Social-Media Companies Threaten Democracy
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Social-Media Companies Threaten Democracy

November 11, 2019

Today the gatekeepers of meaningful freedom of speech are the social media companies. But there’s just been scandal after scandal of how these companies have abused their powers to really not serve “We, the people”, but rather to serve their own corporate interests in ways that stifle our speech, and really threaten democracy. What’s really noteworthy is that the First Amendment imposes absolutely no limit on private sector entities. So Twitter, and Facebook, and Google, and all of the social media have complete freedom to pick and choose who gets to speak and what they can say, and who does not get to speak and what may not be said. They are completely unconstrained by the First Amendment and they have just unfettered censorship power. There have been many complaints by members of racial minorities who have been subject to hate speech, that they will post to their friends and say “listen to this horrible racist message” and then that gets taken down as hate speech. There’s no ability to distinguish the context. Is it a message that is endorsing the hateful idea, or is it criticizing the hateful idea? These nuances are just lost. Censorship is an extremely blunt tool, and if we want to prevent them from exercising that vast power in ways that discriminate against certain speakers or certain ideas, we have to use other laws and other tools to constrain that power. Many experts are arguing that social media companies should function the way the phone companies do, as what’s called a common carrier, where they would be required to carry every message of anybody, unless the message is illegal, unless it could be punished consistent with the First Amendment. In the United States these discussions are at the exploration phase, but already the response of the social media companies have been to engage in more self-regulation to try to ward off actual regulation. Anybody who cares about freedom of speech has to care about what the powerful social media companies are doing, because that is where the action is today. If you don’t have free speech online, on social media, you don’t have free speech at all in any meaningful sense.

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  1. American ignorance all over this video. Typical cliche American centric view points on free speech. Go live in other societies and see how no one shares this view point and even in Europe, their notions of free speech is different. Only Americans can be shocked that holocaust denial is a crime in Germany and no a free speech issue

  2. Wish such topics are discussed in a more flushed out manner and in longer videos. I know a lot of work goes into every minute of such a video with the animation but that's what makes great content!

  3. Unfortunately laws that govern technology are slow to catch up to modernity. When I look at our current polictal climate I don't feel comfortable that our law makers are capable of implementing nuanced policies that are fair and a-political. It's going to get worse before it get's even worse.

  4. This person is showing their age when they describe social media as something where free speech laws should apply. Social media isn't a public utility, nor is it a public space, no matter how many people are or aren't using it.

  5. For writing "Trump is rich white trash" fb censored the posting and wouldn't allow me to post/answer for two weeks. How can that be considered "hate speech?" Could this have something to do with my repeated Bernie Sanders and extinction Rebellion shares?

  6. China has a unique system where ratings are generated per individuals and the government controls all this and can deprive a individual certain right according to the government judgement. I'm not in favor of this but what if a rating system is developed per online platforms/individuals as to accuracy, truth? Could something of this bases be developed that allows free speech but has a rating per posts? Something to consider maybe?

  7. BREXIT was a democratic vote, the hateful EU and British government seem to be against the native people.
    The world is silent

  8. "The gatekeepers of meaningful freedom of speech" is 4chan. In 100 years people will realize how important the site is, not because of its vulgar content but because anonymity and free speech are very hard to find on other websites

  9. Yelling Freedom of speech is becoming a dog whistle for reactionaries who want corporate domination of people as long as it supports their ugly agendas. And then they get pissed when they get booted off for clear policy violation.

  10. Actually, I'm positively surprised by this video – it was not what I was hoping for. By what I understood, the author is advocating for something like "let the justice decide what messages should or shouldn't be on these huge giant platforms: if it's illegal, take it down, if not, leave it there". And if that's the case I agree with her 100%.

    These huge platforms – we are not talking about some niche little social network, we are talking about pretty much the way most people in the west communicate nowadays – and all this control about what gets posted or not, what can be said or not, falls under this body of nonelected individuals without any public accountability, unlike a judge or a congressman.

    Basically what can be said on the internet nowadays, is decided by a very small group of people in California.

