Just Because The Rest Of The World Doesn't Have A 1st Amendment, Doesn't Mean It Can Trample Online Speech

from the slow-down-regulators dept

Cecilia Kang recently had a good article in the NY Times about Mark Zuckerberg's bizarre call for governments to take over content moderation on internet platforms. Lots of people pointed out that this is obviously unconstitutional under the First Amendment, and wondered how any lawyer at Facebook could have signed off on the statement. According to Kang, Facebook is quietly arguing that it really only meant for that "regulate me!" claim to be implemented outside the US:

In a flurry of calls and emails to regulators, consumer groups and think tanks — as well as in person, at a weekly breakfast gathering of influential conservatives — the operatives said Mr. Zuckerberg was not encouraging new limits on speech in the United States. His target was mostly overseas regulators, they said, and he has other ideas for Washington.

The article notes -- as people always remind me in the comments when I talk about free speech outside the US -- that much of the rest of the world views free speech protections differently than we do in the US. That should be fairly obvious from the string of articles we've had about other countries ratcheting up speech regulations on the internet in ways that would be obviously unconstitutional if tried in the US. The Kang piece highlights this by noting that those other countries are much less concerned with free speech:

Britain, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and India have adopted or are considering laws that require stricter content moderation by tech platforms. But none of them need to work around the culture of free speech protections, embodied by the First Amendment, in the United States.

There are two responses to this. The first, simply, is that just because other countries might not view freedom of expression in a similar light as the US does, that doesn't mean that people shouldn't continue to fight for similar levels of protection, in part by highlighting how when you move away from it, the most marginalized in society are often the first to have their voice, their criticisms, and their activism stifled.

But there's a larger point, raised by the UN's Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, David Kaye, who notes in a detailed Twitter thread that just because other parts of the world might not have a full First Amendment, that doesn't mean they're not obligated to uphold freedom of expression principles, which many of these laws likely violated. A lightly edited transcription is here:

These governments are bound by human rights constraints/protections - such as those in their own laws, the European Convention on Human Rights or the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.... The European Court of Human Rights has constrained government behavior when it comes to free expression restrictions. these aren't 1st am constraints but they are serious & have bite.

He also notes that:

...under human rights law... it's also critical that speech regulations be "provided by law". That means adopted by normal procedure, precise, not leaving too much discretion in government.

In other words, while the rest of the world may be rushing in to try to regulate speech on the internet, they may not be as free to do so as they think.

That doesn't mean, of course, that they won't try -- and that those tries may create huge messes for many years before things get sorted out in court. But to assume that the US is the only place in the world that respects freedom of expression is not accurate.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, censorship, free speech, human rights


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2019 @ 11:27am

    They say that we need the Right To Be Forgotten to preserve individual privacy and that reputation is a basic human right.

    Section 230 destroys the individual' right to not be lied about. Other countries do not permit this harm.

    American exceptionalism won't fly globally, nor should it. The internet will ultimately wind up a reflection of the sovereign nations which connect to it. If you don't like Europe walling itself off, that's not Europe's problem any more than what we do is their concern.

    The internet had a "wild west" phase that seems to be over. The pioneers no longer run it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 May 2019 @ 11:33am

      Section 230 destroys the individual'[s] right to not be lied about.

      No such right exists.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Itaka Umbrage, 3 May 2019 @ 11:55am

        Re: " individual'[s] right to not be lied about."

        No such right exists.

        Certainly it does. You're just implicitly limiting the notion of "rights" to those enumerated.

        Not all rights are written down! -- That's common law: everyone KNOWS what's right, "self-evident" and doesn't have to be explicit.

        Truth is THE fundamental requirement of civilization.

        It's ANCIENT: "Thou shalt not bear false witness."

        There's defamation, which is too weakened by modern lawyers, but shows the principle.

        Let's take a hypothetical, "Stone", in which YOU are falsely accused of a crime and haled into court to answer the charge. Prison for years is in prospect. -- STILL claim have no right to not be lied about? Baloney! You just as usual wrote the first trivial STUPID objection that popped into your contrary brain.

        And that's why it's absolute Truth that you're a nasty little troll, "Stone".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 May 2019 @ 12:00pm

          Let's take a hypothetical, "Stone", in which YOU are falsely accused of a crime and ha[u]led into court to answer the charge. Prison for years is [a] prospect. -- STILL claim have no right to not be lied about?

          Yes. I have no right to make other people speak the truth, and only the truth, about me. I have a legal right to sue someone for defamation if their lies rise to that level, but even if I win, that does not give me the right to force my defamer into speaking the truth about me — nor does it give me the right to force people who repeat that defamation into speaking the truth.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Bamboo Harvester (profile), 3 May 2019 @ 12:20pm

          Re: Re: " individual'[s] right to not be lied about."

          "You're just implicitly limiting the notion of "rights" to those enumerated. Not all rights are written down!"

          I should know better than to feed the troll, but that comment is so bloody asinine that I'm in shock.

          You're flat-out WRONG. The ONLY Rights US citizens have are those specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights, as amended.

          If you want a "Right to non-GMO food" or a "Right to a living wage", there's a process to make it so - Article Five of the US Constitution.

          I'd call you a halfwit, but that's giving you too much credit.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2019 @ 4:12am

            Re: Re: Re: " individual'[s] right to not be lied about."

            Where is the constitutional right to privacy enumerated?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              nasch (profile), 5 May 2019 @ 7:04am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: " individual'[s] right to not be lied about."

              Where is the constitutional right to privacy enumerated?

