Section 230 Works: Russian Trolls Don't Get To Sue Facebook For Being Kicked Off Facebook

from the don't-feed-the-trolls dept

Sorry Russian trolls (oh, and also all you people insisting that Section 230 doesn’t and or shouldn’t allow Facebook to kick trolls off its platform), but a court has made it clear that Facebook is clearly protected in kicking trolls off its platform. In this case, the Federal Agency of News (FAN) was kicked off Facebook soon after the 2016 election, when Facebook realized that various Russian trolling outfits had used the platform to push propaganda, often directed by the Russian “Internet Research Agency.” Among the pages that Facebook removed was FAN’s. For what it’s worth, the “General Director” of FAN was one Aleksandra Krylova, who is among those who were indicted by Robert Mueller last year, for trying to influence the US election.

Somewhat incredibly, FAN decided to sue Facebook over this, claiming a violation of the First Amendment along with some other claims — which I’ll just note in passing seem oddly similar to the claims used by white supremacists and other trolls who have sued social media for being removed. This includes claims of a civil rights violation under both federal law and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, a breach of contract claim and a breach of “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”

All of this fails. Miserably. For all the reasons we’ve discussed for years. Judge Lucy Koh points out that CDA 230 clearly applies here, and walks through why each of FAN’s arguments are legally nonsense. We’ll give a few examples, mainly highlighting the silly arguments that (other?) trolls keep putting forth lately to argue why CDA 230 does not protect such content moderation. First up, an argument that the CDA is only supposed to apply to obscenity or other kinds of “offensive” content, and therefore doesn’t apply to garden variety trolling. Nope, nope and nope:

Plaintiffs argue that the Communications Decency Act does not immunize Facebook because the instant case ?does not concern obscenity or any other form of unprotected speech; it concerns political speech that strikes at the heart of the First Amendment.?…. It is telling that Plaintiffs fail to cite any authority for this argument. Immunity under the Communications Decency Act does not contain a political speech exception. The statutory text provides that no ?provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider. 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1) (emphasis added). No distinction is made between political speech and non-political speech.

Then there’s the argument that Facebook is a “public forum” and therefore is bound by the First Amendment. Judge Koh is having none of that:

Courts have rejected the notion that private corporations providing services via the internet are public fora for purposes of the First Amendment. For instance, in Prager Univ. v. Google LLC, this Court rejected the notion that ?private social media corporations . . . are state actors that must regulate the content of their websites according to the strictures of the First Amendment? under public forum analysis. 2018 WL 1471939, at *8 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 26, 2018) (emphasis in original). In addition, the Ebeid court rejected the argument that Facebook is a public forum. 2019 WL 2059662, at *6. Moreover, in Buza v. Yahoo!, Inc., the court held that the plaintiff?s assertion that ?Yahoo!?s services should be seen as a ?public forum? in which the guarantees of the First Amendment apply is not tenable under federal law. As a private actor, Yahoo! has every right to control the content of material on its servers, and appearing on websites that it hosts.? 2011 WL 5041174, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 24, 2011). Furthermore, in Langdon v. Google, Inc., the court held that ?Plaintiff?s analogy of [Google and other] Defendants? private networks to shopping centers and [plaintiff?s] position that since they are open to the public they become public forums is not supported by case law.? 474 F. Supp. 2d 622, 632 (D. Del. 2007).

At bottom, the United States Supreme Court has held that property does not ?lose its private character merely because the public is generally invited to use it for designated purposes.? Lloyd Corp. v. Tanner, 407 U.S. 551, 569 (1972). Thus, simply because Facebook has many users that create or share content, it does not mean that Facebook, a private social media company by Plaintiffs? own admission in the complaint, becomes a public forum.

Koh also easily rejects the idea that Facebook might be a public forum because it engages in functions “that are traditionally and exclusively governmental.” As Koh points out, it doesn’t:

Here, the Court finds that Facebook did not engage in functions that are traditionally and exclusively functions of the state. Examples of functions that are traditionally the exclusive prerogative of the state include ?hol[ding public] elections?, ?govern[ing] a town,? or ?serv[ing] as an international peacekeeping force.? Brunette v. Humane Society of Ventura Cty., 294 F.3d 1205, 1214 (9th Cir. 2002). There are no allegations that Facebook holds public elections, governs a town, or serves as an international peacekeeping force.

And, no, Facebook kicking foreign trolls trying to meddle in elections off its platforms is not a “state action” either, just because it shared information about Russian trolling with the government.

Plaintiffs argue that Facebook, a private actor, was a willful participant in joint action with the government because Facebook provided the government with information for the government?s investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election…. Plaintiffs? argument lacks merit. The Deeths court found that there was no joint action even though a state actor relied upon a private actor?s information and recommendation to remove the plaintiff?s child from the plaintiff?s care….. In the instant case, Plaintiffs only allege that Facebook provided the government with information. … Thus, under Deeths, Facebook was not a willful participant in joint action with the government.

In addition, Plaintiffs? claims of joint action between Facebook and the government fail for another equally dispositive reason. The Ninth Circuit has held that for there to be joint action, there must be ??state actions? directed by or jointly conceived, facilitated, or performed by the [government actor].? Brunette, 294 F.3d at 1213. Plaintiffs? Bivens claim for violation of the First Amendment is predicated on the alleged violation of ?FAN?s First Amendment rights by deleting the contents of FAN?s Facebook Page and blocking FAN?s access to its Facebook account.?… However, the only interactions between Facebook and the government alleged in the complaint pertain to how Facebook provided information to the government for the government?s Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election investigation…. Plaintiffs do not allege that the government played any role in shutting down FAN?s Facebook page or blocking FAN?s access to its Facebook account. Thus, Plaintiffs fail to allege any state action ?directly by or jointly conceived, facilitated, or performed by the? government that relates to the deletion of FAN?s Facebook page or restriction on FAN?s access to its Facebook account…. Consequently, there is no joint action here because there is no indication that the government directly or jointly conceived, facilitated, or performed a role in Facebook?s decision to shut down FAN?s Facebook page or the decision to prevent FAN from accessing its Facebook account.

Judge Koh does give the Russian trolls — represented by actual respectable lawyers and everything — a chance to amend their complaint, while making it pretty clear it still has no chance. We’ll see whether they even bother.

In Professor Eric Goldman’s discussion of this ruling, he notes that anyone supporting Senator Josh Hawley’s silly bill to remove Section 230 protections from big internet platforms is effectively supporting Russian trolls like the ones who filed this case:

Just a reminder to anyone complaining about Facebook ?censoring? them, arguing that Facebook is the new public square, or demanding that Facebook ?must carry? content neutrally: you are making the exact same arguments as Russian trolls seeking to destroy our country. Either that?s the goal you intentionally want, or you are so narrowly focused on your concerns that you don?t realize or care how Russian trolls are weaponizing your arguments against our democracy. Want to Make America Great Again? (or keep America great, if we never stopped being great). Stop trying to destroy the editorial freedom of online publishers to decide what?s fit to publish and what isn?t.

In particular, this case reiterates the depravity of Sen. Hawley?s ?[Ending] Support for Internet Censorship Act.? FAN was promoting its own political viewpoints, so Sen. Hawley?s proposal would force Facebook and other major Internet companies to treat FAN?s trolling as equally legitimate as the Republican Party?s social media activities. (Please, no ?jokes? about how Republicans have become unexpectedly enthusiastic supporters of Russia?s policy and world views). Why would Sen. Hawley?and the few supporters of his bill?want to prevent online crackdowns against Russian trolls? It appears Sen. Hawley doesn?t understand the consequences of his bill?or worse, perhaps he does.

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Comments on “Section 230 Works: Russian Trolls Don't Get To Sue Facebook For Being Kicked Off Facebook”

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100 Comments
Commenting 'In Good Faith' so will be Censored says:

Yes, "what should be" is not the same as present legalisms.

To sum up your own notions above: you’re simply saying that no one can argue. That’s just another aspect of your anti-American bias: but disagreeing with gov’t including courts is key point, else we’d all be under the rule of inbred Germans calling themselves British.

Again, it’s irrelevant because We The People aren’t actually bound by what courts decide.

As of course you recognize that principle when cases are decided ways you don’t agree with, you’ve been going on for YEARS about Napster!

But you here want to remove the very possibility of disagreeing, try to stop ALL discussion! That defines you as authoritarian, period.

Now, if a trained legalist is resolved to decide one way, then points can be found in support.

And if that legalist is also a corporatist aligned with The Establish which desperately wants corporations to control the "platforms" that 230 made so the Public to be free of interference, then it’s again easy to write some text.

Commenting 'In Good Faith' so will be Censored says:

Now, do I care if "Russia" tries to influence elections? -- NO!

Lood Gord. You actually think the country is that fragile?

What if are other anti-Americans? Some of them calling themselves citiizens? Are we to arbitrarily "deplatform" all who don’t support the criminals who are in control of America? — Starting with masnicks, in my view, of course. — That silly assertion you repeat is what you’d otherwise, if didn’t find it a useful notion, be horrified at, is fraught with its own anti-American principles in letting a few boy billionaires control ALL speech.

Commenting 'In Good Faith' so will be Censored says:

"When people tell you who they are, believe them." Maya Angelou.

Googlers, Facebookers, and masnicks tell us that Section 230 makes them A) completely IMMUNE for all content others put on sites, but B) retain total arbitrary power to control the sites.

IMMUNE AND EMPOWERED is dangerous combination.

Key question: What’s to stop corporations from censoring IF so choose? … Masnick is silent, simply lets us think that corporations are benevolent and wise and always will do the right thing for The Public. — He isn’t going to concede that corporate power is less than total, because soon as does, his position is weaker.

We’re lucky that they’re lying. The immunity is definitely limited: see FOSTA, and remember that Masnick states it wasn’t needed because Backpage prosecuted by existing law.

The principle that "private corporations" don’t have total control over "platforms" created by legislation is already established in cable TV case and CDA’s own words:

The Court concluded "public access channels constituted a public forum, notwithstanding that they were operated by a private company".

https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca2/16-4155/16-4155-2018-02-09.html

The policy Congress established when passing the CDA was to ensure "a forum for a true diversity of political discourse." 47 U.S.C. S: 230(a)(3).

The claimed immunity and empowerment is "government-conferred" by mere statute. It does not over-arch all other law, especially not with a phrase UN-Constitutional on the surface: "whether or not such material is constitutionally protected".

Now, since purpose of ALL law in the US of A is for The Public’s benefit, then how do we benefit from arbitrary control of our speech by unaccountable corporations?

Masnick has to keep claiming that absolute rule by those who tells us they’re immune and empowered proto-Nazis is GOOD.

But in America, when THE RESULT of legislation is not to The Public’s good, it’s inherently UN-Constitutional. — Indeed, the Constitution allows and even requires that it be amended when WRONG!

Since the Founding Fathers were WRONG about slavery, how can Masnick regard the mere pipsqueak he references as absolutely right?

We The People know right from wrong.Masnicks know only corporatism and desire control.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: "When people tell you Copyright Bad

We The People know right from wrong.

Corporate Copyright – Bad! Got it.

Funny how Blue Balls claims to somehow speak for all the people. As if the Sov Cits somehow represent anyone at all.

He only supports Corporate interests via strong Copyright. Copyright is an artificial monopoly given to Corporations over Imaginary Property.

If you really support the people, and not corporations obviously tossing out IP laws would be the first step. Give back all the culture and knowledge that corporations have locked up.

CharlesGrossman (profile) says:

Influencing the Election or Just Making Money?

I still haven’t seen any evidence — including in the indictment of Russian trolls — indicating that their motivation was to influence the election. A good case can be made that their single-minded intention was to do what all successful trolls do: Choose the most controversial hot-button issues to generate the most clicks and make the most money possible.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Influencing the Election or Just Making Money?

What makes you think they only had one motivation?

Generating clicks, making money, sowing chaos and mistrust, exploiting existing fault lines, influencing the election, undermining faith in institutions — all of those things were part of their motivation.

If you’re looking for a more detailed analysis, the first half of the Mueller Report is a good place to start. USA Today’s got some relevant reactions from experts on Russian disinformation campaigns, too: Mueller report: 5 things to know about Russian interference in U.S. elections

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Influencing the Election or Just Making Money?

May I suggest that you read some of Aaron Mate’s work on the Russiagate rubbish. Here’s his assessment of the Mueller report:

https://www.realclearinvestigations.com/articles/2019/07/05/crowdstrikeout_muellers_own_report_undercuts_its_core_russia-meddling_claims.html

As for "Generating clicks, making money, sowing chaos and mistrust, exploiting existing fault lines, influencing the election, undermining faith in institutions" I suggest you look at Bolton and Pompeo’s twitter feeds.

Ninja (profile) says:

It’s kind of amusing how people can misinterpret the 1st when it’s so well written. Let’s review it:

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.

It’s in the first words, crystal clear: it applies to the goddamn GOVERNMENT. Why is it so hard to understand? Section 230 just makes it easier to dismiss abusive cases.

Anon E Mouse says:

Re: Re: Horray for Moderation

4chan does have its own set of rules that are moderated rather harshly. And in addition to sitewide rules each board has its own set of rules, mostly to moderate what goes on which board. If you’re not afraid of contaminating your browsing history, take a look at 4chan.org/bans for a list of some recent bans, what rule they broke, and what the rule breaking post was like. It’s fascinating to see what the cesspool of the internet considers not acceptable.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

And why should TD be forced to host comments that they disapprove of?

Anyone here can start their own blog. Should the government get to say who can or can’t post comments on YOUR blog?

A dare any of the regular trolls to toss up their own blog and show us how it is REALLY done.

Congrats, all your rants about the right way to do free speech have just been proven wrong – because you can’t do it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Now we know why John Smith and out_of_the_blue are against Section 230. It prevents them from suing Techdirt because they have to click to read their garbage!

…No, wait. If a message is flagged the original IP address can’t tell it is flagged, so they can read their own drivel uninhibited, so…

The hell was their problem again?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Can confirm it works this way – I’ve posted comments on my phone, while on the go, that ends up reported when I view it on my home computer. Mostly dumb shit poking fun of the resident idiots.

John Smith’s made claims (under previous pseudonyms) that this is "sneaky censorship" because it doesn’t inform the user his shit is hidden… which makes no sense since he always gets responded to. If anything what he’s really angry about is people who disagree with him and make a point to mention that.

Which no amount of legislation will ever solve, so my biggest takeaway is that the stick up his ass is basically permanent and surgically fused.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I think he’s made the same argument when he actually bit the bullet and got accounts (MyNameHere and Whatever).

Why that means you should be entitled to know that your shit was downvoted to the point of being hidden, though, is anyone’s guess. You could argue that it prevents people from engaging, but as the OP pointed out, people respond to Jhon boi regardless. If anything people look at the long list of people punking his ass and join in, thinking "I want in on this Herrick-shitting party!"

Anonymous Coward says:

Do you know what I fucking LOVE about Donald Trump? He knows how to pick a fight. He picks fights he can WIN, because he’s a WINNER!

You fucking leftist LOSERS are about to get WHALLOPED! The Squad is on the way OUT! Section 230 is on the way OUT! Did no see Cruz dress down google? You’re FINISHED, you leftist losers (and yes all yee that posts >10,000 comments here are LEFTIST LOSERS).

Go suck up to those fucking Muslims on the Squad, you assholes. 230 is going to be GONE! AND I’M GOING TO LAUGH OUT LOUD EVERY DAY while TRUMP gets re-elected because he’s a WINNER!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No death threat, just an invitation – go back to that shit hole where you came from. Good idea for her, right? Quit telling law-abiding Americans how they are bad, and just get the fuck out of America and go work on your own shit in your own shit-hole country where people marry their brothers and then lie about it. Go. Right? Go. Good idea, right? Right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You are serious?

If so, I’m curious, what is it that made you so racist? Was it something in your childhood, someone you looked up to introduced you to racism? Did you get your very own robe and hood? I have wondered about the holes in said hood, don’t they get all out of whack causing vision problems … sorta like that guy attempting got rob a store with a bag on his head, funny stuff when the bag got turned around and he could not see shit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Did you see that bit on the Gutfeld show by “Cat”? Very very funny. Two toddlers fighting over a toy. One says “it’s mine!” The other says “no it’s mine”. “Mine!” “Mine!” “Well, you’re a RACIST!”

You sound like an idiot toddler child – I hear they are hiring people like you on CNN. Choke Dee.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You’re repeating a right wing lie (“Ilhan Omar married her brother”), using the racist “go back where you came from” trope, and implying that criticism of America and its government is un-American. That makes you both an asshole and a useful idiot for the racists within the American government.

Also: Shiva Ayyadurai didn’t invent modern email, and your rhetorical gimmick will not work on me.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Funny thing about the idea of ‘criticizing the country/president is un-american’, it seems some random schmuck called… oh what was it… ah yes, Theodore Roosevelt, then former US president, had something to say about that that I think nicely counters that ‘argument’:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

— The Kansas City Star, 7 May 1918

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Funny thing about the idea of ‘criticizing the country/president is un-american’,

The funniest thing about this – hands down – the pussy grabber had zero respect for the previous president, repeated lies about his birth (led the "Birther" movement) criticised his vacations (Too many, I won’t do that!) and disrespected him many times.

If I call him el Cheetos the Pussy Grabber – I’m not being disrespectful! I’m speaking my mind, unlike those career politicians who are afraid to speak the truth. Current president has spent more time golfing than working. (And bills the US taxpayers millions per trip.)

So the el Cheetos fans love to shout down criticism as un american, but their leader has never respected his opponents, the sitting president, his vendors, women, minorities, or honesty.

Just sayin’.

Anonymous Coward says:

It's My Yard, and I Am Not a Government Agency

During election years, those of us who own corner lot houses in high-traffic areas suffer uninvited invasions by campaign signs. I may leave none of them, if I own relatively similar disdain for ALL the candidates. However, as a private citizen and property owner, I reserve the right to choose which to boot or keep.

While I have more than a few nits to pick with Facebook, et al., I sincerely hope they continue to kick people off their lawn with or without political or personal bias.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It's My Yard, and I Am Not a Government Agency

OMG. I just had a revelation. You are right about yards and dogs and shit. Facebook should decide how Facebook looks. Their service is free, after all, and absolutely everyone everywhere is free not to use it. Wow. I just got up, but I think I need to go back to sleep and think about this some more. Yard. Facebook. Same. Theirs. Not mine. No one cares what I think. Wow. Maybe I get it.

american trolls are ok though says:

double standard

its f#cking fine for americans to meddle JUST DONT YOU DO IT

caught you doing it at globalnews using faceplant as forum and even saw americans pretending to be russians to cause shit

so again f#ck you on your section 230 cant wait for trump to destroy it and silence everyone and force big tech to give up on encryption that will cause a mass fleeing of american tech

happy days

TFG says:

Re: Lack of double standard (legally speaking)

Well, no, actually… see, Section 230 prevents American trolls from suing facebook for getting kicked off facebook, too, as evidenced by individuals such as Laura Loomer losing their lawsuits too.

Section 230 doesn’t prevent trolls from trolling, mind, so yes, American trolls may well have trolled some of your favorite sites, but importantly they would not be able to sue your favorite sites for being kicked off for their trolling behavior, because Section 230 prevents that.

Without Section 230, or with a political neutrality requirement, your favorite sites will now be liable if they were to kick someone who was dickishly espousing communist ideologies, or railing against Trump, since kicking them off would not politically neutral.

Basically, I hear that you’re looking forward either losing the ability to post in your favorite places, or your favorite places being forced to host speech you hate.

If section 230 gets torn down, I’m coming for your forums, bruh. Should be a good payday.

Teamchaos (profile) says:

Social Media's Power

Many democrats consider social media platforms so powerful that a few Russian trolls were able to sway a presidential election. (I don’t believe this but many democrats blame these Russian trolls for electing Trump.)

Today there is evidence that conservative viewpoints now being suppressed on social media. Some examples include pro life groups and groups that believe in traditional marriage. (evidence? try googling it and you’ll see plenty of examples)

Some believe that the suppression of conservative view points is an attempt by social media sites to sway the next election. (I guess to make up for what happened in 2016?)

Should powerful social media companies be allowed to discriminate against content in a manner so as to sway an election?

Teamchaos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Social Media's Power

https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2019/07/25/tulsi-gabbard-lawsuit-google-has-almost-total-control-over-key-elements-of-elections/

My point being that there is plenty of evidence of social media bias out there if anyone cares to even casually look for it. The link above is from a story about a Democrat suing Google.

I’ll ask the question again, since everyone seemed to have missed it the first time: Should powerful social media companies be allowed to discriminate against content in a manner so as to sway an election?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Social Media's Power

I’m not sure what you think Gabbard’s lawsuit proves, especially since it hasn’t concluded with a verdict. It’s quite possible everything in it is completely unfounded and it’s nothing more than a (apparently pretty effective) publicity stunt.

I’ll ask the question again, since everyone seemed to have missed it the first time:

Or did you miss all the people responding?

Should powerful social media companies be allowed to discriminate against content in a manner so as to sway an election?

Depends what you mean by "allowed". Allowed by the government? Of course, because the government is generally prohibited from regulating speech. Allowed by society? It’s perfectly appropriate to call out companies for speech and actions you disagree with, and if enough people are concerned enough about it, that can have an effect. So what exactly are you asking? And how would you answer the question?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Social Media's Power

A complete and utter joke of a lawsuit: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20190725/12250442653/presidential-candidate-tulsi-gabbard-sues-google-using-all-same-debunked-legal-theories-others-have-tried.shtml

Also, one that more or less disproves your entire thesis, considering that Gabbard is a liberal Democrat and not a conservative.

And yet all the usual snowflake "Google-is-censoring-mah-conservative-speech" folks who ALWAYS seem to link to Breitbart, are cheering this on.

It makes you wonder.

Teamchaos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Social Media's Power

I try to review a wide range of sites. That occasionally includes far right and far left sources. Breitbart, a conservative site, covered a story about a left wing presidential candidate suing Google. The story has since been covered by other sites. There are some stories that major media sites ignore (suppress?), at least until another site covers it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Social Media's Power

Should powerful social media companies be allowed to discriminate against content in a manner so as to sway an election?

Should newspaper and news channels be allowed to try to do the same thing?

Where does neutrality start? Will political parties be required to be neutral as well?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: ... nope, bigotry still clear as day

Some examples include pro life groups and groups that believe in traditional marriage. (evidence? try googling it and you’ll see plenty of examples)

Damn right, how dare social media kick people off for stating the fact that traditional marriage is between members of the same race only. None of that ‘whites marrying blacks or asians(and don’t even get me started on the idea of mexicans…)’ that some depraved and immoral individuals have proposed, if the skin doesn’t match then they have no business getting married, as ‘traditional marriage’ is very clearly same race only. /s

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Social Media's Power

Today there is evidence that conservative viewpoints now being suppressed on social media.

No. There isn’t.

And if there was, conservatives could easily set up other platforms to host their speech.

Some examples include pro life groups and groups that believe in traditional marriage. (evidence? try googling it and you’ll see plenty of examples)

That’s not evidence. Also, a few anecdotes is not evidence — especially when you ignore similar examples on the other end of the political spectrum, because you’re not being honest — you’re just actively looking for confirmation bias.

Some believe that the suppression of conservative view points is an attempt by social media sites to sway the next election. (I guess to make up for what happened in 2016?)

So, you have a statement that has no actual evidence to support it, followed by a theoretical reason for the thing that is not happening, tied together with the bullshit "some believe."

Your argument is full of shit.

Should powerful social media companies be allowed to discriminate against content in a manner so as to sway an election?

In "Network Propaganda," a shit ton of data showed that it was Fox News who swayed a lot more than any internet site in 2016. So, let’s turn your question around: should powerful cable news channels be allowed to discriminate in a manner so as to sway an election?

I’d argue yes, because the 1st amendment allows it. And others can use other channels to speak up. Same applies to social media.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Social Media's Power

In "Network Propaganda," a shit ton of data showed that it was Fox News who swayed a lot more than any internet site in 2016. So, let’s turn your question around: should powerful cable news channels be allowed to discriminate in a manner so as to sway an election?

I’ve wondered once or twice whether the ones pushing for enforced ‘neutrality’ realize that the precedent they are trying to set could easily be turned against them should the political tides turn and have simply dismissed it as ‘not possible’, hypocritically assume that it would/should only be used against those they disagree with(which I’d bet would be the most likely), or simply never had it occur to them.

If ‘powerful enough to sway an election’ is grounds for regulations to enforce ‘neutrality’ then a lot more than social media will be in the crosshairs, and once those regulations have been enforced once it will be that much harder to argue that others shouldn’t be similarly regulated.

Teamchaos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Social Media's Power

Google controls 90% of the search business.

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/how-google-retains-more-than-90-of-market-share-2018-4

Fox News may be the most popular news network but combined CNN and MSNBC have more viewers.

Source: https://www.adweek.com/tvnewser/2018-ratings-fox-news-is-the-most-watched-network-on-cable-for-the-third-straight-year/387943/

Google has a virtual monopoly on search. They control what shows up when someone searches for information on a candidate or a political party.

That should bother you. I bet it would if Google was owned by the Koch’s.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Social Media's Power

Fox News may be the most popular news network but combined CNN and MSNBC have more viewers.

It’s not about how many of users/viewers. It’s about how much those services were in the business of persuading them one way or the other. Fox News did. Google did not.

That should bother you. I bet it would if Google was owned by the Koch’s.

Funny. On Friday on Twitter a well known Google critic was literally claiming that Google was controlled by the Kochs.

Teamchaos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Social Media's Power

That’s actually hilarious.

CNN and MSNBC try just as hard or harder than Fox to persuade folks one way other the other.

Google may not be trying to influence folks, but they sure seem to make a lot of mistakes that are mistakenly interpreted as attempts to influence folks.

Owning a virtual monopoly on search makes Google one of the most powerful companies in the world. During the 2018 election cycle, Google’s employees gave over 75% of their contributions to democrats. Of course this doesn’t prove that Google’s search results are biased, but it does illustrate why some might see what you consider perfectly explainable mistakes as evidence of bias.

https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/totals.php?id=D000067823

If Google were to throw their weight behind a candidate or an issue, you’d have to agree they have the power to influence the outcome of an election. Of course – Google would never do that. No matter how their employees feel personally about things, that would not, could not, ever impact how they do their jobs. Any activities that give the impression that Google supports one viewpoint or candidate over another are easily explainable as mistakes and mistakes are going to happen. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Social Media's Power

CNN and MSNBC try just as hard or harder than Fox to persuade folks one way other the other.

You misunderstand my point and clearly have not read "Network Propaganda" which addresses that exact point. Yes, they try. But, they do not succeed. That is not true with Fox. As Network Propaganda makes incredibly clear, with reams of data to back it up, when Fox picks up a completely bullshit partisan talking point, the rest of the GOP-supporting ecosystem fall in line and repeat what Fox claims, no matter if it’s bullshit.

When CNN/MSNBC push their own equivalent lines of bullshit, they are much more likely to be challenged/called out on it, and the rest of the Democratic-leaning media does not fall in line behind it.

That’s a major, major difference.

Again, this is not anecdotes. It used some sophisticated programs to literally scoop up every major news story over the 2016 election and to see what patterns emerge. The data here is compelling. If Fox News makes a story (even if it’s totally bullshit), THE ENTIRE ECOSYSTEM REPEATS IT and it becomes persuasive.

When CNN/MSNBC post bullshit. It doesn’t happen, and the attempt to persuade fails to have the same level of impact.

If we’re talking impact, the data is incontrovertible. Fox News has impact.

Now: do you think they should be forced to give that up because it’s unfair to the side you disagree with?

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Social Media's Power

Setting aside the fact that Google absolutely does not have a monopoly on search (DuckDuckGo, Bing, Yahoo Search, etc.) and the fact that there’s a difference between a de facto monopoly (where everyone chooses the offering by a single company) and a de jure or conspiracy-based monopoly (where everyone has no choice but to use that company’s offering), whether or not Google or Fox News have a monopoly or not is irrelevant for the purposes of this discussion because the fact is that there is clear data demonstrating that Google does not leverage the power it has over its users to successfully persuade them to “leftist” viewpoints while Fox News does. (It doesn’t matter whether or not it tries to do so; the fact is that if it does, it is nowhere near as successful at doing so.)

Part of the issue is that when Fox News presents a viewpoint, that then gets repeated in other areas of the right-leaning ecosystem like the WSJ or Breitbart so that even right-leaning viewers who don’t watch Fox News still hear what they had to say. Additionally, virtually all Republicans or Republican-leaning individuals accept that news as truth and are rarely critical of right-leaning media that they watch. This doesn’t happen with Google (or with MSNBC ot CNN). You don’t have this sort of opinions-being-circulated-through-multiple-news-outlets or the like, nor the same lack of criticism of the news source from its target audience. In such a case, the size of their respective audiences/user-bases is completely irrelevant to their ability to persuade/indoctrinate sufficiently large numbers of people.

When it comes to political impact, regardless of whether Google has a monopoly, near monopoly, or no monopoly at all, regardless of whether Fox New has a monopoly, near monopoly, or no monopoly at all, and regardless of the relative size of Fox News’s audience compared to Google’s user-base or the audiences of MSNBC or CNN, Fox News is king.

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