This is the question Zuck was so careful NOT to answer to Ted Cruz, with good reason. The admission carries consequences.
When he was in front of Congress, Mark was directly asked whether Facebook was acting as a ‘neutral platform’ or if they were acting as a publisher exercising their First Amendment rights.
He never once gave a straight answer. He didn’t dare.
But now, in a court case with another company, they’ve taken a side and this changes EVERYTHING.
Remember, back in April, we were all talking about this:
Whether you call it targeting, censorship, or shadow-banning, these are not the actions of a “neutral public forum.”
Zuckerberg told the Senate hearing that his goal is “not to engage in political speech.” But if a company allows a politically biased corporate culture to persist – and deliberately avoids diversity of thought in its hires – its actions can very quickly escalate into the political realm and endanger its status as a true “platform for all ideas.”
Source: Ted Cruz OpEd piece, FoxNews
That was when they were trying to satisfy the questions from the Senate Hearings. Their story changes when they are in the courtroom defending a case from an aggrieved company they once did business with.
But in a small courtroom in California’s Redwood City on Monday, attorneys for the social media company presented a different message from the one executives have made to Congress, in interviews and in speeches: Facebook, they repeatedly argued, is a publisher, and a company that makes editorial decisions, which are protected by the first amendment.
The contradictory claim is Facebook’s latest tactic against a high-profile lawsuit, exposing a growing tension for the Silicon Valley corporation, which has long presented itself as neutral platform that does not have traditional journalistic responsibilities.
[…] In court, Sonal Mehta, a lawyer for Facebook, even drew comparison with traditional media: “The publisher discretion is a free speech right irrespective of what technological means is used. A newspaper has a publisher function whether they are doing it on their website, in a printed copy or through the news alerts.”
Source: The Guardian
Why is this such a big deal?
Because of ‘Section 230’.
As Senator Cruz explains:
When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee and Commerce Committee joint hearing Tuesday, I asked a relatively simple question: does Facebook consider itself a neutral public forum?
Zuckerberg said that Facebook is a “platform for all ideas,” but declined to give a “yes” or “no” answer. The problem is, this is not merely an academic distinction between words. Facebook’s answer to the question could affect millions of users, and attract (or prevent) a lot of attention from federal regulators.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”[…]
As I expressed to Mark Zuckerberg, as a private business Facebook has a clear First Amendment right to publish whatever it wants on its website within the bounds of the law. The company can support political causes and oppose ones it disagrees with, just like a private citizen can speak his or her mind or agitate against opposing views.
But if Facebook is busy censoring legal, protected speech for political reasons, the company should be held accountable for the posts it lets through. And it should not enjoy any special congressional immunity from liability for its actions. [emphasis added] Source: Ted Cruz OpEd piece, FoxNews
Simply put… if it’s not making any choices about the content, nobody can judge them for what goes up on their platform.
But if they ARE making choices, suddenly they are accountable for the stuff that DOES go up — that’s a lot of content, some of which is pretty sketchy.
They would suddenly lose the legal protection Congress offers neutral internet platforms. That means losing protection from lawsuits… and that’s not all:
It is critical that Facebook and other tech platforms take these realizations to heart, because surrendering their status as neutral public forum – engaging in discrimination of political viewpoints – invites government oversight and regulation of social media. This is something that nobody wants and it invites revoking the company’s immunity from liability.
Source: Ted Cruz OpEd piece, FoxNews
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