Free Speech

"Facebook Prevents Sharing New York Post Story on Black Lives Matter Founder Patrisse Cullors' Real Estate"

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Newsweek (Daniel Villarreal) reports:

The article mentioned that Cullors had purchased "four high-end homes for $3.2 million" in the United States. It also said that she was seeking real estate in the Bahamas. It contrasted the purchases with Cullors' self-identification as a Marxist as well as criticisms from others about the alleged lack of financial transparency from the national BLM organization.

When Newsweek reporters attempted to post a link to the Post's story, the action couldn't be completed. The following message also appeared: "Your post couldn't be shared, because this link goes against our Community Standards. If you think this doesn't go against our Community Standards let us know."

Facebook spokesperson told Newsweek, "This content was removed for violating our privacy and personal information policy." The policy forbids articles that share details that could identify a person's financial and residential information, thus violating their privacy rights.

The N.Y. Post article strikes me as pretty similar to other articles that the media writes about prominent people; it doesn't, for instance, mention a specific address, though it includes photos. The article also reports that all its information was drawn from public records.

Of course, Facebook isn't bound by the First Amendment, and is legally free to block whatever posts it wants on its site. Still, I think it's helpful to understand just how broadly Big Tech companies have started restricting such speech, and how much of an influence they will potentially be able to wield in future debates (and future elections).

NEXT: Looking for E-Mail Distribution Service That Won't Limit What We Write

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  1. “Still, I think it’s helpful to understand just how broadly Big Tech companies have started restricting such speech”

    It’s more like half-broadly; The problem isn’t so much that they’re restrictive, as that they’re selectively restrictive. The restrictions are biased.

    1. I’ll bet they wouldn’t ban illegally leaked Trump tax links, even though it is personal info and illegally leaked.

      And I have no problem with linking to such. But to facetiously restrict some private info but not others, well…principles for me but not for thee.

  2. It shows the extent to which (a) Farcebook is a monopoly *and* (b) the extent to which they use that monopoly power to harm the public good.

    Ma Bell never did — and she was broken up.

    Farcebook needs to be broken up — or just plain shut down.
    For the public good…

    1. The fact that this is getting out, notwithstanding Farcebook’s attempt at censorship, is that stuff is starting to break through.

      Twatter has reportedly now banned James O’Keefe — and that is starting to get out. The free market abhors a vacuum — the counter-culture got it’s message out in the 1960s, and they won.

      And then I remember exactly how successful we were in keeping porn off the internet, or even away from minors. The battle was finally lost when burner smartphones arrived — any teenager with cash can see all the porn he wants.

      1. “And then I remember exactly how successful we were in keeping porn off the internet, or even away from minors. The battle was finally lost when burner smartphones arrived ”

        That particular battle was lost before cell phones were invented.

  3. Silly goose! It is not about any fb privacy issue, it is about silencing criticism of the black jewish puppets who are the public face of a jew organized destruction of what was one USA.

    BLM has nothing to do with black people. The money behind BLM is not black sourced. Give it up folks. The rebellion against America is well funded, well organized and you ain’t part of it. You are just left to whine about the obvious when you should be stocking up on ammo and perfecting your shooting skills. This will end badly.

    1. Say what? “[J] ew organized destruction?” I assure you that many Jews (including me) oppose BLM. Sadly, there are many people who are Jewish by birth who have abandoned their ancestors’ religion for a new one: progressivism.

      1. Screw your implication that I’m any less Jewish than you are just because I disagree with your politics. I do support BLM, and I’ve abandoned none of the Jewish religion I was raised in.

      2. ” I assure you that many Jews (including me) oppose BLM.”

        And yet nobody gives a damn.

    2. It’s not just Jews — it’s rich White women who are behind BLM, which really should be called WHWM — “We Hate White Males.”

      It’s the final flameout of 50 years of feminism, and what can be a better target for the man-hating feminazi than the White Male Cop?

      Reconstruction didn’t end well, either — and don’t forget how the PRC/CCP ended China’s Opium problem.

    3. Looks like Rob Misek has a new account.

      1. I don’t think so. Rob seems more of a sincere anti Semite where Pavel often seems so over the top that it could very well be an attempt at parody. He’s just not good enough at it for it to be clear.

        1. I may be wrong, but my gut is that it’s neither legit antisemitism nor parody, but option #3: trolling. But you’re right; the one thing it isn’t is convincing.

          1. I also note that a lot of it is written by someone who knows an awful lot about Jewish culture, including the use of words that a non-Jew wouldn’t inherently use.

    4. “BLM has nothing to do with black people. The money behind BLM is not black sourced.”

      So fucking what? How does the second sentence prove the first, except to someone already biased against BLM?

  4. The effect of latency may ultimately force tech companies to abandon their current content filtering schemes. For example, Facebook is currently blocking links to an official White House press release because the release contradicts previous “vaccine facts.”

    As “facts” change more and more rapidly, it will be difficult for content filtering to keep pace. China has done an excellent job suppressing speech and may be able to offer some guidance; however, even its methods rely on the relative stability of “facts.”

    [BTW: White House advisor and “Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that a ‘likely scenario’ included the need for a third vaccine dose six to 12 months after inoculation, after which ‘there will be an annual revaccination’.” This is a huge boom for the “passport” industry, as show-me-your-papers records will need to be updated semi-annually or annually!!]

    1. This is a huge boom for the “passport” industry, as show-me-your-papers records will need to be updated semi-annually or annually!!

      And the latest faux justification for why we now suddenly need admission controls tied to impenetrable “fly list” style databases for basic life activities until the day we die. It’s been clear for a while that’s where this is heading.

    2. Or — more likely — big tech will lose its credibility as the breaking and most accurate news source.

      I remember when usenet was the breaking and most accurate news source — does it even still exist?

      Trump’s talked about launching his own platform. There undoubtedly are bright 19-year-olds who have already figured out how to get around the porn firewalls and well may come up with the next big thing, just for the fame & fortune.

      1. That first sentence sounds like wishful thinkining. I know otherwise intelligent people who think antifa staged the January 6 riot. They’re stuck in a conservative filter bubble, and so are the people who are addicted to Silicon Valley curated news.

        1. Yes, it’s wishful thinking — as is that the Biden Harris regime will be shorter than people think — but that doesn’t inherently mean it won’t happen.

          I blame Antifa for January 6th on at least the most basic grounds — they spent a couple of years showing people that violence works.

          1. “stuck in a conservative filter bubble”

      2. Usenet still exists and probably will forever.

        1. Usenet already has a bit of a spam problem, so they’ll probably be able to filter out partisan bullshit effectively.

      3. “Or — more likely — big tech will lose its credibility as the breaking and most accurate news source.”

        This is coming from the world’s leading expert on the subject of losing credibility.

      4. “Trump’s talked about launching his own platform.”

        He’s also got a history of not accomplishing anything that requires that he personally show any initiative. If someone else is going to do the work and let Trump swoop in and claim credit, then there might be a new “Trump platform”. If Trump has to actually DO anything to get it done, it ain’t gonna happen.

    3. Nah, that just means they need tighter integration with the administration.

  5. Yes. More and more people all the time are banned, as well, from Twitter and the like, for expressing viewpoints contrary to or doing anything that embarrasses leftists or the leftist media.

    1. Yet, oddly, no market player emerges to serve this poor oppressed segment of American society.
      Is it because they really are that toxic, or because they have no money?

  6. From Dave Barry’s 2020 year in review: “In social media news, Twitter blocks a New York Post story about incriminating emails allegedly found on Hunter Biden’s laptop, on the grounds that the story is of questionable origin. This is of course a violation of Twitter’s extremely strict accuracy policy, under which every single tweet that Twitter does allow to be published is 100 percent vetted and legit.”

  7. Next up…

    “Facebook prevents posts from positive news stories about GOP candidates in 2024. Facebook prevents all negative news stories about Democratic candidates in 2024 from being posted. Facebook “disconnects” all GOP politicians pages for donations in 2024.”

    1. That’s silly, they’re hardly going to wait that long, when they’re already rolling out those restrictions on a partial basis now.

      1. Next up. Mark Zuckerberg offers selective “election enhancement” grants to of millions of dollars heavily blue districts in the 2024 election via a special “Voter assistance project” nonprofit organization.

        This allows these districts to offer “enhanced voting” with longer voting hours, with more polling sites, and special poll workers who will go door to door to collect your ballot. Plus the non-profit may gain special access to the ballot procedures…just to help with the election, of course.

        Red districts are given a dollar each, so it can be considered “Bipartisan”

        1. What’s being overlooked in the new Georgia laws is a provision that while one can still make donations to help increase turnout, these donations must now be made to the *state* which must then distribute the funds equally to all voting districts.

          This is even more significant than saying that (dead) Civil War Veterans can’t vote because increasing turnout in selected districts is anything but nonpartisan.

      2. “they’re already rolling out those restrictions on a partial basis now.”

        So stop using their stuff. In other news, Trump Tower is censoring me because they won’t let me spray-paint my slogans on their walls.

    2. “Facebook prevents posts from positive news stories about GOP candidates in 2024. Facebook prevents all negative news stories about Democratic candidates in 2024 from being posted. Facebook “disconnects” all GOP politicians pages for donations in 2024.”

      And the follow-up:
      “GOP unable to successfully market itself with using resources owned and controlled by others, reduced to personal face-to-face whining across America’s back fences.”

  8. Just don’t talk about how much of an influence Big Tech has had on the last election, or they’ll censor you for spreading election misinformation.

    1. Team Bite Me may crash and burn badly enough for that not to be necessary.

      THEY are now building a border wall, which kinda gives you an idea of just how bad their internal polling numbers must be….

      1. We just want to put you on the other side of a wall.

  9. “Big Tech companies have started restricting such speech”

    Only speech critical of the left.

    1. Build your own system and then you can censor whoever you don’t like, too.

    1. Big business doesn’t believe in free speech, so nothing wrong with assisting them in meeting their own standards.

      I believe in free speech for all, but let’s be clear section 230 conferred a benefit from the public to the tech companies: immunity from common law liability for defamation. If the public doesn’t think we are also benefitting, as we hoped, then we are free to withdraw conferred benefit.

      1. ” let’s be clear section 230 conferred a benefit from the public to the tech companies: immunity from common law liability for defamation.”

        Other than showing us that you don’t understand what Section 230 does or is supposed to do, what was your point?

    2. This is Volokh piece is a nice companion the an earlier article today

      Are you having a stroke?

      1. The only thing wrong there is the extra “is” between what should be the first two words of the sentence.

  10. They should use a censor-resilient link obfuscator, like https://agile.bu.edu/poc/.

    1. It’s like you’re in 1994, and have never heard of a web spider, or know what it does or how it works.

  11. Professor Volokh, I am unclear about where you are coming from. Is your concern that big tech publishing influence is disproportionate, and ought to be reduced? Or is it that big tech publishing influence is disproportionate, and you are concerned lest the political right miss out?

    As always, the solution to this problem—and related problems of government censorship of private publishers, dried up news gathering resources, and ad sales monopolism—will be found in government policies to prioritize profusion and diversity among private publishers. Let the free market in ideas thrive along with a stable, uncontrolled, and multifarious publishing industry.

    The first step to make that happen remains repeal of Section 230. It was passage of that ill-considered law which created the problem in the first place.

    1. It’s a challenge for people who claim to favor the first amendment, but also wish for their partisan preferences to prevail using whatever help from government restrictions they can get.

      All the whining about Big Tech “monopoly” is going to start giving unwanted results when someone on the left notices that many local broadcasters make use of government-mandated monopoly, and have been using their control of those monopolies to get their messages out. Used to be, the FCC imposed limits on how many broadcast stations an owner could control in any given broadcast area. Republicans repealed or reset those limits to allow huge consolidation, and coincidentally, many of those broadcasters are now owned and controlled by right-leaning corporations.

  12. How does one make his voice heard in a digital world? These companies are private entities but they control access to the digital streets and highways of our world.

    The traditional cornerstone of free speech is the ability to shout out your views from the street corner or town square. The problem now is that we have a whole digital world, and while the digital streets and sidewalks are public, the gateways to those streets and sidewalks are owned by private entities.

    Facebook and Twitter built their whole business model on being those gateways. Now they want to limit speech to what they approve. Since there is no digital equivalent to walking to the corner or town square they should be limited to only restricting speech as far as what would be limited in the town square.

