What You Need to Know about the Heads of Social Media and Big Tech

untitled-5-6

In an unprecedented move by the head honchos of social media, President Donald Trump had several posts on his Twitter account slapped with “fact check” disclaimer labels.

When internet companies were in their infancy back in the 1990s, Congress, via legislation, provided them with immunity from certain civil lawsuits in order to encourage the development of “platforms,” i.e., digital places for users to share user-created content.

Similar to bookstores that are not in the business of creating, editing, or publishing the material contained on the shelves of their stores, companies such as Twitter were granted special protection from lawsuits so that digital platforms that merely host media content created by third parties (their users) would be able to operate unhindered by the threat of legal action.

Companies with very large social media platforms have been acting as if they merely provide space for third parties to share, when in actuality it is just that, acting. Based on the same premise, they additionally continue to maintain that they should not be held liable for what their users post.

Twitter’s decision to fact check in such a high profile and subjective manner stands as a watershed moment in the relationship between government and social media.

By fact checking the President of the United States on, of all things, an issue related to potential election fraud, Twitter tossed its identity of being a platform out into the ethersphere. But it also let the cat out of the bag as to its real present status, that of full-fledged publisher.

Twitter expressed a political opinion when it engaged in its fact checking. The issue was a mega-politically charged one involving mass mail-in voting and whether such a process is ripe for fraud.

President Trump’s tweet was evaluated by the overseers at Twitter, and users were prompted to “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” Upon clicking a link, users were subsequently instructed that “experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud,” an unmistakable political statement that also happens to be false.

If one is willing to dig a little deeper, what is discovered is that Twitter has implemented a policy that currently seems to apply to a single user—President Trump.

When a social media company engages in the same activities as a publication, it must be treated as if it were one. Newspapers, magazines, etc., fall under the umbrella of conventional publishers that create and edit their own content and are not exempt from liability.

Twitter has not been considered a publisher, despite the fact that it has been acting like one. But to exacerbate the situation, it has increasingly become a publisher of the most highly partisan kind. And it just so happens that, as of this writing, we are less than six months away from a presidential election.

Some big tech companies have also demonstrated a political bias in giving liberals a pass while engaging in an all-out targeting of conservatives.

–PragerU’s Facebook page was marked with a virtual branding iron as containing “false news” and was demonetized as well.

–A study from NYU on the addition of zinc to a hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin treatment was removed by YouTube.

–A hydroxychloroquine video by Sharyl Attkisson was also removed, although it was subsequently reinstated.

–A contrarian Michael Moore-produced documentary, “Planet of the Humans,” was yanked from YouTube.

As reported by Vox, a number of top Silicon Valley figures appear to be working behind the scenes in a concerted effort to get presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden elected. Big tech names include LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Apple founder Steve Job’s widow Laurene Powell Jobs, and ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Twitter’s own Yoel Roth, who presently holds the title “Head of Site Integrity,” has referred to President Trump and his team as “actual Nazis.” Roth has additionally mocked Trump supporters, insulted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and provided campaign donations to former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

President Trump recently signed an executive order that sets in motion a potentially costly change for Twitter with respect to the company’s civil liability exposure. The order directs all executive departments and agencies to ensure that their application of Section 230(c), the law that limits liability, falls within “the narrow purpose of the section.”

The executive order cites the legislative purpose of the law to maintain the internet as a “forum for a true diversity of political discourse.” The departments and agencies are instructed to “take all appropriate actions in this regard.”

The heads of departments and agencies must also review advertising and marketing expenses that are paid to Twitter and other online platforms. This includes the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Department of Justice (DOJ), as well as other parts of the executive branch.

With regard to Twitter, Google, Facebook, YouTube, and others, it is possible that some of the personnel of these departments and agencies will be looking into the practice of the gathering of information about virtually everything users do and then selling the data for billions of dollars.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has already indicated that the DOJ will begin drafting legislation to regulate social media companies.

President Trump’s executive order may have an immediate limiting effect on social media and big tech’s future editorial actions.

Apparently, tech CEOs, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, have already heard the footsteps of the federal government. Zuckerberg recently distanced himself from Twitter when he told Fox News that the social media platform had, in his opinion, made a mistake, and that no social media platform should be the “arbiter of truth.”

The bottom line is that social media and big tech companies can’t have it both ways. And hopefully, in the very near future, they won’t.

