cultural censorship in which HBO suspended “Gone With the Wind,” Netflix is erasing scenes or episodes from shows like “The Office,” and universities are investigating staff for reading aloud Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” or firing them for courteously questioning some claims of the Black Lives Matter movement. Facebook is being told to have its enforcers root out political speech and artistic expression based on deliberately opaque criteria.
The activists also want Facebook to use algorithms to more closely surveil “private groups” as well as remove any that focus on “climate denialism.” Watch out if you debate climate projections in what you thought was a private forum. They also want Facebook to fact-check speech by politicians, but don’t expect claims consistent with officially sanctioned social-justice ideology to face any scrutiny.
Some firms may have signed on to this campaign because they cut advertising budgets anyway amid the coronavirus downturn and see an opportunity to win easy plaudits from a monolithic media. Some may come back after the 30-day boycott period ends.
But the boycott nonetheless reflects a new and worrying effort to leverage corporate power against America’s open public square. Woke Fortune 500 firms had better hope that they will make fast and permanent friends among the anticapitalists of the new left because they are fast burning through reservoirs of goodwill among American conservatives.
— The Wall Street Journal