New Jersey State Legislators Think They Can Get Trump Back On Facebook By Passing A Stupid Social Media Moderation Bill
from the keep-in-mind-the-only-legacy-you-can-really-shit-on-is-your-own dept
Facebook recently announced its decision to keep Donald Trump banned — a decision supported by its new oversight board. That decision — just like the original ban — made certain people very angry and very sure a platform’s decision to ban someone infringes on the First Amendment.
One of those deciding they should be the ones violating the First Amendment is New Jersey state senator Michael Testa. Announcing his ignorance on multiple platforms, Testa and a couple of like-minded state legislators declared they were finally going to do something about all of this not-actually-censorship.
Following the announcement that Facebook will uphold their ban of former President Donald Trump, Senator Michael Testa, Assemblymen Erik Simonsen and Antwan McClellan (All R-1) are introducing legislation that places penalties against social media platforms for the censorship and banning of conservative political and journalist voices.
“The muzzling of freedom of speech by social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have shown that prominent conservative voices are not welcomed on the world’s leading social media platforms,” Senator Testa stated. “Today’s announcement of Facebook’s six month extension of their ban on former President Donald Trump exposes that social media has and always will control the narrative that they see fit – unless leaders take action.
It goes on for a bit more in that same vein, calling for New Jersey centric efforts to prevent the “silencing” of former presidents named Donald Trump and anyone else “King Zuckerberg does not agree with.” You know, the usual idiocy that comes from people who are at their most ineffective when they’re angry about stuff they don’t actually understand.
There’s also whatever this is:
“This is not a Republican issue nor a Democrat issue, this is an issue of protecting everyone’s First Amendment right of freedom of speech,” Assemblyman McClellan said. “No individual or corporation should have complete power to silence those who share opposing viewpoints. Our nation was built on the foundation that all Americans, regardless of race, religion, or political opinion should have the ability to freely voice their ideals and beliefs.”
Yeah, but it’s mainly a Republican issue, if we’re being more honest than these three New Jersey lawmakers. And making social media companies do moderation stuff with government mandates backed by the threat of fines, fees, and other punishments is the exact opposite of “protecting everyone’s First Amendment rights.”
The bill [PDF] has arrived and it’s as ridiculous as you’d think. The new law would make social media companies engage in a whole lot more moderation related BS under the apparent theory that burying them in compliance paperwork will make them less likely to boot the Trumps of the internet off their services.
It shall be an unlawful practice and violation of the New 32 Jersey consumer fraud act, P.L.1960, c.39 (C.56:8-1 et seq.), if a social media website fails to comply with the requirements set forth in this section.
A social media website shall:
a. publish the standards, including detailed definitions, it uses or has used for determining how to censor, selectively suspend, or implement anonymous content or user ban;
b. apply censorship, selectively suspend, and anonymous content or user banning standards in a consistent manner among its users on the platform;
c. notify users about any changes to user rules, terms, and agreements prior to implementing such changes;
d. not censor a user’s content or material or selectively suspend a user from the social media website without providing notification to the user who posted or attempted to post the content or material, or in a way that violates State deceptive and unfair trade practices;
e. provide a mechanism for users to request the number of other users who were actually provided or shown the requesting user’s content or posts and provide users with the number of other users who were actually provided or shown that content or posts upon request;
f. categorize algorithms used for post prioritization and anonymous content or user banning and allow users to opt-out of post prioritization and anonymous content or user banning algorithm categories to allow sequential or chronological posts and content;
g. provide users with an annual notice on the use of algorithms used for post prioritization and anonymous content or user banning and reoffer annually the opt-out opportunity provided in subsection f. of this section…
In digital triplicate, one imagines. This is a long list of nuisances that will only help ensure the dominant players in the social media marketplace remain dominant. It doesn’t go so far as to compel speech by forcing platforms to retain users they’d rather eject, but it does make it a challenge to comply with the law. And that’s the intent, to be sure. You can tell that by all the times the legislators use the word “censor” rather than the word “moderate.”
And it doesn’t do anything to address the issue it claims to be addressing: namely, the banning of Trump by Facebook. If anything, Facebook’s first ban and the oversight board’s decision to extend the ban comply with most of these directives in terms of notifications and explanations for the moderation action.
Did I say there was no compelled speech — one of the big no-nos of First Amendment compliance? That’s only because we haven’t gotten to that yet. There will be plenty of compelled speech, but only for those most deserving of uninterrupted service from social media platforms: politicians.
h. not apply or use post prioritization or anonymous content or user banning algorithms for content and material posted by or about a user who is known by the social media website to be a candidate for office from the date of qualification through the date of the election or the date the candidate ceases to be a candidate before the date of election…
There it is. It’s another quasi-Fairness Doctrine — one based on the faulty assumption that social media services go out of their way to bury posts from politicians “they” don’t agree with. First off, most platforms allow users to sort their posts chronologically and/or make their own moderation decisions about the content they want to see. (See stipulation f. above.) But this attempt to address something that really isn’t a problem for anyone who isn’t suffering from a persecution complex allows the state to collect up to $100,000 per instance of “unfair” post sorting until platforms satisfactorily explain their algorithms and/or user preference settings to lawmakers who seem entirely uninterested in listening to them.
Finally, there’s this word salad that, if you squint at it conspiratorially enough, might be a response to Twitter and Facebook banning links to the New York Post’s bizarre “smoking gun” article about Hunter Biden’s laptops.
not knowingly take any action to censor, selectively suspend, or anonymous content or user ban a journalistic enterprise based on the content of its publication or broadcast.
If you’re curious as to wtf “anonymous content or user ban” means in the numerous places it’s used in this bill, it refers to any act of banning that is “not readily apparent to a user.” So, shadow-banning and things like that, although it’s not clear why these reps felt compelled to make up a new term for it.
So, it’s a bunch of different forms of compelled speech masquerading as a concerned-about-consumers bill. It invokes the state’s consumer fraud act meaninglessly, equating actual fraud with moderation efforts by private companies — companies that are free to choose who they do business with without committing a single act of fraud.
And if this does become a law, how would these legislators like social media companies to respond? By gathering even more identifying info to make sure New Jersey residents get all the additional notifications and faux protections the law puts in place? Or maybe suspected Jersey locals will just get a splash page notifying them they’re no longer able to use these services because platforms are unable to comply with the ridiculous demands of grandstanding Trump loyalists. Whatever the outcome, it won’t do what these legislators want it to do. It will only make these services less likely to welcome new users and more likely to ban content and the third parties creating it.