Free Speech

Facebook Will Now Ban Criticism of "Concepts, Institutions, Ideas, Practices, or Beliefs" When They Risk "Harm, Intimidation, or Discrimination" Against Religious, National, or Other Groups

This includes "burning a national flag or religious texts, caricatures of religious figures, or criticism of ideologies."

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Facebook is adding the following to its "hate speech policy":

Do not post:

Content attacking concepts, institutions, ideas, practices, or beliefs associated with protected characteristics, which are likely to contribute to imminent physical harm, intimidation or discrimination against the people associated with that protected characteristic. Facebook looks at a range of signs to determine whether there is a threat of harm in the content. These include but are not limited to: content that could incite imminent violence or intimidation; whether there is a period of heightened tension such as an election or ongoing conflict; and whether there is a recent history of violence against the targeted protected group. In some cases, we may also consider whether the speaker is a public figure or occupies a position of authority.

The explanation:

This provision will appear in a section of the Community Standards devoted to policies that require additional context in order to enforce (for more about this group of policies, see here, under the heading "Sharing Additional Policies Publicly"). Specialized teams will look at a range of signals, as noted in the text quoted above, to determine whether there is a threat of harm posed by the content.

By way of example, burning a national flag or religious texts, caricatures of religious figures, or criticism of ideologies may be a demonstration of political or personal expression, but may also lead to potential imminent violence in certain contexts. Previously, this content would have been left up; now, with context, we have created a framework of analysis for determining when it poses an imminent risk of harm and might be taken down.

Protected characteristics are "race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity and serious disease"; so it seems like Facebook may block:

  • Criticisms of religious institutions and belief systems, if Facebook concludes they seem "likely to contribute to imminent … discrimination" against the targeted religious group.
  • Criticisms of a foreign country or government (China, the Palestinian Authority, in principle Israel), if Facebook concludes they seem "likely to contribute to imminent … discrimination" against its citizens or people who share an ethnicity with it.
  • Criticisms of pro-transgender-rights or pro-gay-rights beliefs, if if Facebook concludes they "likely to contribute to imminent … discrimination" against sexual minorities.
  • Criticisms of feminism, if Facebook concludes they seem "likely to contribute to imminent … discrimination" against women.
  • Criticisms of pro-disability-rights positions, if Facebook concludes they seem "likely to contribute to imminent … discrimination" against the disabled.

And of course the proposal contemplates that this would be applied to election campaigns, even when candidates for office are debating these very issues, and even when swaying a small percentage of the electorate can change the outcome. Which leads me to ask again, "Whose rules should govern how Americans speak with other Americans?," on a platform "has become a virtually indispensable medium for political discourse, and especially so in election periods"? (Naturally, citizens of other countries may reasonably ask similar questions for their own countries as well.) Right now, the answer seems to be "an immensely rich and powerful corporation."

NEXT: This Episode Could be Worth a Thousand Bucks to the ACLU

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  1. I don’t think they’re just thinking of America, as the reference to “caste” indicates.

    Bear in mind that there are censorship laws and pressures in many countries, and Facebook believes it has to keep ahead of the curve here.

    (Of course, some of the pressure is from the US, I realize that)

    1. Sorry, should have included what I wrote in my earlier post (the one I linked to in the last paragraph), and what I’ve just added: “(Naturally, citizens of other countries may reasonably ask similar questions for their own countries as well.)”

      1. I thought you had the other countries in mind, I was just trying to be more specific.

        I think they want to be of service to their “host” governments…when they’re not trying to influence the election of those governments. (not ours, of course, I mean other countries 🙂 )

        1. Of course, not our Elections! That would be so ‘Russian’ of them, if true. Fakebook is another Propaganda outlet for the DNC and CCP. They, along with the major ‘News’ organizations profit handsomely from their ‘Pravda’. Or is it Izvestya? Now, no longer a joke. “In Pravda (Truth) there is no news (Izvestya)
          In Izvestya (News) there is no truth (Pravda)” Welcome to America Comrade!

    2. Attacking meritocracy and colorblindness in university admissions may be likely to contribute to discrimination against Asians.

      1. That’s a great screenname, phoqueue. I like it. As I recall, Prof. Volokh likes it, too. Just don’t switch to “c_p succ_r,” though, for it has been banned by this ‘free speech’ blog.

        (I can’t tell whether you are a conservative or a liberal, so it is difficult to forecast how much you will need to worry about the Volokh Conspiracy Board of Censors.)

  2. I have patience. When you are finished with your slow walking lawyer bullshit, seize this corporation in civil forfeiture. That has full justification today. Do not break it up. Do not sue it. Do not bring dumbass, antitrust action. Seize it.

    1. My speech contributes to imminent discrimination against Facebook.

    2. It’s too bad Zuckerberg’s ancestors weren’t killed in pogroms so we’d be spared him today.

  3. If leftists had their way, this sort of thing would apply to all speech on every forum. They’d censor anyone they wanted based completely on their whims and cite some made-up story about how someone might be “hurt” in some euphemistic way as a “result” of the speech.

    Needless to say, leftist speech would never cause anyone — anyone who matters — any trouble in any of these imaginary stories.

    1. Leftists are evil totalitarians.

      1. That comment is just the sort that could lead to violence or discrimination against, or intimidation of, leftists, who are more likely to be BIPOC or women than they are to be white males. It is therefore hate speech, and should be banned.

        1. The people responsible for banning the people who have just been banned, have been banned.

          A Møøse once bit my sister…

          1. Such a Pythonesque comment! Well played, indeed.

  4. The question becomes,
    Should the 14th Amendment, which extends the Bill of Rights across state governments and their citizens, be construed to extend across corporate entities acting with quasi-governmental authority, in their own spheres, spheres into which their clients/citizens have been coerced/enticed to submit?
    If the government has abdicated its control over a particular space, and a private entity has moved in to control that space, then there is a reasonable philosophical argument that the basic rights must be protected. But by the courts? By what leap of jurisdiction?

    1. Yes. Corporations literally exist at the will of government. Therefore they ought to be constrained by the same restrictions in the constitution.

      1. I’m ambivalent about this: Sure, corporations have special privileges from the government. But the only reason people see a need for those special privileges is because the government’s own tort system makes doing anything the least bit significant without incorporating unreasonably perilous.

        In a sense, the government itself is forcing people to use corporations to do things. Can the government force you to do something through a corporation you’d be entitled to do without one, by affirmatively making not using a corporation dangerous, and then use the corporation as an excuse to deprive you of the rights you’d have if you hadn’t gone the corporate route?

        Suppose you had a law that said nothing which was published on green paper was subject to defamation lawsuits, but that things published on green paper weren’t protected by the 1st amendment?

        1. ” But the only reason people see a need for those special privileges is because the government’s own tort system makes doing anything the least bit significant without incorporating unreasonably perilous.”

          While accurate that is not the reason why corporations exist. Corporations are permitted to exist because they provide a source of tax revenue that the incorporating government might not otherwise be able to obtain.

      2. So you think Catholic Social Services not only has a legal requirement under Pennsylvania law, but actually has a constitutional obligation to take on gay couples as clients?Ditto for Masterpiece Cakeshop?

        You think that Fox News or the NYT must report whatever I submit to them, regardless of viewpoint?

        You think that Exxon has a constitutional obligation to allow a group of protesters to parade through its oil refineries?

        1. I think the assertion is that there’s a difference between a company that has one twentieth, or one thousandth, of the market, and you can just walk next door to get a comparable product, and a company that has 80% of the market, and any competitor necessarily cannot supply the same good due to network effects.

          Remember, they couldn’t produce any actual instances of gay couples going to Catholic Social Services, and being turned away. And the only reason Masterpiece is turning away clients is that people are deliberately going there in order to be turned down and sue them. Like Arlene flowers, we’re not talking about people who came looking for the product, but instead people who had a lawsuit on their wedding registry next to the serving platter and fine china.

          When public accommodation laws first came around, there were horror stories spun about a couple on a trip with children, maybe the wife is pregnant, and the break down in some one horse town, and end up dying of exposure and starvation under a bridge because the one hotel won’t house them, the one restaurant won’t feed them, and the one garage won’t repair their car.

          Nobody would have taken them seriously if they had claimed the law was needed in order that somebody with twenty choices wouldn’t be denied the pleasure of getting service from somebody who didn’t want to provide it to them.

          1. Because the harm used to be that such a person couldn’t get service anywhere. Now their hurt feelings are considered enough of a harm in and of themself.

          2. I think the assertion is that there’s a difference between a company that has one twentieth, or one thousandth, of the market, and you can just walk next door to get a comparable product, and a company that has 80% of the market, and any competitor necessarily cannot supply the same good due to network effects.

            I know that’s not the assertion, because I read it. It said: “Corporations literally exist at the will of government. Therefore they ought to be constrained by the same restrictions in the constitution.”

            Not “big corporations with lots of market share.” “Corporations.”

            1. To be clear, I’m not talking about shortviking’s assertion, but the more general claims of people saying these dominant platforms ought to be treated as public accommodations or carriers.

              Admittedly, I can see how you read my comment that way. But if you look at my comment immediately above yours, you can see I don’t agree with shortviking about all corporations deserving to be treated that way.

      3. What about a business that chooses not to incorporate? What about a business that has no physical presence in the US but, of course, is easily accessible to all in the US (since we lack a “Great Firewall of the USA”)?

        Likely, with the restraints you propose, that’s where social media would end up moving (perhaps even VC would have to move as it does occasionally remove a post or ban a user and Reason seems to be a nonprofit foundation and therefore exists “at the will of the government”).

        Although… It would be cool being allowed to carry a firearm into any corporate building unless the corporation could defend their ban under the level of scrutiny that government must (or, by the end of the next Supreme Court term, will have to) in order to ban carrying a firearm.

    2. Should the 14th Amendment, which extends the Bill of Rights across state governments and their citizens, be construed to extend across corporate entities acting with quasi-governmental authority, in their own spheres, spheres into which their clients/citizens have been coerced/enticed to submit?

      No. This has been yet another episode of Simple Answers to Stupid Questions.

      (To be clear, that question out of context isn’t stupid. What makes it stupid is the context: the notion that Facebook is “acting with quasi-governmental authority,” or that Facebook users have been “coerced” into using Facebook.)

      1. David, aren’t you a lawyer? Your comment is pretty good for your handicap.

        Facebook has quasi-governmental authority, and its own judicial procedures. People are coerced into using to communicate since it owns 90% of the market.

        1. There is no market of which Facebook owns 90%.

          1. That’s not what Facebook says. Or other countries.

            According to its own investor presentations, Facebook says they have 95% of all social media in the United States. And that was 2012.

            In July 2019, Germany’s Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) found that “Facebook is the dominant company in the market for social networks,” and that in Germany’s social network market, “Facebook achieves a user-based market share of more than 90%.”

            https://judiciary.house.gov/uploadedfiles/competition_in_digital_markets.pdf

            1. 2012! Well, lucky technology moves slowly, and that nothing is different on the Internet from nine years ago! Did you bother to notice that Twitter was essentially nonexistent in that “investor presentation”? That there was no TikTok? That it didn’t mention SnapChat? Or YouTube?

              You know that nobody (yes, it’s hyperbole) under the age of 20 uses Facebook, right?

          2. No, they’re ‘only’ at about 71.8%, according to what I think are reasonably current numbers.. Meaning that all other platforms combined have less than half their market share. In 2013 they were only at about 58%.

            But, of course, that’s their share of visits to ALL social media. I really think you need to distinguish video sites from social post sites, from short comment sites. Youtube isn’t actually an alternative to Facebook, it’s actually a different product.

            Once you consider that Pinterest and Twitter are actually different products, it becomes clear that Facebook’s market share for the service it offers is very close to 100%.

            1. If you define the market of interest as “Facebook” then, in fact, Facebook has 100% of it, just as reddit has 100% of the reddit market and Volokh Conspiracy has 100% of the Volokh Conspiracy market. This doesn’t help us locate where to draw the line between those that should be regulated and those that shouldn’t.

              1. If I defined the market of interest as “Facebook”, then MeWe wouldn’t be part of the market of interest. But it is: MeWe sells a product with is, (I’ve used both.) largely indistinguishable from Facebook, except that they don’t engage in ideological censorship, don’t invade privacy, and don’t push content. Other than that, you can do all the same things. Only without the annoyances and busybodyism you get at Facebook.

                Now, you can’t do all the same things as Facebook on Twitter, or Pinterest, or Youtube, because they’re different products. A motorcycle and a car may both be conveyances, but they’re not the same product. Likewise with Facebook and Twitter.

                1. You don’t need to be able to “do all the same things”, the motivation for the common carrier treatment is to prevent the content-based silencing of legal messages broadcast to the public over the service, and the market of interest is of products suitable for those broadcasts. Whether or not you can also have the same friend functions and photo sharing with your bowling league across all the products isn’t relevant.

        2. David. Facebook has also been privileged with immunities. Legislators have pressured it to delete the messages of their political adversaries, as a government agency might be pressured. They have complied with these requests, in the US and in China, their bigger market.

  5. The root of your complaints about this seem to be the same idea that Facebook is indispensable to winning a national election. Is that the nub of it?

    1. No, just that a medium with such a large and high profile is on its face discriminatory.

  6. burning a national flag or religious texts, caricatures of religious figures,

    So, no “Piss Christ.”That should make conservatives happy.

    1. I would think that “Piss Christ” would get censored by FB, except that it might be seen as anti-Catholic and therefore pass.

    2. The 1980s called. They want their talking points back.

    3. “So, no “Piss Christ.”That should make conservatives happy.”

      The conservative objection to Piss Christ was that it was publicly funded.

    4. I’d wager Facebook will conclude that is unlikely to result in “imminent physical harm, intimidation or discrimination” and therefore is acceptable

      1. Yes, because white Christian heterosexuals don’t erupt in violence when their monkey god is criticized, unlike followers of Muhammad the Pedophile.

      2. So, what you’re saying is that conservatives should start physically attacking anyone who says anything negative about “white males”, cis het white males, Christians, Westerners, or Americans (Protected characteristics are “race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity)?

        Thanks FB, for letting us know what we should do

    5. If you want to have your own piss Christ, that’s your business. Go for it. Make a wall paper. Post it all over your house.

  7. If one doesn’t like Facebook’s policies, one is always free to not use it. Facebook is a private company and should not be forced to have things on its service that it does not want to have on it. Since corporations have free speech rights, how does Facebook not have the right to disallow whatever they decide? If Facebook wanted to ban everyone with a certain hair color or ban all posts about cucumbers, I do not see any free speech problem with that. People are always able to metaphorically vote with their feet and switch to a different company.

    1. Facebook is not a private company.

      1. It’s amazing how many people have trouble distinguishing concepts like publicly-owned, publicly traded, public accommodation, etc.

        When I was in school, professors used to get hung up on this all the time.

      2. Facebook is not a private company.

        Did you learn that in your extensive legal studies at Twitter School of Law? Facebook is most certainly a private company. It is not owned by the government.

        It is a publicly-traded company, if that’s what you mean, but that doesn’t make it not private.

    2. As long as you are similarly okay with a restaurant turning away an 85 IQ black or a man whose idea of “love” is buggering another dude in the rear.

    3. “Since corporations have free speech rights, how does Facebook not have the right to disallow whatever they decide?”

      If they are publishers then they have an absolute right to decide what they will, and won’t, publish.

      But publishers bear legal responsibility for everything they publish. So by all means:
      1: Everything that appears on FB is something they have chosen to publish, and no one can require them to publish something they disagree with
      2: FB is liable for any libel or criminal activity they publish, just like any other publisher. Kiss goodbye Section 230 protections, because Section 230 doesn’t protect what YOU publish

      To have 1 you must have 2. So by all means, let’s give them both

    4. Starlord. Can we agree Facebook is big? Can we agree, there is nowhere else to go to reach large populations?

  8. “Since corporations have free speech rights, ”
    Next time don’t whine about Citizens United.

    1. This confuses people: Corporations do not have free speech rights.

      Congress lacks censorship powers.

      Because Congress lacks censorship powers, period, it lacks censorship powers as much in relation to corporations as it does individual people, as much in relation to badgers as it does bowling teams.

      What you can’t do, you can’t do to “X”, and what X might happen to be is irrelevant.

      I think this confuses the left because they naturally think in terms of identity groups. There are trans rights, gay rights, black rights, Indian rights, but the idea that what there really are is things the government isn’t allowed to do, and who the government proposes to do them to doesn’t matter, seems beyond them.

      1. This confuses people: Corporations do not have free speech rights.>/i>

        This appears to be in conflict with a statement by Eugene Volokh: “Rule #1: Corporations have First Amendment rights.”

          1. Saying that corporations have free speech rights is a kind of shorthand. Corporations are Soylent Green, they’re made from people, there’s no other ingredient. It’s the people who have the rights.

            1. It’s the people who have the rights.

              In Grosjean v. American Press Co., the Supreme Court appeared to say that corporations have their own first amendment rights (though they might be less than those of individuals):

              That freedom of speech and of the press are rights of the same fundamental character, safeguarded by the due process of law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment against abridgement by state legislation, has likewise been settled by a series of decisions of this Court beginning with Gitlow v. New York…Appellant contends that the Fourteenth Amendment does not apply to corporations; but this is only partly true. A corporation, we have held, is not a “citizen” within the meaning of the privileges and immunities clause. … But a corporation is a “person” within the meaning of the equal protection and due process of law clauses, which are the clauses involved here.

        1. It is a bit of a stolen base on EVs part. Corporations have a more circumscribed set of 1A rights so while they have some they are not the same as individual 1A rights which the quote could appear to be stating.

    2. Citizens United was decided fine.

      Corporations are just groupings of individuals. A small corporation (like Citizens United) should have the same free speech rights as a large union.

      1. The implications of deciding CU in a way the left would have approved of were pretty terrifying. Basically every publisher above the level of informal neighborhood newsletters is a corporation. To decide that corporations weren’t protected by the 1st amendment was to strip 1st amendment protections from every publisher in the country.

        Of course, what the left really wanted was to say that the 1st amendment only protected officially recognized publishers. So that they could pick and chose who got protection, and who they could censor.

        1. You’d be surprised (and disappointed) at how many people on the left and the right think freedom of the press is a special right that applies only to journalists and certain publishing companies

          1. I literally would not be so surprised. Journalists have worked long and hard to create that impression, and they do, after all, ‘buy ink by the barrel’.

            And it’s a great way to transform a universal right into one you can take away from the people you want to censor.

            But the idea is a lot more common on the left right now, (As it was formerly more common on the right.) because most of the censors are on the left, so the left isn’t afraid anymore of being censored.

  9. In addition to the main problem here, it’s revolting that they manage keep using the dishonest phrase “Community Standards” when they really mean Proprietary Standards. Clearly they haven’t been mocked enough for this.

    1. Right, this isn’t something growing out of a community. It’s something FB is imposing on a community, because nobody can stop them.

  10. Might be easier to itemize what can be mentioned on Facebook.

    I think boobs and dogs are still OK, based on my feed.

