Reason Roundup

Get Ready for Another Big Deplatforming Debate, Because Facebook Is Tweaking Its Rules Again

Plus: Prosecutors are big lobbyists for new crime bills, Biden floats compromise on corporate taxes, and more...


Politicians may get less special treatment under Facebook content moderation rules. Historically, Facebook has explicitly let political figures get away with certain speech that ordinary users cannot. The company's policy has been to consider both the content of politicians' speech as well as its newsworthiness when deciding whether it is allowed. Posts that can easily get deleted or get users blocked under ordinary circumstances may be safe when coming from a powerful political personality.

If you think that giving politicians enough rope to hang themselves isn't a bad thing, Facebook's policy made sense. (I can get behind that argument.) But many people opposed the policy, arguing that it allowed politicians to spew unfettered "hate speech." Newsworthy or not, they argued, Facebook was wrong to host it and to give these figures' words special weight.

I don't think there's necessarily a right or wrong decision here—but as a private company, Facebook was certainly under no obligation to host it. That should go without saying…yet conservatives these days keep arguing that tech platforms should be forced to host all accounts and speech from political figures. Some even go so far as to suggest that the First Amendment requires it—which is actually the exact opposite of how it works. The First Amendment protects against infringements on private speech by the government, not private unwillingness to host whatever government officials want.

The First Amendment also guards against government-compelled speech, which is exactly what forcing Facebook or any tech entity to host politicians' posts would be. While they often claim to take up the mantle of "free speech," folks arguing that Facebook had an obligation not to boot former President Donald Trump—or championing Florida's new law forbidding social media companies from deplatforming politicians—are explicitly arguing against the First Amendment.

In any event, Facebook may be revising the rules it uses to decide when posts by politicians and other public figures are OK, as well as instituting new transparency about it. The Verge reports that Facebook "plans to end its controversial policy that mostly shields politicians from the content moderation rules that apply to other users, a sharp reversal that could have global ramifications for how elected officials use the social network."

That's not the only content moderation change planned:

Facebook also plans to shed light on the secretive system of strikes it gives accounts for breaking its content rules, according to two people familiar with the changes. That will include letting users know when they've received a strike for violating its rules that could lead to suspension. BuzzFeed News and other outlets have previously reported on instances when Facebook employees intervened to keep political pages from being subject to harsh penalties under the strikes policy.

Facebook is also set to begin disclosing when it uses a special newsworthiness exemption to keep up content from politicians and others that would otherwise violate its rules.

If politicians can still get a newsworthiness exemption from normal moderation policies, it's not clear to me how much the upcoming policy shift—which has yet to be publicly disclosed by Facebook—really changes. But The Verge seems to think the shift, which may be announced as soon as today, is substantial:

Under Facebook's new policies, posts made directly by politicians still won't be subject to review by the company's network of independent fact checkers. But they will for the first time be opened up to enforcement against more rules for things like bullying that Facebook's moderators apply to other users.

According to The Washington Post, "the newsworthiness exemption was first created in response to Trump's inflammatory remarks about Muslims during his candidacy. Since then, the company has maintained that it rarely used the exception and has only acknowledged using it six times. Those incidents were all outside the United States, and include political speech in Hungary, Vietnam and Italy." But unofficially, Facebook seems to have leaned on this exception much more frequently.


A new study of how prosecutors try to influence politics finds "prosecutors are very active lobbyists," as The Prosecutors and Politics Project put it. "Nationally, they lobbied on more than 25% of all criminal-justice related bills. In some states, that number was much higher. In Ohio, for example, prosecutors lobbied on 95% of bills."

Much of their support went to laws that created new crimes:


Biden floats compromise on corporate taxes. "In a big concession to the GOP, President Joe Biden offered to drop his proposed rollback of the 2017 GOP tax law and impose a 15% minimum tax rate on large firms instead as part of a bipartisan infrastructure package," reports Business Insider:

The move comes as the president continues a fourth week of negotiations with the GOP, who have ruled out any alterations to their Republican tax cuts. Biden had proposed raising the corporate rate from to 28% from its current level of 21% enacted under President Donald Trump's tax law.

Asked about Biden's potential change of heart, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was less firm, according to The Washington Post:

Psaki said Biden has "absolutely not" wavered in his belief that Congress should raise the corporate tax rate, adding it is a critical way to "pay for a range of the bold proposals that he has put forward."

"But he also took a look at these proposals, and … all of the tax proposals that he has put forward over time, to find a way where there should be pay-fors that based on their bottom lines, many of the Republican negotiators should be able to agree to," Psaki said.


• A majority of Americans still support the death penalty. In a new Pew Research Center poll, "60% of U.S. adults favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, including 27% who strongly favor it. About four-in-ten (39%) oppose the death penalty, with 15% strongly opposed."

• The media's lab leak debacle shows why banning "misinformation" is a terrible idea, says Reason's Robby Soave.

• Department of everything-is-a-crime:

(Read more on the case here from Reason's Scott Shackford.)

• Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) has won a lawsuit over how much post-election money candidates can raise to pay off personal loans. After personally spending $260,000 on his 2018 reelection campaign, "Cruz challenged a section of election law that says campaigns cannot pay back more than $250,000 in personal loans through post-election donations," notes The Hill. "In a 31-page ruling, a three-judge panel ruled that the repayment cap, instituted in the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, violated Cruz's free speech rights."

• Connecticut has passed a law to end fees for prison communications:

• To-go cocktails can stick around in California: