Shallow Fakes: Why Facebook Was Right Not To Delete The Doctored Video Of Nancy Pelosi

from the defending-free-speech dept

We live in a Manichean political world where every person and institution is said to be either good or evil. Facebook used to be in the good column; since November 2016, they are listed among the evil ones, oddly by both left and right. The truth: Facebook is a tremendously successful and innovative business that nevertheless makes mistakes. But beyond making its users happy, Facebook also does good. By defending free speech, for example, at a difficult time.

The case may be familiar to you. (The fact that the case is likely familiar to you is important as we shall see). Recently someone created a distorted video of House leader Nancy Pelosi.  Many thought the distortions suggested Pelosi was drunk. She was not. The video warped her image for political purposes (or perhaps, just for fun). More bluntly, the speech in question – the edited video – was a lie.

The question is not whether political speakers lie. They do and always have. Of course, everyone believes their team upholds truth while the other team lies. As Morrisey sang, “Everyone lies, nobody minds.” Well, everyone minds the other team’s lies and somehow ignores their own.

Political speech comprises lies, truth, and much uncertainty. Who should decide which speech falls into which category? Not the elected officials and unelected bureaucrats we call “the government.” The First Amendment and the courts preclude the government from determining truth (and lies). Elected officials want to be popular and win re-election; speech critical of them works against attaining those goals. Elected officials tend to see such criticism as “lies.” I would if I were an elected official. So would you. The incentives are terrible. Censorship would be a natural response. Hence we have a First Amendment, an unnatural state-of-affairs undergirded in the United States by fifty years of tradition, that is, of judicial doctrine.

So who separates truth and lies (and the in-between) in our unnatural state of free speech? Listeners, citizens, and voters. That’s our democratic faith, or our liberal faith, or whatever you want to call it. It’s a real source of national pride, our unnatural state of speaking freely. It’s a foundation of any American nationalism worth honoring.

But people do lie, and the lies can have terrible consequences. True enough. But our liberal faith and our unnatural state have an answer to lies: more speech. Consider the Pelosi incident. More speech revealed the lie in the video almost immediately. It is true that humans are lazy or uninterested and ignore the revelations of “more speech.” Or they seek only information that confirms their hatred and prejudices. In other words, listeners, citizens and voters often fail to live up to the demands of our liberal democratic faith. To remedy that failure shall we thus turn to “truth seeking” politicians who are too often thin-skinned and ambitious?

With social media we have a third player involved, the companies (above all, Facebook) that own and oversee these platforms for speech. The companies have a right to, and sometimes do, suppress speech on their platforms. The answer to their mistakes in this regard is… more speech. But the companies also rise to the occasion at times by defending our democratic faith in free speech. In the wake of the Pelosi incident, Facebook decided to leave the Pelosi video up on its platform. Monika Bickert, their head of content moderation at Facebook, affirmed that those who heard and saw the video should decide its truth or falsity. The alternative would have been Facebook taking down the video in the name of truth (and against lies). There are many problems with that alternative, not least Facebook would find itself fighting with, or subordinate to powerful politicians like Ms. Pelosi. So the company left the ultimate judgment to citizens and voters. They followed, in short, the American way.

But many people apparently do not like leaving judgments about truth to “more speech” and to Americans. Bickert was pilloried. For her part, Ms. Pellosi said Facebook acted as “willing enablers of the Russian interference in [the 2016] election.” To be blunt again, she accused Facebook of treason.

But Monika Bickert was the real American here, at least judging by our long tradition of free speech and respect for the intelligence of citizens and voters. That tradition is under fire. Perhaps it always has been. But we might wonder if our political class is abandoning freedom of speech.

Many on the right have decided that Carl Schmitt is correct when he wrote “politics is constituted by the distinction between friends and enemies.” The tech firms are perfect “enemies” for the populist right: filled with “woke” young people, located in California, and using technology few understand. The left has been abandoning free speech for a long time because “the corporations started winning” First Amendment cases. They also often judge constitutional rules by their effects on friends and enemies. In the name of that harsh doctrine, both right and left are abandoning the older faith that Americans have the right and the ability to discern truth from lies.

But there are still genuine conservatives and real liberals out there who believe in free speech. Last week Facebook paid a hefty price to be their friend.

John Samples is a Vice President at the Cato Institute

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Comments on “Shallow Fakes: Why Facebook Was Right Not To Delete The Doctored Video Of Nancy Pelosi”

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54 Comments
Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

For her part, Ms. Pellosi said Facebook acted as “willing enablers of the Russian interference in [the 2016] election.” To be blunt again, she accused Facebook of treason.

Oh?

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

— Article 3, Section 3, US Constitution

Does a state of war that I was unaware of exist between the US and Russia, such that giving them "Aid and Comfort" would meet this definition?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It could be said that the United States is in a permanent state of conflict with most countries in the world. Not technically "at war," which has not been declared since WWII ended, but overt and covert military actions, economic warfare, as well as subverting democratic governments and arming and training violent revolutionaries. But then, this is for the most part the way that empires have always been maintained, and the USA currently runs the biggest (soft) empire in the history of the world.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Um...sorta?

The problem is that we’ve had other nations interfering in US elections before. Israel and Saudi Arabia lobby and provide campaign contributions all the time.

Given that corporations are people and money is speech that’s a lot less illegal than it should be.

Russia’s method of instead outraging the extremes with a massive social-media rumor campaign demonstrated how much a bad idea it is to ignore our regulations regarding letting other nations influence the elections. If the people of the US were rational and could think longer than a news cycle, it might give us the momentum to overturn Citizens United and reform our campaign contribution laws.

It’s a big if though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

War on drugs (so anything vs the public is terrorism)
War on Terrorism (so anyone not agreeing with the government is a terrorist… in diplomatic countries these would be opponents, but we skew harder than that in the USA)
War on Privacy (this is the new one, and while Facebook and Google are getting all the headlines, the Telecom sector are the real evil entities here).

With all the things the USA is at war with, it’s possible for anyone in government to see anyone else (even other government employees) as the enemy, and thus anyone can be a Terrorist these days (at least according to our government)

Ben (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Nowhere in the linked NYT article does the word "treason" appear. The non-direct quote you included above (i.e. "To be blunt again …") is the opinion of the writer (incorrectly I believe) summarizing Pellosi’s statement.

As for the "state of war": one could argue that the US and Russia are once again in a cold war (Cold War II anyone?), although I don’t think it has risen to that level (yet). I’m not even sure the "cold war" of the 50’s to 90’s constituted a "state of war" since it was as much a war as the "war on drugs", i.e. not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

"The Irony of Free Speech" is probably the most relevant of Fiss’s work, and probably what is being referenced. But in general, Fiss has generally been skeptical of many effects of private people and organizations on freedom of speech (in the philosophical sense, not the strict first amendment sense), and supportive of inserting government into that arena to prevent powerful groups from de facto silencing less powerful groups through non-governmental means.

Anonymous Coward says:

Solzhenitsyn said it best:

If only it were all so simple. If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

The Cardinal says:

Shallow Fakes

Disingenious narrative. Platforms – including Facebook – delete “knowingly false” information and videos all the time- including “Deep Fakes” – in recognition that “free speech” has, and should have, limits. Furthermore, to represent a non-governmental entity that frequently chooses to moderate less egregious content based on og-knows-what as a sdtandard bearer of American ideals is laughable as heck!

Back to the “Deep Fakes” – one could make the exact argument for Facebook doing what it did in the case of the Pelosi video and allow viewers to come to their own conclusion but we all know there ain’t a chance in hell that would happen.

“Free speech” is being used as an excuse in this case because Ms. Pelosi happens to be a well known politician in the “wrong” party. Facebook along with its wrong-headed apologists have decided to treat the well-known politician differently than say a well-known celebrity or athlete or a little known teacher or barista because they would rather to deal with the criticism of “the left” as opposed to the criticism of the right, i.e., the party in power via the White house and the Senate.

Watch what happens when – not if -a “Shallow Fake” involving a Republican politician is uploaded to Facebook and watch how quickly “free speech” disappears from the narrative when they make the decision to take it down.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Shallow Fakes

"free speech" has, and should have, limits

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Tell me again, who limits the freedom of speech?

The Cardinal says:

Re: Re: Shallow Fakes

Oh, I absolutely agree that the concept of “free speech” in the U.S. and infringement thereof applies only to the actions of governmental entities. But since the author of this position piece chose to laughably represent Facebook as some kinda champion of “free speech,” I simply rolled with it.

My actually point is this: either choose not to moderate content and let the chips fall where they may, or if you choose to moderate content, then do so responsibly (especially with all the hullabaloo surrounding: 1) the whole Russian election interference thing, and 2) “deep fakes” involving famous and not-so-famous individuals).

I believe if Facebook had determined the origin of a fake video attacking a political figure originated from Russian trolls (or the fake video depicted a political figure in something of an implied – but not explicit – sexual nature), they would have yanked it. But fake is fake so the fact that it originates with domestic trolls or it implies something of a sexual nature shouldn’t matter – if you would yank a fake video under one set of circumstances then you should be willing to do so under the other.

Personally I wish platforms would get out of the moderation business altogether but I understand that the political realities of our world mean governments would impose there own standards that would be 666 times worse.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Shallow Fakes

Platforms – including Facebook – delete "knowingly false" information and videos all the time- including "Deep Fakes" – in recognition that "free speech" has, and should have, limits.

Time to break out the quote/question from a previous article I see(made all the funnier by the name you chose to comment under)…

For those of you who think disinformation should be censored, please tell me where you stand on organized religion because if any disinformation has demonstrably harmed millions, it’s that. — jillian (@jilliancyork)

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Shallow Fakes

Religion is presented as a matter of FAITH so it’s not presented as fact.

Except when it is. My faith demands that I treat articles of faith as a matter of fact.

As for disinformation that has demonstrably harmed millions, the dissemination of this is not confined to people of faith; anyone who clings like grim death to a particular ideological position without taking the time to question it is a guilty of disseminating disinformation that harms people as the most fanatical religious zealots you can think of. That said, it’s not a contest: making stuff up that harms people is wrong, the end.

No one has a lock on morality.

I also take issue with the notion that more speech alone is sufficient to deal with the fallout of misinformation. Tell that to the survivors of violent incidents caused by sectarian strife. The truth is, speech/counterspeech is a popularity contest in which the winner is the one who makes the most noise. If you’re not popular enough to get sufficient counter-speech against a torrent of abusive speech that paints you in a negative light, people are quite likely to believe the negative speech, which can cause real problems for real people. Ask the victims of Alex Jones’s "crisis actors" rants who had to move home several times to get away from the idiots who believed his misinformation about them. Where was the counter-speech for them? Relying on counter-speech alone demands that you ignore the filter bubbles that arise around people who are uncritically convinced that their view is the right one.

Lawsuits are for the rich; I considered going down that path on one occasion but the costs were prohibitive with no guarantee that I’d be able to win. I ended up leaving the online community I’d been part of for years to get away from the trolls who were making my life a misery there, mostly by telling lies about me and repeating them often enough (and getting others to repeat them too) that people began to believe them. There was no counter-speech for me.

While I’m not a mad fan of censorship the idea of a right to tell lies is disturbing to me. That notion harms and even kills people now, from those who starve to death as a result of Tory sanctions on their benefits to anti-vaxxers’ children and their friends to citizens of countries bombed in the name of regime change (thanks, neocons)… have you got all day? These things happen when it’s okay to tell lies — and there’s no law against it.

In practice, there are indeed limits to our speech. We can’t encourage people to commit crimes, we can’t run scams, or otherwise make speech that we know will cause harm to others because it’s against the law. Some platforms ban profanity while others demand that their posters adhere to a code of conduct on pain of having their accounts shut down.

As I’ve warned many times, when the number of people affected by a particular situation reaches critical mass, expect change. Do we want to wait till then or sort things out now while there’s still time to stop the worst knee-jerk legislation from being enacted?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Shallow Fakes

Well if that’s all it takes seems it would be easy for any number of groups to entirely bypass the ‘platforms should remove demonstrably false information’ idea.

‘I have faith that the earth if flat.’

‘I have faith that vaccines cause autism.’

‘I have faith that whites are superior to blacks.’

‘I have faith that women are inferior to men.’

‘I have faith that anyone who isn’t heterosexual is inferior and does not deserve the same treatment as those that are heterosexual.’

Trying to hide behind ‘faith’ to dodge the question isn’t going to cut it. As Wendy pointed out ‘faith’ often requires people to believe things as fact as part of said ‘faith'(whether you claim to believe something on faith or because you believe you have facts supporting it does not change whether you believe it to be true), and why someone believes something does not change whether or not it can be demonstrated to be false and/or harmful.

So, with the attempted special pleading fallacy of ‘it doesn’t count if you wrap it in the ‘faith’ blanket’ tossed out as flawed, I will again repeat the question:

For those of you who think disinformation should be censored, please tell me where you stand on organized religion because if any disinformation has demonstrably harmed millions, it’s that. — jillian (@jilliancyork)

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Shallow Fakes

TOG, you’re assuming that "organised religion" = "disinformation."

That’s not true. While some religious groups can and do cause mayhem and even kill people it’s not fair to tar everyone who claims faith with the same brush. Disinformation is as disinformation does; per my cited blog post people have, from the earliest days of history, wrapped land-snatching, power-grabbing and pure greed in the banner of religion to get people on board with their agendas. Now THAT’S disinformation.

Now that we’ve apparently binned true religion (James 1:27) in favour of a watered-down version that allows us to do whatever we like, political philosophy has taken over as the fig leaf for horrible behaviour.

Where does Jillian stand on political partisanship? Same dance, different tune.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Shallow Fakes

TOG, you’re assuming that "organised religion" = "disinformation."

It’s not that organized religions in general are disinformation, but that they contain plenty of if, and I’d say it’s pretty much impossible to argue that they haven’t demonstrably harmed massive numbers of people both directly and indirectly(opposing LGBT rights and sabotaging education respectively as examples) through what’s in them.

Given that, and going off the standard of ‘disinformation and/or harmful speech should be prohibited’, then it strikes me that a good many religious people(all but the most moderate/non-literal basically) and ideas would quickly find themselves given the boot from social media.

Now that we’ve apparently binned true religion (James 1:27) in favour of a watered-down version that allows us to do whatever we like, political philosophy has taken over as the fig leaf for horrible behaviour.

Yeah, afraid that very much strikes me as using one line from a book full to the brim of lines to pull a ‘no true religion’ fallacy and/or cherry picking. I mean, it looks like a nice idea sure, but other theists could just as easily pick out lines that support whatever they want/think, so nice, but ultimately irrelevant.

Where does Jillian stand on political partisanship? Same dance, different tune.

Similar, but not the same. While there are certainly people that can get downright fanatical about what leaders on their ‘team’ might say, I’m unaware of any political parties where it’s held that the one(s) at the top are the ultimate authority, and that whatever they say and/or do is right and good no matter what other people might think.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Shallow Fakes

It’s not that organized religions in general are disinformation, but that they contain plenty of if, and I’d say it’s pretty much impossible to argue that they haven’t demonstrably harmed massive numbers of people both directly and indirectly(opposing LGBT rights and sabotaging education respectively as examples) through what’s in them.

Faith is not a monolithic bloc; I’m opposed to cruelty and can’t abide the knuckle-draggers who bully minorities and don’t like reality much. I’m not alone in being a person of faith who believes this.

Given that, and going off the standard of ‘disinformation and/or harmful speech should be prohibited’, then it strikes me that a good many religious people(all but the most moderate/non-literal basically) and ideas would quickly find themselves given the boot from social media.

That is hard to argue with. I look forward to seeing arguments in favour of a right to lie or to abuse if couched in terms of faith — or political philosophy.

Yeah, afraid that very much strikes me as using one line from a book full to the brim of lines to pull a ‘no true religion’ fallacy and/or cherry picking. I mean, it looks like a nice idea sure, but other theists could just as easily pick out lines that support whatever they want/think, so nice, but ultimately irrelevant.

Give the farmer back his straw, please. There’s plenty of archaeological evidence to back up the historical narratives in the Bible. But haters gonna hate, right?

Similar, but not the same. While there are certainly people that can get downright fanatical about what leaders on their ‘team’ might say, I’m unaware of any political parties where it’s held that the one(s) at the top are the ultimate authority, and that whatever they say and/or do is right and good no matter what other people might think.

I see Trump supporters do this all the time right here on TD in the comments section. Since they’re often hidden I daresay you don’t see them. I used to see it all the time when I was on Google Plus. The sycophancy was sickening. "All hail our Glorious Leader X, who has a cute ‘n’ adorable family/pet/relationship with Y." Gimme a break! I can’t imagine anyone doing that over here over Corbyn, May, or any of the other party leaders.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Shallow Fakes

Faith is not a monolithic bloc; I’m opposed to cruelty and can’t abide the knuckle-draggers who bully minorities and don’t like reality much. I’m not alone in being a person of faith who believes this.

Which is nice and all, but doesn’t really rebut my comment. You’ve got a more humane/kind religious stance, but it’s a fact that plenty of people in the past(and current day unfortunately), using the same book you seem to use(based upon what quote you went with) held/hold must less pleasant views and caused/continue to cause significant damage with it.

That is hard to argue with. I look forward to seeing arguments in favour of a right to lie or to abuse if couched in terms of faith — or political philosophy.

In general perhaps, but I can think of one very big potential problem with the idea: Lie and/or abuse according to who?

Running with the LGBT example above, a fundamentalist theist might believe earnestly and honesty that homosexuality is a terrible sin and absolutely not okay, and as such to them people not only claiming that there’s nothing wrong with being homosexual and encouraging people to accept it if they/someone they know is homosexual are not only lying(or at best horribly mistaken) but are actively encouraging a terrible act to be done/accepted. And if someone like that happens to be in charge of determining what is and is not allowed…

‘Lies, falsehoods and/or abuse should not be tolerated’ is a good idea in general, but as with many things the important part is in the implementation.

Give the farmer back his straw, please. There’s plenty of archaeological evidence to back up the historical narratives in the Bible.

There is also archaeological evidence for The Iliad(Troy existed after all), and historical characters/places in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, your point? ‘One part of a book has accurate information’ means… one part of that book has accurate information. No more, no less.

But haters gonna hate, right?

Please, as attempts to pull a ‘look over there/assigning motive’ that’s a pretty sad excuse, and one that’s beneath you. Ultimately though it’s also a non-response to my comment, wherein I pointed out that you seemed to use one line from a hefty book to define what real religion is from your perspective, something I imagine wouldn’t go over very well with any other theist who has other ideas, and who could likely pull out other verses to justify their positions.

If that’s the verse you want to point to define what ‘true’ religion is to you then great, it’s certainly better than plenty of other versions I’ve seen presented, but similar to what you noted above about how ‘Faith is not a monolithic bloc’ don’t claim it as anything more than what you believe, as there are plenty of others with different ideas who would not be too thrilled to be told that their interpretation isn’t the ‘right’ one, based on one verse out of many.

I see Trump supporters do this all the time right here on TD in the comments section. Since they’re often hidden I daresay you don’t see them. I used to see it all the time when I was on Google Plus. The sycophancy was sickening

Again though, similar but not the same. It’s one thing for a person or group of people to grovel at the feet of a political leader/party and heap praise on those in charge of it, another entirely to have as a central idea of the party that those at the top are not just an authority but the authority, not to be questioned and never wrong.

While it’s entirely possible that some individuals/groups have effectively tied their self-identities so tightly to their ‘team’ that they’ve reached that point(where any ‘attack’ on their team is seen as an attack on them, and as such no questioning or criticism is allowed), I imagine most people would see that as a fringe, extreme position, compared to that idea being pretty common among the major religions.

Anonymous Coward says:

The media has filled their 24-hour news cycle with decontextualized quotes cutting short then debating them out-of-context in the worst possible connotation.

They’ve chased the algorithm to seed outrage, anger, and fear in each headline to maximize shares and clicks until it resembles the widespread panic and theatrics of Twitter hot-takes.

Running wild with Twitter hot-takes without performing the most cursory fact-check we see children doxxed and vilified for standing in place taking no action at all.

We see moderate Democrat and Conservatives — good working class people — harassed, marked with a laser pointer, libeled as Nazi’s, racists, and worse.

I’m looking at a video of Nancy Pelosi slowed down and scratching my head how it is in any way worse than all the egregious violations of journalism ethic of ‘minimize harm’ out there today.

The event looked like the DNC poured its PR digital reputation management budget into suppressing the story and created a tidal wave of over-the-top response in the process. I have trouble finding anyone that sort of likes Pelosi let alone gets outraged over a mild besmirching the reputation of a politician known for stumbling over her words.

Anonymous Coward says:

More speech, bro. That’s all there is to it. More speech, every day, all the time, more more more. It doesn’t matter if the people that you’re more speech’ing against hate your guts and will brush off your more speech regardless of how many facts and statistics you push at them and believe what they want to believe and continue spreading their lies unabated, more speech is always the answer all the time no matter what. Moderation on social media platforms may be impossible at scale, but counterspeech at scale? That’s totally possible.

My libertarian belief in the sacred Marketplace Of Ideas demands that everyone use more speech as their only tactic against lies and deceit. I just decide to conveniently ignore how the marketplace is frequently rigged in favor of said lies and deceit.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: "'woke' far-left internet rage mobs"

Are you meaning to imply the red-pilled far-right doesn’t have internet rage mobs that aren’t pushing their own Flavor Aid cocktails?

Isn’t it currently in the news news how far-right policy is being pushed into law in quite a few states despite majority opinion? Don’t they have a stranglehold on democracy by way of legislators elected in gerrymandered districts? Would you like to tell us how this is right and proper and the way democracy should work?

Care to tell us about the character integrity of Senator McConnell and the clarity of thought demonstrated consistently by the Trump base?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: trolling

Regarding the never-ending Left-Right finger-pointing, the CATO Institute published a study detailing tolerance and free-speech acceptance throughout the political spectrum. The full PDF report is a lot to read, but quite revealing about the state of the country. It surprised me.

https://www.cato.org/survey-reports/state-free-speech-tolerance-américa

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 trolling

The Cato Institute is an American libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. It was founded as the Charles Koch Foundation in 1974 by Ed Crane, Murray Rothbard, and Charles Koch…Wikipedia article on Cato Institute

I wouldn’t trust anything published by these people to be without an immense amount of spin or bias.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 trolling

The Cato Institute is a pro-corporate think-tank founded by the Koch Bros that tries passing itself off as Libertarian and fails hilariously. They oppose things like universal health care, universal basic income, combatting the gender pay gap, minimum wage increases, net neutrality… basically anything that would decrease the power of their rich, right wing, increasingly-fascist dudebro pals. That study regarding free speech devolves into the same spew about there being a free speech crisis on college campuses, the same garbage about colleges need more "Viewpoint Diversity" when all it really is is the younger generation getting tired of Republican Nazi bullshit being sent their way by well-funded groups (like the Kochs) who want footage and news articles they can sell to their aging and ignorant supporters.

I don’t trust anything Cato puts out, including this pro-Facebook puff piece that Cato Vice President John Samples wrote.

Anonymous Coward says:

I didn’t actually see an explanation for why Facebook was right.

The article seems to amount to "unregulated speech, even outright destructive lies, libel, and slander, are perfectly fine because FREE SPEECH!"

But we’re talking about a private company and one that owns a platform used to taint the electorate. Facebook has never been a champion of free speech and they’re not being one now. They are and always will be an advertising platform for making money. They make business decisions, not political decisions. I don’t see Facebook getting nationalized anytime soon, so talking about free speech seems entirely irrelevant.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Ironically you make the point very well.

With narrow exceptions, any speech, including outrigh lies, should be tolerated.

People have gone over the reasons for this many times here on TD. However some of the obvious ones (to me) are: fiction and "Outlawing lies is effectively impossible, what one person claims is a lie, may in fact actually be true/who is the arbiter of truth".

But we’re talking about a private company and one that owns a platform used to taint the electorate.

So… you are saying that a buisness (an American buisness at that) should not be allowed, directly or indirectly, to influince peoples political decessions? So what about individuals? Almost anything is political speech, saying that a company is forbidden to have an influence on elections is essentially denying them speech at all (and without speech buisness is basically impossible).

The core of demoncray (you know… elections) is that those voting have the ablity to choose who to vote for. You statement seems to suggest that a company, in facilitating communication with those people, is, in essence, robbing them of their choice.
So what prevents an individual from doing that? By that logic should we ban all human communication for fear that someone/something will steal another persons ablity to make their own voting decisions?

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: "If people weren't so stupid and/or lazy"

When one person who’s job it is to be industrious and smart is behaving stupid or lazy, then you either retrain or replace that person.

When a society is stupid or lazy you’re criticizing human nature, and that’s not going to change. Rather we reshape civilization, infrastructure and culture to compensate for human nature. (It is very hard to fix nonpoint source pollution, but we can do something about point source pollution.)

Commons are consistently tragedies.. In this case the people generally have trouble voting in accordance to their personal needs: either they can’t determine what they need, or the candidates / referendums don’t address their needs, or the circumstances regarding a bill or candidate involves too much nuance (e.g. allowing for hydraulic fracking). Or they’re distracted by flagship issues (e.g. abortion access, Obama is a terrorist from Kenya).

We need to fix the system by which we manage all these angry, distracted, apathetic apes to make self-serving or public-serving decisions. Or be satisfied that our failure to do so will ultimately kill us all when, in failing to organize or manage commons, we shit ourselves to extinction.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

I don't trust the Samples...

And reading his article, trying to parse an argument and failing, I don’t think he successfully appealed to leaving the Pelosi video.

I’m not sure he’s wrong, but if we were talking a video of a Republican official his argument might be different.

The problem with speech runs along the same lines as the problem with guns: either we allow the people responsibility and expect them to behave as adults, or we don’t.

And if we can’t trust the people with the power of speech (or with the power of guns) we can’t trust the institutions either.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: I don't trust the Samples...

Hard to argue with, Uriel. I think it’s reasonable to have a way to call out provable lies, perhaps with some kind of tag that links to the truth, as someone suggested once.

The trouble is, as you’ll see in the comments above, that people have agendas whether they are willing to admit to this or not. Some people are so opinionated they consider anyone who disagrees with them an enemy, and there is no middle ground. Such people are willing to grant a certain level of tolerance to dissidents provided that they keep their heads down.

The freedom of speech, and how much freedom we should have in terms of the speech we make, will always be an issue, and as I’ve warned here, if someone doesn’t find a sensible, reasonable way to deal with the egregiously horrible speech, sooner or later the number of people affected thereby will reach critical mass. Then there will be hell to pay, whatever we have to say about it.

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