    1. One wonders if anything else matters.

      1. My wife mostly posts our travel photos, and bragging about our garden.

  11. Does the qualifier “imminent” go with “discrimination” or only with “violence”? I would think the latter: Facebook being the new thought police, they wouldn’t have a good way to discriminate between imminent discrimination and more distant discrimination. The explanation also uses the phrase “imminent violence” without coupling it to “discrimination”.

    1. It’s ambiguous and just bad writing.

  12. Why the “in principle” before Israel? Is it because we all know that they’ll never proactively censor hate speech targeting Israel?

    1. That was how I took it.

      1. Which is an unnecessary dig to nestle in a bunch of hypotheticals.

        1. But we all know Israel’s sensibilities don’t matter to the people who decide these sorts of standards.

          I wonder what it’s like to be in the people who matter and must be treated well group? I’ve spent my whole life in the people to be insulted, stolen from and exploited by leftists and their government bullies group.

  13. Facebook is not an indispensable piece of software. People can use other digital and electronic methods to get their point across. Isn’t that what Reason is for?? Oh wait. I forgot, on this site trolling, insults, attacking beliefs etc are the modus operandi. Maybe that is why Reason has little impact as a medium of political discourse. But everyone now on Facebook who wants to act that way can certainly migrate to Reason. Would no doubt build the brand.

    I find it quite ironic that libertarians are using the notion that a private corporation is acting as some kind of quasi government authority simply because that private corporation is articulating rules of membership and use. If the rules do not suit your taste, go elsewhere or go nowhere. If you wish to use the privately developed and owned Facebook platform abide by the terms of use.

    Of course good Justice Thomas may wish to make the ruling that Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter etc are “Common Carriers” and so render the point moot. Maybe, but squaring this approach with the current business models of numerous telco and tech companies will be difficult. And the FCC under Republican administrations has further muddied the water by refusing to adopt a principle of network neutrality which is a way of saying that the internet is a common carrier. Certainly the companies that manage and maintain the infrastructure may be considered common carrier but what about the companies that make use of that infrastructure, the Facebooks and Reasons of the world. I would argue that no, they are not.

    1. I keep hearing ideas by prominent people that I read in these Comments months before. Perhaps, these are self evident. Perhaps, not.

  14. Hard to say. The issue about Facebook is the market power / dominance.

    I am not sure that ruling that InstaTwit is a common carrier would really be hard to square ” with the current business models of numerous telco and tech companies”

    In fact I think they have become de facto public squares, by their own design. They will probably welcome the ruling, it relives them of a constant source of headache, cost, and bad publicity (they lose no matter what they decide about a post), leaving them free to maximize ad revenue. They will probably be more than happen to say “sorry out of out hands.”

    1. Nothing actually stops them from maximizing ad revenue. They weren’t actually forced to go down this road, they chose it. After years of growth fueled by maximizing revenue by being a pretty good service to their customers, they woke up one day and realized that it had given them power.

      And they decided to use it.

      Now they’re not about maximizing monetary revenue. They’re trying to maximize “Warp society and politics in directions we want” revenue.

      The nice thing about “warping society” revenue is, it’s not taxable.

      1. Now they’re not about maximizing monetary revenue. They’re trying to maximize “Warp society and politics in directions we want” revenue.

        You keep saying this, but there is no reason why this isn’t an attempt to maintain their revenue stream in the face of people leaving the platform.

        1. How can it be an attempt to maintain a revenue stream in the face of people leaving the platform, when it’s the reason people are leaving the platform in the first place?

          1. It’s not. It’s the reason Nazi sympathizers are leaving the platform. And that increases the desire of other people to remain on the platform.

            Your comment is as asinine as arguing that a baseball stadium that kicks out a bunch of drunk people fighting in the bleachers must have a secret ulterior motive; they not be trying to maximize revenue because, after all, if they wanted to do so they wouldn’t eject paying customers.

            1. ” It’s the reason Nazi sympathizers are leaving the platform. ”

              Give it a rest, already. It isn’t just Nazis platforms like Facebook or Twitter censor. They really are censoring mainstream opinions and topics. They started censoring a private group I was in, and none of us were remotely Nazis, just crusty old engineers with libertarian tendencies.

              Oh, and do you think the reason the ACLU defended the Nazis’ right to march through Skokie was that they were Nazi sympathizers? You defend the rights of people you don’t like, because somebody doesn’t like you, too, and if people who aren’t liked don’t have rights, nobody does.

        2. it could be, but severely limiting the kind of things people may post on the platform seems like an odd way to encourage people to be more active on it. And for a platform whose business model is selling ads, it is even odder to limit what sort of ads can be run, based on viewpoints.

    2. Um, no. Having Nazi speech on Facebook does not “maximize ad revenue” for Facebook. Them saying “Sorry, out of our hands” does not make users want to see said speech or advertisers want to advertise next to it.

      1. Two problems with your stance:

        1: Actual Nazis, like KKK members, are a vanishingly small group in America, and a tiny, tiny fraction of the people being censored. Calling everybody who disagrees with you on something a “Nazi” doesn’t make it so.