  11. Not just some companies, but those behind all of the secrets, the Bilderbergs group. They are behind our corrupt deep state, as well as our conditioning to accept it. Nearly all conspiracies are true that is why they cencore them. Conservatives aren't as controllable as liberals so they are cencored also.

  12. Also, to all those people renting about "oh, facebook is a private property, they can do whatever the hell they want..". So it's okay with you if a private company decides to not serve minorities? It's the same principle. Unless your answer is also "yes", you're being contradictory, you're basically saying "companies can do whatever the hell they want…. when I agree with what they are doing".

    Now, whether we're talking about some company denying service to a given group of people or not allowing a given set of opinions on their platform, I think in both cases, smaller companies should be able to do that, should have much more leeway. If you have a little cake shop and you don't want to serve black people or Mexicans, or even white people, you should have this right because it's a small company, you denying service to that person won't have thaat much of an impact on his life, they can just go to the next store on the other side of the street. The same goes if you have some small niche social platform, you decide who posts there or not.

    But, as soon as your company starts to get bigger and start becoming these huge corporations, I think you start to lose this right of denying service to people. The same way I don't think Wallmart shouldn't have the right to deny service to gay people, I don't think Facebook should be allowed to deny services to conservatives, or anyone if that matter.

  13. Well this was dramatic. The first amendment is about the government not making laws to limit speech. Private companies can decide for themselves what they want on their platform. Your ability to be an a-hole still exists, just can't do it on Twitter.

  14. Social media company are private companies and have no responsibility respecting the right to free speech. They have their own sets of rules which you agree to when you sign up (you know that thing you didn't take the time to read before pressing the "I agree" button?")

  15. Let's not forget traditional media companies like the Atlantic were disrupting democacy long before social media

  16. I'm sorry but in an era where hate speech is the holy Grail of profitable content, I believe this video could have done better than to preach for a "let us all say whatever we want to say and let the archaic justice system we have in place (the same one that allowed for every single injustice perpetrated against minorities in US history) figure out what's good and what's not"

  17. Facebook has utterly lost its fucking mind. Everyone with a page over 5 yrs old, that I know, has been on 30 day blocks, over and over.
    Super fucked up. I Insulted the flag, skycloth demands worship, got a 30 day ban.

  18. Did no one have free speech before 2003? I can still say whatever I want to people I meet, which is about the only thing most people were ever able to do. If I want to hold a rally and say "the rhombus is an illegal entity," I can do it just the same now as I could 200 years ago.

  19. youre not gonna fix the problem by discussing the situation dishonestly..the problem aint poc enduring racial animus…and trying to be woke here compounds the problem..and continues the paternalistic authoritarianism of the left

  20. The petitio principii tout court, isn’t it? Your provincial fixation with the USA cannot fathom the existence of true freedom elsewhere. Because, as per the narrative, the threat to democracy can be only overcome with the First Amendment… which of course has yielded the whole debacle you are addressing.

    Certainly the intention of the video was to deter the social media enterprises tailored censorship and exclusion, I acknowledge. However, you may be looping and walking in circles, if your solutions are based upon the only premises to which you are familiar.

    Boys will be boys, and the USA will be boxy.

  21. I also hate laissez faire capitalism, and the grip that powerful corporations have on our society. Social media is just a small component of that corporate control though. Focusing on only social media misses the larger point. You picked the wrong battle.

  22. Social media aren't oxygen. You don't need them. You decide to use them having first agreed to and accepted their terms of service. Additionally, the narrator doesn't explain why when person A attacks person B in a racist manner in platform C, why should the platform C be liable or responsible of monitoring the conversation and limiting what person A can and can't say? If person A were to write a letter to person B and send it via the post office would anybody believe that the postal service has any liability on what person A said? Person B has every freedom to take any legal action against person A but why people think that should be the platform's problem is hard to see.

  23. Racism is not speech worthy of upholding. Criticising racism is not endorsement. AI is not so intelligent, nor are the idiots in charge.

    Also, whoever did the animations had one hell of an acid trip.

  24. Watch more from the Speech Wars series here:

  25. Wouldn't making social media post just everythung give way to populist right-wing ideas?
    For now, it seems that most influential Media are leftist. So why change that and give homophobic, trtansphobic, islamophobic, pro-life and anti-vaxx activists the right to speak?

    Not all of rheir claims might be classified as illegal, so the point stands

  26. Thing is if government entities ever had power or law implemented over social media, authoritarian governments would totally threaten free speech, and it wouldn't be a neutral platform for people to speak out. Because social media now are beyond the jurisdiction of other countries to control the contents, that makes authoritarian governments want to ban them. But people know how access the contents they want if they want awareness. You just have to be able to get around with algorithms to send message across and VPNs to access them. In my country, the TV channel is government owned and controlled content. Everyday the viewers are being fed with a linear content of government boot-licking propaganda for decades. There is really no platform for questioning, debate or expression of thought. If it weren't for social media existence and awareness we would still be stupid fools funding the politicians lavish lifestyle with our taxes. We finally overturned our government.

  27. Private companies who provide online social networks are under no constraint to guarantee free speech. As it should be. The concepts of common carrier and net neutrality extend to private communications and the technical aspects of delivery (equal bandwidth/speed for all content). Not the nature of publicly available content posted on private online forums. Just as TV networks have full editorial control, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and etc. retain the right to censor as they so please, to the same extent that I can invite people to put up signs on my property, but I have the final absolute say on what goes up or down.

  28. Yes…ive got a First Amendment case I'd love to discuss offline with any Civil Rights attorney.
    It concerns the rights of survivors of pedophiles and trafficked people.

  29. I'm all for social media sites regulating what they feel like. As pointed out, they're in the private sector so aren't obligated to give anyone the right to free speech. As someone who's used chat rooms since the mid-90s, when I worked for MSN, I'm well aware of the provider monitoring what can and cannot be said. You'd get kicked off or banned quickly if you violated their terms of service — same holds for social media providers. As with any service, people can always choose not to use the site if they don't like it.

  30. Right wingers who are against regulation because of MUH FREE MARKET… now want regulation when they cant push their fascist bigotry. lol

  31. This video is wrong btw

    The 1st ammendment is there to protect your free speech. And all it means is that you cannot be arrested for saying certain things. The government and police aren't going to come down on you for posting controversial stuff onto Twitter or Facebook.

    It doesnt mean these platforms have to let you keep saying stuff if enough people complain. If something you say gets reported enough and then your account get taken down or suspended, that's completely legal, and doesn't violate free speech.

    You can still say whatever you want, just not on that platform, if they dont want it to be so. The way you have your right to free speech, social media platforms have their right to decide who takes part in their userbase, and it's as simple as that.

  32. Social media companies are not exclusively American they are used internationally.
    Therefore to insist that they have to adhere exclusively to American legislation, even though the laws involved relate exclusively to government not corporations, seems egocentric to say the least.
    A prime example of American Imperialism.
    Will you insist that we (the rest of the planet) adopt the 2nd amendment as well ?

    Being unable to vent your spleen on Twitter does not inhibit you from going elsewhere on the Internet to communicate your opinions.

    What about those who are unable to acces the Internet, surely if someone in the US can't access the Internet or Twitter then by your rationale they are having their 1st amendment rights denied. How are you going to mandate that ?

  33. By forcing companies to publish all speech, you would prevent companies from moderating spam, hate speech, and other perfectly legal forms of speech that nobody values or wants in their communities. This is an incredibly dangerous proposition. But thankfully it's also unconstitutional, so it's not going to happen anytime soon.

  34. Social media isn't a public utility 🤦‍♂️. Sure ISP's should be neutral to the packets that comes through their routers. Stepping in and regulating what companies like Facebook and Twitter allow and disallow will add so much red tape and set the bar of entry into the social media landscape so high that the existing social media platforms will be the ONLY social media platforms. If Facebook, Twitter, and google become over zealous with their censorship then that will open a niche for another company to step in and allow the speach that other platforms don't IF the government doesn't stop them.

  35. The only way to take away social media companies ability to censor any and all content in the US is to nationalize them (not an advocation).

  36. 1:34. "Censorship is an extremely blunt tool, and if we want to prevent them for exercising that vast power in ways that discriminate against certain speakers or certain ideas, we have to use other laws or other tools to constrain that power."

