Yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was scheduled to give a speech on the future of free speech and free expression at Georgetown University. It was an interesting speech from a number of points of view.
He outlines some of the threats faced by free speech and expression on the internet. While he deserves credit for doing what Google will not do, that is, refuse to cooperate with the Chinese government in developing tools to enforce political conformity on a large population, he backhandedly admits that his own company has a huge issue with free speech and imagines that it has a role as a gatekeeper to keep free speech with acceptable boundaries.
To me, the contrast between Zuckerberg’s professed respect for free speech and the way Facebook actually operates is simply not reconcilable. In fact, Zuckerberg’s idea of free speech policed by a regime of contracted and highly partisan fact checkers enforcing ambiguous “hate speech” rules is clearly out of Noam Chomsky’s playbook (The Common Good, pg. 43):
The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.
That is exactly what has been created. While Zuckerberg may have refused to be co-opted by the Chinese, he has created his very own little fascist empire in which there is free speech so long as you agree with the worldview and opinions of the vicious corps of SJW net-nannies that he has chosen to employ. The way the pro-life group Live Action was squashed because Facebook allowed pro-aborts to classify videos as having false information when they were true (there is literally no medical reason for an abortion) but strayed outside the pro-abort orthodoxy required by Facebook shows just how meaningless Zuckerberg’s statements are if they are not read through the lens of Chomsky.
I’ve made no secret of my hope that a brigade of vicious spiteful anti-trust lawyers who are compensated solely on the basis of the damage they inflict shows up at Facebook headquarters with a SWAT team and a 18-wheeler load of subpoenas and blank, signed arrest warrants. So I was taken a bit aback when the major criticism of Zuckerberg came from the left, the people who are net beneficiaries of his scheme.
Oddly enough, of all the problematic concepts that he touts as smoothly as any NewSpeak speech by Big Brother, the one that got the hormones flowing on the left was this:
We recently clarified our policies to ensure people can see primary source speech from political figures that shapes civic discourse. Political advertising is more transparent on Facebook than anywhere else — we keep all political and issue ads in an archive so everyone can scrutinize them, and no TV or print does that. We don’t fact-check political ads. We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying. And if content is newsworthy, we also won’t take it down even if it would otherwise conflict with many of our standards.
I know many people disagree, but, in general, I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy. And we’re not an outlier here. The other major internet platforms and the vast majority of media also run these same ads.
This apparently is a new development because in 2018, Facebook censored campaign videos by Elizabeth Heng which referred to her family’s escape from the kind of repressive dictatorship the Democrats are well on their way to establishing in California, see Facebook Blocks Republican Candidate Ad For Daring To Show Horrors Of Communism.
For instance, this is some of the criticism:
Also it seems effed up for Zuck to cloak these convoluted standards in the guise of free speech and the 1st Amendment when, at least to my layperson's understanding, false statements of fact aren't protected speech in the US.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) October 18, 2019
FB is doing it again and says: If you are a politician who peddles lies, distortion and not-so-subtle racial appeals. We will not fact-check. You are automatically exempt from scrutiny. This is extraordinarily reckless. https://t.co/6WSUkhZOlK
— EssenViews (@essenviews) October 12, 2019
Zuckerberg reiterated today that he wants people — not tech companies — to decide what's credible, which is how Donald Trump and Fox News run two of the most popular Facebook pages on the planet https://t.co/u3ETwGQQt1 via @vicenews
— David Uberti (@DavidUberti) October 17, 2019
In a way this is a stunning level of dumbf***ery. Federal law currently makes it illegal for a broadcast station to alter or censor (that word, ‘censor,’ is in the law, so you libertarians who keep claiming that private business can’t censor, take a seat and be quiet) any ad by a political candidate. So long as the speech in the candidate ad is not illegal, per se, it is required to be run. The very idea that Facebook ever had any authority to police candidate ads is simply balderdash and it is quite an indictment of Department of Justice that they sat idly by and let this go on. The idea that any society, much less an ostensibly free one, should tolerate a corporation with a track record of lying to the public and constructing extremely opaque practices to punish WrongThink to control the speech of candidates for election in abhorrent.
It also gives away the real game. The fascists of the totalitarian left have given up on trying to convince people based on arguments, now they are going straight on to silencing ideas they can’t stand. Even Zuckerberg recognizes this impulse.
Increasingly, we’re seeing people try to define more speech as dangerous because it may lead to political outcomes they see as unacceptable. Some hold the view that since the stakes are so high, they can no longer trust their fellow citizens with the power to communicate and decide what to believe for themselves.
Make no mistake about it, I think that at its core, Facebook is at least as hostile to American values as China but in a different way. I also think the sooner the federal government acts to demolish Facebook the safer our freedoms will be. I also think that Zuckerberg’s change of direction on federal candidate ads is driven by fear of federal government action rather than his love of free speech because I think he’s as much of a SJW as any that he employs. As they say, a fish rots from the head down. What is illustrative about this is that the left is actually showing its true colors. It holds free speech and freedom of religion at least in as much disdain as it does the Second Amendment and the Electoral College and any other part of the Constitution that restricts their ability to impose their worldview on the rest of us.