    1. “How does one make his voice heard in a digital world? These companies are private entities but they control access to the digital streets and highways of our world.”

      Except that they don’t. If they ever do, it will be because one brand of partisans decided to repeal net neutrality. They will not own this outcome but will blame it on the “other guys”, guaranteed.

  13. ‘Still, I think it’s helpful to understand just how broadly Big Tech companies have started restricting such speech’

    Seems to me that picking one example of Facebook exerting control over speech on its platform is next to useless, as is framing it as a free speech issue. I think conservatives in particular are reluctant to confront the degree to which Facebook wraps conservative users in particular, though not exclusively, in a terrifyingly hermetic news and opinion bubble. A single story promoted or a single story repressed doesn’t even come close to the problematic ways in which big tech and speech and information intersect, it’s certainly not emblematic of anything except either conservatives deliberately lying about something to generate outrage (something Facebook is never reluctant to assist) or Facebook doing something it vaguely intends to be taking some sort of responsible action, sommehow.

    1. The Right Wing Outrage Machine is not run by people with a consistent worldview who care about how accurately they aim the machine.

  14. Eugene, I might be inclined to spend more than five seconds thinking about this, if you were able to point to a pattern of targeted removals on Facebook showing that they’re removing some stories with the “wrong” target while leaving up stories with the “right” target. As it is, your only comparison seems to be to stories, vaguely recalled and broadly characterized, which we may or may not have any reason to believe your’e recalling accurately, which may or may not have anything to do with Facebook’s content moderation policies, such as they are.

    The NYPost is a tabloid by and for white New Yorkers/Long Islanders who are happily pro-police and anti-BLM. They are all too happy to publish a story about someone to create the impression that one of BLM’s leaders is in some general sense a “hypocrite,” without making a clear connection to why this is relevant to the public debate over whether police officers should be murdering black men and women for low-level offenses.

    To say nothing, of course, of the broad number of ostensible “conservatives” and “libertarians” all too happy to nurse off the public teat while railing against the government. Like law professors at public law schools largely financed by their students’ taking federally-subsidized federal loans and private loans rendered super-secure by federal law.

    1. “They are all too happy to publish a story about someone to create the impression that one of BLM’s leaders is in some general sense a “hypocrite,” without making a clear connection to why this is relevant to the public debate over whether police officers should be murdering black men and women for low-level offenses.”

      My, such reporting is never done to anybody else by “reputable” sources. Never, ever, ever.

      How about this: Is it too much to ask these companies to actually enforce the rules they claim to have in a remotely equal manner? I mean, Twitter is notoriously hypocritical on their “hacked materials” “rule”

      1. ” Is it too much to ask these companies to actually enforce the rules they claim to have in a remotely equal manner?”

        Why do you think YOU have the right to tell THEM how to use THEIR stuff? They do what they do because they think it’s the best way to run their businesses. Don’t like the decisions? Stop using the platform and/or buy enough shares of stock to put someone on the board who agrees with your approach.

  15. Part of what makes this whole kerfuffle absurd in the first place is that we’re talking about Facebook. You know, a site that started as a way to comment on co-students’ looks? And became a way to share pictures and videos with your family and friends?

    The only reason anyone cares about Facebook’s content moderation is that a large number of people rely on it for their “news.” Which is insane, in the first place. Why are you reading Facebook for news? Even if it weren’t removing “wrongthink” stories, you’d be subject to whatever their ad-serving algorithm wants you to see. The algorithm is designed to confirm your prejudices, cause you alarm, feed you more of the same. If you want to know what’s really happening in the world, you need to look somewhere else – and that’s even if we could somehow magically require them to be straight-shooters in politics.

    Anyone complaining about content moderation on Facebook or Twitter just marks themself out as an unsophisticated rube, likely past middle-aged, upset that they might be denied their regularly-scheduled propaganda diet. If you are upset about it, get off of Facebook.

    1. “Anyone complaining about content moderation on Facebook or Twitter just marks themself out as an unsophisticated rube”

      Nah. They’re mad at lots of businesses nowadays… Nike, Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola, I’m sure there are way more that I’m just not aware of.

      1. Almost forgot Starbuck’s.

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