With the 2020 presidential election 18 months away, it’s about that time of the year when politicians take to social media to share their opinions. However, the White House recently invited all Americans to submit feedback about social media censorship via a survey hosted on the official White House website.
A tweet, released by the White House, stated: “The Trump Administration is fighting for free speech online. No matter your views, if you suspect political bias has caused you to be censored or silenced online, we want to hear about it!” before providing the link.
Upon clicking on the link, visitors are taken to a page where they are greeted with the following:
“SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS should advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear “violations” of user policies. No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump.”
I decided to take the survey, which can be found here, to see what it entailed.
First, it asked me for my first and last name before asking if I was a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (the options are “yes” or “no” with no option to decline).
It then asked if I was over 18 and to please provide my phone number and email (again, there was no option to decline).
Once my fictional personal information had been entered, I receive the following message: “Thanks for sharing that information! Now, let’s talk about what happened on social media.”
The actual survey portion begins by asking users: “What social media platform(s) took action against your account?” Users can choose from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or other. In the event that users feel that they have been censored on more than one platform, they are urged to complete the form separately for each instance.
(For research purposes, I checked Facebook.)
The survey requested that I paste a link to my profile on the social platform and let me know that if I no longer had a link, to please tell them my username.
After making up a ridiculous profile name, the survey asked: “What happened to your accounts?”
I responded with “it was deleted and I don’t know why.”
I was then asked: “Was a specific post or tweet involved? If you can, please include a link to it.”
Because I’m not the kind of person that regularly gets banned for things, I had no link.
(Also, if the post was removed, how would I provide a link?)
Luckily, it let me skip to the next question which read: “Sometimes platforms will notify you when they take action. If you got such a notification, please include a screenshot here.”
The survey provided the option to upload a photo, leaving me wondering how much the White House really thought this one through.
I skipped it and moved onto the next question, which asked: “Any other screenshots to include?”
(Somehow I think that this might not go down the way that the survey creator expected it to.)
I skipped that one and moved onto the next: “We want to keep you posted on President Trump’s fight for free speech. Can we add you to our email newsletters so we can update you without relying on platforms like Facebook and Twitter?”
Absolutely not. I just managed to unsubscribe from Kohls emails after a decade of them barraging my inbox. I’m not about to let the government in there too.
The second to last question wasn’t a question, but a verification request. Rather than using a captcha like everyone else in this decade, the survey asked: “One more thing, just to confirm you aren’t a robot. The Declaration of Independence was signed in what year? ”
‘1776,’ I guessed with 95% certainty.
My correct answer sent me to the final question, which asked me to confirm the user agreement and let me know that the White House might not respond to everyone.
I exited without responding, still unsure as to how the White House plans to organize, categorize, and in any way accurately measure the data.
This is reportedly the first time in U.S. history that the White House has hosted an open-ended question survey on their official website.
The survey comes on the heels of the FTC’s ongoing investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices.