Sunday, January 12, 2020

Facebook Stands Up to the Would-be Censors

Ever since 2016, when Britain’s Brexit vote and Trump’s election went against the desires of the political/media/intellectual elites, pressure has been high on social media companies to “regulate”—i.e. censor—speech on their platforms, particularly political speech. Recently, my interest in this is even more militant because of a great book by Nadine Strossen I’m currently reading, HATE: Why We Should Resist it With Free Speech, Not Censorship (Inalienable Rights)

As the 2020 U.S. presidential election year gets underway, Google and Twitter have succumbed to the pressure. But Facebook is resisting in no uncertain terms. As the New York Times reports in Facebook Again Refuses to Ban Political Ads, Even False Ones:

Despite escalating pressure ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Facebook reaffirmed its freewheeling policy on political ads Thursday, saying it won’t ban them, won’t fact-check them and won’t limit how they can be targeted to specific groups of people.

The company said it was guided by the principle that “people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public.”

The thing that concerns me is not as much that private companies might limit or regulate political ads, which would be bad but their right. The thing that concerns me is politicians using legal or regulatory extortion (threats) to coerce companies into banning or limiting ideas the politicians don’t approve of under vague and nonsensical yet dangerous rationalizations like “that social media is warping democracy and undermining elections.” It’s hard for politicians in the United States to censor outright, thanks to the First Amendment. But censorship-by-proxies is a real concern. See my post The Banning of Alex Jones: Facebook Choice or Regulatory Extortion?.

Facebook is no completely innocent. It has called for federal regulations and rules to govern political advertising, saying private companies should not be the ones to do it.

But for now, kudos to Facebook for standing up to the political/media/intellectual elites who want to enforce silence and shred the rights of we the citizens to hear, analyze, fact-check, and decide for ourselves what is true, false, or misleading in the upcoming political campaigns.

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1 comment:

Mike Kevitt said...

It's 'funny' how Facebook can go by the principle it states, and then say there should be rules and regulations about political advertising, issued by government.

When politicians holding elected office pressure social media to allow this or not allow that on their platforms by means of threats and coercion, that's censorship just as much as censoring outright.