Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has made no secret of his intention to apply pressure to the major social media platforms, like Twitter, Google, Facebook, etc., to limit their ability to control the content that appears there. His concern comes from the fact that these platforms are using their power to control what is being said. Twitter has been caught “shadowbanning” conservatives. The movie Unplanned, which chronicles the conversion of Abby Johnson for a proponent of infanticide into a pro-life warrior princess, was banned by Twitter. Pager University and other conservative outlets have found themselves demonetized on YouTube and have had their videos made difficult to find. We know none of this is an accident. In fact, The Daily Caller has emails from Google showing the little SJWs employed there carrying out an open rebellion against the inclusion of Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James on a Google advisory board on artificial intelligence.
Several other Googlers made the point that, with both the left and the right now talking about the need to regulate or break up the company, having a conservative that could credibly vouch for the company to others on the right is very important.
Whittaker shot down this idea, “Instead [of] recognizing the historical gravity of our position, and rising to meet the occasion, we’ve invited a vocal bigot whose hand is on the lever of U.S. policy to shape our views on where, and how, to ‘responsibly’ apply this tech. I’m stunned by how many people’s mental energy is being expended finding a technicality on which to defend this.”
“Our goal is for Google to make ethical product decisions so that our work makes a positive impact on the world. It’s not to indulge on general snobbery on how good we are or how horrible someone else is. … But, as far as work is concerned, how do we ensure that AI and other advanced technology are used to help and not hurt people?” asked one libertarian Googler.
“First step: we refuse to take advice on how to use AI technologies from those who openly dehumanize many of our friends and colleagues,” said Whittaker.
Another Googler was extremely upset at the suggestion that the company should consult conservatives. “It’s not snobbery to object to associating with and legitimizing an organization dedicated to eliminating LGBTQ+ people from public life, driving them back into the closet, denying them healthcare, and so on,” he said.
“It’s basic human decency, treating it like a difference of opinion is simply monstrous and I don’t think it belongs on this list, or at Google at all. Please feel free to see yourself off this list if all you have to contribute is concern trolling about whether or not we’re pandering to rank bigotry enough. I’m muting you, and I think you should take a long hard look at how you’re behaving here. Have a nice day.”
Truthfully, what you’re seeing is less corporate policy than corporate gutlessness. If Google’s management had had security frog march these asses out of the building, this kind of stuff wouldn’t happen. But, it does and it will unless the pressure is ratcheted up. And that is what Hawley is doing.
But the rub-a-dub-dub boys at The Bulwark are soiling themselves. (Sorry, no link, provided.)
About a dozen or so years ago, leading into the 2008 presidential election, conservatives were beating the drum to prevent the so-called “fairness doctrine” from being implemented again in some form, having been repealed in 1987. In 2019, Republicans are leading the way in coming up with a new, worse version of this.
The “fairness doctrine” if you don’t recall, was a regulation administered by the FCC to require “broadcast licensees to cover issues of public importance and to do so in a fair manner.”
And the writer goes on to accuse conservatives who don’t like the idea of corporations using their power to influence society and limit political debate of wanting a new fairness doctrine. This is the kind of stupid, juvenile behavior that the “muh principles” gang engages in. The premise is false and a lie.
It is false from the standpoint that the old fairness doctrine only applied to broadcast. It never covered print, cable, or satellite. So even if it existed today, it would not cover any of the social media applications.
It is a lie from the standpoint that no one is, as far as I can discern, that social media platforms give equal volume (I don’t know how you’d measure that on social media anyway) of exposure to all political viewpoints. What Hawley wants to do is to tie the ability of social media to achieve safe harbor under Section 230 with cessation of punishing viewpoints the companies disagree with. So you can’t have a situation where Google demonetizes and bans as an advertisement a video explaining the Christian viewpoint of the significance of marriage while at the same time having the government protect you from liability.
The issue is rather simple. Under the Communications Decency Act, Section 230, says that open platforms, like Twitter, have no legal liability for what passes over them. Were they a publisher, that would be different. For instance, YouTube, the platform, only has to respond to take-down requests and ensure facially illegal things, like child porn, don’t run there. YouTube, the publisher, could be sued for copyright infringement each time a user uploaded a copyrighted video or music clip. The implication, clear in the law, is that viewpoint discrimination isn’t permitted.
The article uses this from Gizmodo to make their case:
It [Sec. 230] states quite simply that website operators shall not be treated as the publishers of information posted by their users. To wit, Gizmodo cannot be held liable for some harebrained reader posting a defamatory remark in the comment section below.
Now imagine that starting tomorrow that wasn’t the case: Comments are canceled. There isn’t a company on Earth that would allow its users to say anything at all if the company could be dragged into court the next day and sued out of existence. Most of the top 10 most popular websites in the U.S.—Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, and YouTube among them—would quickly go bankrupt.
And this, naturally from Reason, which reasons that Hawley’s efforts, and efforts like his, will actually hurt conservatives.
Weakening Section 230 works as an all-purpose salve toward authoritarian ends.
Assertions from Republicans that Section 230 stands in the way of them getting more fair online treatment are especially ridiculous. Weakening 230 would require platforms and providers to crack down more tightly on all manners of speech to avoid liability. If conservatives think they’re unfairly targeted for Twitter suspensions and Facebook jail now, just wait until these sites are facing 50 angry state attorneys general and millions in civil fines if they make a wrong call. Erring on the side of more speech doesn’t stand a chance.
Much like the guy writing the article, neither seem to quite grasp the issue or much of anything else.
People who spend as much time in diversity chat rooms as the “engineers” quoted by The Daily Caller aren’t very productive employees in the first place. Getting rid of them would be a net plus. Their job could be done better and cheaper by top-shelf engineers working remotely from Bombay.
Second, if the trigger is pulled, conservatives really won’t be hurt any more than we already are. Sure, we won’t have access to Facebook, etc., but it is already getting to the point where you can see how that access is going to be politically meaningless. Burning it to the ground also deprives the other side of using it. Then we go back to status quo ante, circa 2000, where there is a vigorous political blogosphere of all different ideas that are not reliant upon Facebook or Twitter for survival.
In short, The Bulwark piece is just wrong and stupidly so. It misrepresents both Hawley’s strategy and the state of play on social media. But that isn’t all that unusual for a website that survives based on its ability to suckle at the teat of a progressive billionaire and whose product is never going to be conservative enough to not gain the approval of Google and Twitter SJWs.
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