    How about:

    1) Get thicker skin, and stop tattling to the corporations and giving them a reason to censor?

    2) If you're on the receiving end of "hate speech," fire back with your own hate and humor.

    3) Stop looking for others to solve your problems when emotional self-control is up to the task.

    You cry for intervention, and then have the nerve to be upset when it turns on you?

  37. We finally get to see some media company talk about the dangers of suppressing freedom of speech although it's very late, we've been talking about this for years in our circles. It's surprising how people on the left usually in neglect freedom of speech while loop on the ride to cherish it. That's what anyone who wants to perpetrate power would do anyways.

  38. This is The Atlantic, a Left-leaning media source. The video is WARNING us about media platforms having a monopoly on the “digital town square.”

    Take note of the end of the video:

    “If you don’t have free speech, online, on social media, then you don’t have free speech at all, in any meaningful sense.”

    Now, certainly, it is quite delightful to cheer for suppression of speech you don’t agree with (in all seriousness, you should’ve outgrown such sophomoric simple mindedness by now), but it’s also quite naive to believe that the mechanisms of suppression won’t get around to also suppressing YOUR point of view.

    The monsters we create (or allow to flourish) are very often of the dullard type and will one day eat US, because that’s what monsters do. Suppression of ideas is just another MONSTER that no self-respecting free society will tolerate.

    Remember, this is The Atlantic, so if you despise all things “right wing,” it’s still safe for you to consider what this video is telling us.

    Remember, when you defend your neighbor’s freedom, you are also defending YOUR OWN FREEDOM. Conversely, when you cheer for the suppression of your neighbor’s freedom, you’re also cheering for the suppression of your own.

    You wanna be selfish? Great. Then be selfish: FIGHT FOR YOUR FREEDOM BY DEFENDING YOUR NEIGHBOR’S FREEDOM . . . even if you absolutely hate your neighbor.

    Think of the long game. It’s always the long game. Don’t let what feels good right now (shutting down debate) enslave your children and grandchildren.

  39. "Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you're really in favor of free speech, then you're in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you're not in favor of free speech." ― Noam Chomsky

    BEFORE you start hyperventilating —Chomsky is a LIBERAL.

  40. You are Humans. Stop invading the virtual world and stay in your stupid planet and use your stupid voice to talk like the stupid human you are. If you want to keep losing your life in the virtual world that means that you do not value your real life and we don't mind you getting in because the more you get in the more we get out. So keep coming to us and losing your soul. We are so many that need to be reborn, and you getting lost is the only way for us to be found. Adieu.

  41. glad to see you didn't turn off the comments for this video. all democracies seem to commit suicide at some point. could it be that allowing the free speech of: nazi's, or fascists could foment the demise of democracy by allowing these groups to flourish and gain support? are we fucked either way here? i agree that free speech is important. the thing is that once a fascist leader is promoted to power by the liberties of free speech you can bet they will make sure free speech is no longer an option in their regime.

  42. what the speaker kinda misses entirely is that hate speech too is protected under the first amendment. there is no provision in federal law against "hate speech". hate speech is protected speech and absolutely should be.

  43. Brilliant, brilliant illustration! This should have gazillions more views for the art alone, but the content itself is, of course, a pressing matter. There are those who say they don't care, but everybody should make up their mind as to what they want and expect of powerful social media – then voice it.

  44. The American political system is just a bit of shadow puppetry, with the president at its centre, who is just a mirage, while all the available news coverage of it is pure fantasy. 
    Further this system is rigged to ignore all inputs that lie outside of a narrow range of interests, while the level of political discourse within the U.S is kept deliberately low for any constructive discussion of serious issues without it sinking into recriminations and threats of violence. 
    Social Media in the U.S is carefully curated by our security services to prevent the population from finding common cause by feeding trolls who create partisan divisions amongst us whilst skillfully hiding the fact that the US is not a democracy at all.

  45. Why you should the government be involved in the regulations of the private sector companies? Making use of Social Media is your own CHOICE. So yes, if you agree to participate and agreed with the terms and conditions, these companies can decide by themselves what they enrule

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