Tech Oligarchs Censor the Right

rtx5gc6c_wide-5a1301163e38ee381c8d446c8fc3f81e71ecf663-s1100-c15

The technology companies that provide social media platforms have grown to gargantuan size and now possess an ominous power over the ability of citizens to express and communicate ideas.

This control over free expression, which is held by a few tech oligarchs, is unprecedented at any time in human history.

The most widely used social media platform, Facebook, claims 2 billion users globally and is the preferred source for news for 45 percent of American adults. Three hundred hours of video are uploaded to Google-owned YouTube every minute of the day. And Twitter indicates that it has 330 million monthly active users. It was inevitable that these three monolithic social media platforms would be replete with users who seek to influence public opinion.

At one time all three seemed to reflect the notion that the general Internet should be treated as a free and open forum for any and all points of view.

The three have now shown themselves to be untrustworthy with data. They have proven to be biased, and of late have made it clear that they are willing to utilize the same kind of censorship that authoritarian regimes impose.

The ability of conservatives to reach people through the use of social media is being slowly and steadily diminished by the implemented policies of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. This is occurring under the guise of eliminating false information.

Videos, posts, and other expressions are routinely being taken down, accounts are surreptitiously being limited in scope, and in some cases users are even being exiled from the Internet.

Tech giants have consistently demonstrated hostility toward the convictions of Americans who dare to hold contrary views to the pre-ordained liberal script. This all seemed to have begun with the revelation in the spring of 2016 that news curators at Facebook were suppressing news stories from right-of-center outlets. The resultant negative publicity caused Facebook to actually remove its human editors.

Last summer Twitter blocked pro-life advertisements, labeling them “sensitive content.” Early this year Twitter claimed that it was purging the platform of suspected Russian bot accounts, but it ended up causing conservative Twitter users, including podcaster Dan Bongino, to suffer a loss of followers.

In what it claimed to be a hunt for “fake news,” YouTube shut down highly viewed non-liberal channels on its platform. It ultimately had to apologize for what it called “mistaken removals,” just one more admission that a video platform had engaged in ideological censorship. The organization’s use of an extreme left-wing group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, to determine what is “offensive” speech is a major tell of YouTube’s true intentions.

Oddly, the highly entrepreneurial Silicon Valley community has allowed itself to become a slavish patron of anti-business liberalism. As is typical of much of Wall Street and many major corporations, the tech world is devoted to leftist immigration policies that allow tech companies to access inexpensive labor.

Perhaps because the technology world considers itself to be scientifically minded, a huge portion of the tech community has become enamored with faux scientists such as Al Gore and have simply bought the notions of radical environmentalists hook, line, and sinker.

Those outside of the liberal circle, who happen to constitute a sizable segment of society, have made great strides in the past using digital technology to persuade the public. Presently, though, they are justifiably concerned about losing access to social media platforms at such a critical juncture in U.S. politics.

Where do divergent thinkers go to find a way to fight back against the free expression redactors? Here are some options for consideration:

–Litigation.

Lawsuits launched by those who feel as if they have experienced interference with their free expression on social media may find themselves in an uphill battle. However, it may be worth the struggle.

At the trial level, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh recently indicated that Prager University, a non-profit project by author, educator, and national radio talk show host Dennis Prager, failed to show in a lawsuit that YouTube infringed upon its free speech rights by placing age restrictions on its content.

The suit was filed over YouTube’s “Restricted Mode” setting on such topics it deemed offensive. The judge held that YouTube was not a “state actor,” but rather a “private entity” and as such was not subject to First Amendment protections.

The judge also dismissed a claim on another legal theory that YouTube engaged in false advertising by implying that Prager University’s videos were “inappropriate.”

The judge did encourage Prager University to amend its lawsuit to explore whether California’s state constitution would provide protection “in the age of social media and the Internet.” The decision can, of course, be appealed.

–Regulation.

The cumulative actions of social media giants have resulted in otherwise free market thinking individuals to begin eyeing the prospects of some kind of limited government regulation of the social media space.

One approach would be to classify social media platforms as “common carriers” and require that all users be treated equally. This is a variant of the much touted “net neutrality” about which tech blogs often rant.

A specific proposal that seems to have some merit involves mandating that users who are dissatisfied with either Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter be allowed to freely transfer their data to another platform, much in the same way consumers transfer their cell phone numbers from one carrier to another.

–Competition.

It is long overdue that a freedom loving social media provider appear on the scene.

Similar to the way in which the bias of the mainstream media gave birth to the alternative media, i.e., Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and the like, those who hold non-liberal beliefs must create an alternative social media and do so before its too late.