        2: Aside from content that FB itself annoys users with by pushing out, you only see what you want to see on Facebook! If you’re seeing Nazi speech, it’s because you’re deliberately looking for it, deliberately following somebody who engages in it.

      2. It’s the reason Nazi sympathizers are leaving the platform . . . Having Nazi speech on Facebook . . .

        You’re just determined to Godwin this whole discussion, aren’t you?

        1. Conservative: I have been censored for my conservative views
          Me: Holy shit! You were censored for wanting lower taxes?
          Con: LOL no…no not those views
          Me: So….deregulation?
          Con: Haha no not those views either
          Me: Which views, exactly?
          Con: Oh, you know the ones

          https://twitter.com/ndrew_lawrence/status/1050391663552671744

          1. Views like abortion is not a good thing, or the Hunter Biden had a laptop he left in a repair shop, or that biological sex exists, or that China is committing genocide, or that cloth face masks don’t work, or that vaccines are not perfect, or that Antifa groups commit crimes, or that there were election law violations, or it’s ok to display the Star of David, or one can quote the Bible, or it’s good to attack open pedophiles…

            But hey, you’ve shown you can copy someone’s Twitter strawman, so I guess that’s as much argument as you can handle today.

    3. Mark Zuckerberg has already said he would welcome regulation. Its for the same reason most large corporations welcome it: they are large enough to shoulder the burden, while smaller competitors will be crushed under its weight

      1. Also he thinks he’d have quite a bit of input into the nature of the regulation, and could preclude any competitors from getting traction from a no censorship business model.

    4. Completely agree. It is about scale of use. Its also about the scale of delivery and the rules of user engagement.

      In a not so distant past, the local newstand would have hundreds of magazines (channels in the new vernacular) to choose from. Not interested in guns or automobiles, feel free to choose other titles. And the advertisers would match their placements with the audience for any particular title. No sense in advertising a 4-barrel carburetor brand in moms gardening magazine. There was cross talk between the channels from the advertisers point of view. Advertising a nice car to go to the garden store was certainly appropriate. Advertisers learned something of the users demographic (scraped the data in todays vernacular) by bundling subscription mailing lists, census data, real estate information etc. But the users, other than acting as straight up consumers of the title, were passive in this process.

      Now along comes the internet and what you have now is a massive machine for generating demographic data. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram etc are giant monitoring machines of user engagement. And they want the engagement and the means to track that engagement. The use of cookies was the first step down the road to that kind of real time monitoring. Then came the ‘free’ features. Give them the family pictures, the tweets, the likes, the dislikes so that they can build an agent based model of “you”. And guess what, that might be pretty ugly. So they need to have rules of engagement.

      The proverbial horse has left the barn. Privacy, such as it was ever thought of, has disappeared. The generation of these targeting platforms required the use of massive amounts of otherwise private information or at the very least personally generated data. That has lead to a gross misuse of private information and the endless ways that advertisers and users game the system. All that to sell me a car? Or a box of laundry detergent?

      But the most alarming users of all are the political parties. The platforms are the exact delivery system that politicians have wanted for centuries. An agent-based model where every citizen is targeted with specific information – or disinformation, or fake news or propaganda. Call it what you will. What is being fought over is how the political systems can utilize the method of delivery.

      I am sorry, but I would rather not have that kind of predictive power deployed or subverted by any government let alone a political organization. It is only a thin private line that prevents the Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or Green or Communist party from using our own private lives against us. George Orwell would be very pleased.

      Let the platforms manage themselves as they see fit. They have a ring side seat in the law of unintended consequences. and are best placed to manage those consequences. They only want to sell advertisements just like the magazines of yore. Over time an electronic version of the local newstand will be realized where you go in and buy your magazines in peace.

  15. Reminds me of around the mid 2000’s there was a town that had the brilliant idea that it could keep all the anti-war protests away by making one “free speech zone” at the end of a deserted alley. “Sure, you can have your free speech all you want,….right here…..”

    The argument that you can just make your own Facebook and have as much impact with your message is as much if not more disingenuous than the free speech dead-end.

    1. So I can’t enjoy Facebook without dumb political screes? Is there no escape anymore? I answered my own question.

    2. “The argument that you can just make your own Facebook and have as much impact with your message is as much if not more disingenuous than the free speech dead-end.”

      The only reason we have Facebook is because someone decided to make their own MySpace. Facebook isn’t even that popular among young people (Millenials and Gen-Z)

    3. Yes, just like the argument that you can create your own Amazon. Amazon should be forced to carry firearms, ammo, swastikas, and anything else it sells for third party sellers.

    4. Jimmy, the Super Bowl halftime show reaches an incredible number of viewers. If “impact with your message” is the criteria shouldn’t they be forced to carry that message too?

  16. All sounds pretty shocking in terms of people’s rights to free speech—until you reflect that rights to free speech are not at stake. Facebook isn’t the government, and won’t be until EV gets his way, and government starts compelling private publishers to publish whatever EV thinks they ought to publish.

    If you look at Facebook’s list of exclusions—which admittedly took me aback at first—ask yourself which of those would normally be published as advocacy in any mainstream newspaper. What
    Facebook is proposing is that it adopt a private editing policy roughly matching customary practice among mainstream media.
    Shocking, I know. But not half so shocking to me as demands that government step in to compel a private publisher to use a government-approved editing policy.

    For years I have posted comments on this blog warning that Section 230 would create powerful political pressures for government censorship of the press. Alas, I was correct. Here it is full strength, from EV himself. It can hardly get worse.

    1. Criticizing a female politician and calling for people to not vote for her I think could easily constitute “imminent discrimination” (whatever that standard is….)

    2. “If you look at Facebook’s list of exclusions—which admittedly took me aback at first—ask yourself which of those would normally be published as advocacy in any mainstream newspaper. What
      Facebook is proposing is that it adopt a private editing policy roughly matching customary practice among mainstream media.”

      Most people on the left don’t admit that customary practice among mainstream media includes refusing to publish criticism of China, criticism of pro-transgender-rights or pro-gay-rights belief, criticism of feminism, etc.

    3. Lathrop : For years I have posted comments on this blog warning that Section 230 would create powerful political pressures for government censorship of the press.

      And understandably so. Contrary to your theory that Facebook et al are “just publishers”, real publishers look at the stuff they’re publishing before they publish it. They are therefore responsible for everything they publish to the extent of being exposed to suits for libel, not merely for their own speech, but for the speech of other people whose speech they choose to publish.

      Section 230 gives social media an out from the libel laws, in recognition of the fact that they are not responsible for what they publish…because they don’t publish it, they just pass it on – they don’t look even at it before it appears. That would be impractical.

      Hence the question of whether Facebook et al are akin to common carriers. Like Facebook, the telephone company does not listen to your call and decide whether it’s OK with the content, before allowing your comments to proceed to the person you’re talking to.

      1. Lee Moore, publishers are responsible for what they publish because they do it as a business and make money at it. Because they are the principal financial beneficiaries of their publications, the law has held them responsible to pay damages when they cause them. Whether or not publishers look at what they publish, they get the money.

        Not looking is of course negligent, but all publishers are free to not look. In short, what the “real publishers,” you mention do is exactly what social media platforms do, except the social media platforms have got a special government license to make a business out of customary negligence, whereas the others who lack that license tend to guard against negligence.

        The notion is laughable that Facebook does not look at what you publish, and that makes it like the telephone company. Facebook examines your every contribution minutely, to mine it for information about you (and your friends and other online contacts) it can sell to would-be advertisers. That is why Facebook can publish your stuff without charging you a fee up front. Try that with the phone company.

        How about we call Facebook a common carrier, but demand that like other common carriers it has to make you pay up front for each bit of service you get, and can’t sell ads based on anything you give them?

        There are no notable points of business similarity between the business models of publishers like Facebook and actual common carriers. The push to call social media platforms common carriers is just a dishonest attempt to find some category to put them in which is not constitutionally protected, so that government can intervene and control what they publish. You should be ashamed to advocate it.

        1. <i.publishers are responsible for what they publish because they do it as a business and make money at it

          So, if someone publishes everything for free, but otherwise acts exactly as any other publisher, then they are not a publisher?

          You’re daft man. Stop pretending you have any other interest in this beside the lust for power of choosing what is ok for the plebs to read.

        2. 1. Whoa, a thousand tort lawyers have just hanged themselves. Like Vinni, it comes as a surprise to me that I am immune from a libel suit for repeating someone else’s libel, so long as I am not doing it by way of business. Good news !

          2. Facebook looks at stuff after it appears, not before. All sorts of people look at books, and papers and other published things, after they are published, and find ways to turn the information therein to monetary account. But that does not make them all publishers.

          3. Real pubishers publish their own speech (sometimes) and also other people’s speech. Regulating the publisher’s own speech would be infringing its freedom of speech. Regulating their publication of other people’s speech would be infringing those other people’s speech – if the regulation is in the nature of blocking it. But regulation in the nature of preventing the publisher from blocking it would be infringing neither the publisher’s own speech, nor infringing the other people’s speech. The messages people post on their Facebook accounts are their speech, not Facebook’s. (Of course the “You are consorting with EXTREMISTS” message that Facebook might add, is Facebook’s own speech.)

          4. “There are no notable points of business similarity between the business models of publishers like Facebook and actual common carriers.”

          I don’t know if phone companies are allowed to sell “traffic analysis” data about their customers phone usage to interested parties (of whom there would be plenty.) If they did this that would allow them to reduce the charges for calling. This is the same business model as Facebook, except that Facebook makes so much for selling the data that it can reduces user charges to zero.

          Of course if phone companies don’t sell such data because they are prohibited by regulations from doing so, then we seem to have identified the real difference between a “common carrier” phone company, and Facebook. The former is regulated, the latter is not.

        3. Could not agree more. The whole point is that Facebook et al are making a profit off what information is provided to them by the user. The underlying monitoring regime may be artificial but it is active monitoring nonetheless. That does not a definition of a common carrier.

          1. Is Gmail a common carrier? Because they’ve got much the same model, in terms of reading your mail and profiting off the information they garner from it.

            Tech’s ‘Dirty Secret’: The App Developers Sifting Through Your Gmail

            The difference is that Gmail just wants to make money off you, not censor what you can discuss with people using it.

    4. For years I have posted comments on this blog warning that Section 230 would create powerful political pressures for government censorship of the press. Alas, I was correct. Here it is full strength, from EV himself. It can hardly get worse.

      Facebook is not “The Press”, but you are definitely dense.

    5. For years I have posted comments on this blog warning that Section 230 would create powerful political pressures for government censorship of the press. Alas, I was correct. Here it is full strength, from EV himself. It can hardly get worse.

      Sigh. English is not your friend.

      It is true that forcing Facebook to carry speech they do not want to carry would violate their constitutional rights — regardless of bad arguments about “common carrier” status — but that is not “censorship.” Punishing them for carrying speech that they do want to carry — which is what you propose — is censorship.

      1. It is true that forcing Facebook to carry speech they do not want to carry would violate their constitutional rights

        Why does forcing Verizon to carry speech it doesn’t want to carry not violate Verizon’s constitutional rights ?

        1. Maybe it does. Does anyone force Verizon to carry speech it doesn’t want to carry? Has Verizon ever objected?

          1. AT&T and Verizon both got caught censoring text messages, blocking websites, or limiting access to video feeds, to users of their networks based on the content, in the past decades. They were sued over it, but I didn’t find a outcome.

            Way back in the day, one of the reasons the common carrier laws were expanded to include phone and telegraph companies was passed because Congress felt that those companies were censoring their users (and them) – back in 1910. So yes, the telecom companies have tried to deny access to specific content before.

  17. “Do not post” ?

  18. I had a good friend who was really good at coming up with plausible consipiracy theories, the kind that make you stop and think for a bit before debunking them. Anyone can come up with run-of-the-mill ones, and we see them all the time.

    When I read things like this, I see that slightly manic grin and hear him asking what their ulterior motive is, the hidden one that makes such delicious conspiracy theories. Here, I think he would have suggested that Facebook is deliberately tweaking the public, trying to piss off as many people on all sides of the political spectrum as possible, with the end game being regulated like AT&T, locking in their dominant market position and locking out would be upstart competitors. This requires the leadership, presumably Zuckerberg, being aware that left to the market, some upstart will dethrone them in the next decade or so, just as they dethroned MySpace, just as Google dethroned Atla Vista, as Microsoft dethroned IBM, and so on.

    I’m nowhere near as good as he was at coming up with these conspiracy theories. He’d add twists that made you smile along with him, because you both knew he could never be proven wrong, and they were fun to think of.

    Here’s to Giles, hoping he is still smiling.

    1. Its honestly not that far-fetched. Zuckerberg has already said Facebook should be regulated, and Facebook is losing market share among young people (it already has a reputation as being where Boomers go to chat)

      1. Then maybe I learned more from Giles than I thought 🙂

  19. It seems to me that Chief Justice Roberts has provided the solution to conservative complaints about Facebook etc. If your regulation of Facebook would otherwise be unconstitutional, just call it a tax.

    So you just need a tax levied on each message posted on social media (paid by the social media company) of an amount sufficient to allow them to continue in business, but also sufficient to make their eyes water. You could have a threshold before the tax kicks in, so that it only catches the big guys. No filibuster for a tax reconciliation Bill either 🙂

    If that doesn’t make them more sympathetic, then you just eminent domain them……after you’ve reduced their market value by 90% with your tax.

    1. Tax only posts deleted by the company for reasons that aren’t legal necessities (like threats) and you’d have something that could probably pass some muster.

  20. Looks like China got its way, and will get more of its desired censorship from Facebook.

    Expect these “community standards” to be enforced quite unevenly.

  21. Where would Artie Ray Lee Wayne Jim-Bob Kirkland have been more likely to be banned — on Facebook, or at the Volokh Conspiracy?

    Carry on, clingers.

  22. …if Facebook concludes they seem “likely to contribute to imminent … discrimination” against the targeted … group.

    This seems to be in sync with social justice orthodoxy, wherein blacks, for example, cannot be guilty of racism. As Robin DiAngelo puts it: “Racism is racial prejudice backed by institutional power. Only Whites have the power to infuse and enforce their prejudices throughout the culture and transform it into racism.” (Sensoy, O. & Di Angelo, R. 2017, p. 149)

    It appears unlikely that Facebook will interpret criticism of anyone seen as a member of a dominant group as risking harm, intimidation or discrimination against that group.

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