              In Supreme Court decisions.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2019 @ 3:34pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: " individual'[s] right to not be lied about

              Try asking the big angry man that same question when he finds you peeking into his daughter's bedroom.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2019 @ 10:33pm

            Re: Re: Re: " individual'[s] right to not be lied about."

            Oh no. Jhon boi is a full in fuckwit.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Gary (profile), 3 May 2019 @ 12:44pm

          Re: Re: " Trolls Lie

          Not all rights are written down! -- That's Cabbage law: everyone KNOWS what's right, "self-evident" and doesn't have to be explicit.

          And we know you are making this shit up. Whos manifesto are you parroting?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_law

          Truth is THE fundamental requirement of civilization.

          Then stop lying maybe?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2019 @ 4:11am

        Re:

        It does in other countries. It almost did in America, save for a 5-4 vote in 1976 by a SCOTUS that didn't think defamation caused a constitutional harm. That was in a world without search engines.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2019 @ 11:37am

      Re:

      Section 230 destroys the individual' right to not be lied about.

      You lie about people all the time... hypocrite!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Cdaragorn (profile), 3 May 2019 @ 12:56pm

      Re:

      Section 230 doesn't do anything to anyone's ability to speak or not. It doesn't change anything about what's legal to do or not. It literally just forces you to go after the person who actually committed the act you think is wrong and not some third party just because they're easier to target.

      Why exactly is it ok in your mind to punish someone other than the person who committed the wrong?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2019 @ 1:15pm

      Re:

      How are you consistently wrong? This is amazing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2019 @ 3:10am

      Re:

      that's not Europe's problem any more than what we do is their concern

      Funny, that's not what the RIAA think.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Digitari, 3 May 2019 @ 11:28am

    Democracy

    this is democracy in action, why are you upset? do away with the electorial college they said it's repressive they said, one vote for all they said.

    No, when the world is against you you cry foul

    It's laughable.

    this is democracy in action kiddos, suck it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 3 May 2019 @ 11:39am

    Zuck's call for government to take over content moderation is not bizarre at all:

    1) Extra regulation will make it more difficult for smaller platforms and start-ups to compete with Facebook.

    2) Facebook can now shift the blame from themselves to the government when it comes to removing posts, accounts, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2019 @ 5:57pm

      Re:

      Zuck just take his money build a rocket and get the hell off this planet.. and take that nasty facebook with him. SEEya

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Itaka Umbrage, 3 May 2019 @ 12:06pm

    So you're kind of defending Zuckerberg by deflection...

    This piece wanders, but at the very least, YOU should be screaming for Facebook to be broken up.

    Zuckerberg should be jailed and all property seized, just for the outrage to American principles, and the whole monstrous organization of which even you state its lawyers are knowingly promoting UN-Constitutional law taken apart. -- Oh, that may be excess, but it's the RIGHT attitude and direction to respond, not your weenieing little academic nitwittery. -- Which yet again ends up defending a corporation that now STATES it's an enemy of the people!

    How much more such can even you bear, Masnick? I don't think you're actively evil, just a typical product of your luck. So get off the dime. You cannot help but see dystopia looming if THOSE PEOPLE are let run wild.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 May 2019 @ 12:13pm

      Zuckerberg should be jailed and all property seized, just for the outrage to American principles

      By that logic, so should the current President of the United States.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 3 May 2019 @ 12:47pm

      Re: So you're kind of defending Blue's Mom by deflection...

      YOU should be screaming for Facebook to be broken up.

      Just what do you mean "Break Up" Facebook?

      So, like each state should have it's own Facebook, and users can't communicate across state lines? How does that even make sense?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2019 @ 1:00pm

        Re: Re: So you're kind of defending Blue's Mom by deflection...

        Maybe a dozen Facebooks and each one has 1/12th of your friends and contacts. That would rock.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2019 @ 1:20pm

          Re: Re: Re: So you're kind of defending Blue's Mom by deflection

          No no no

          It would be facebook, buttbook, armbook, shoulderbook, backbook ...

          Someone could write a song about it ...
          Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone, Neck bone connected to the head bone

          Will there be a boobbook?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Annonymouse, 3 May 2019 @ 3:10pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: So you're kind of defending Blue's Mom by deflec

            Rooster Book though such would get smushed on closing. Ouch

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2019 @ 1:34pm

        Re: Re: So you're kind of defending Blue's Mom by deflection...

        I'd always assumed that "breaking up facebook" primarily would mean separating facebook from the other companies it purchased.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2019 @ 3:13pm

          Re: Re: Re: So you're kind of defending Blue's Mom by deflection

          Which would change absolutely nothing about issues with Facebook.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2019 @ 4:14am

          Re: Re: Re: So you're kind of defending Blue's Mom by deflection

          Breaking up a monopoly does little more than turn it into a cartel.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2019 @ 1:55pm

          Re: Re: Re: So you're kind of defending Blue's Mom by deflection

          If we were to break them up, Facebook would become Face book

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2019 @ 6:03pm

        Re: Re: So you're kind of defending Blue's Mom by deflection...

        "Breakup fb?"

        Maybe commenter means to toss fb in the fire and have a BBQ.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2019 @ 4:14am

        Re: Re: So you're kind of defending Blue's Mom by deflection...

        Just what do you mean "Break Up" Facebook?

        You have them over to the White House for a Schvitz, then yadda yadda yadda, and it's broken up!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2019 @ 1:01pm

      Re: So you're kind of defending Zuckerberg by deflection...

      How would breaking up Facebook, assuming it even made sense, do anything at all to fix your perceived issues with Facebook?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2019 @ 4:13am

      Re: So you're kind of defending Zuckerberg by deflection...

      Given how Facebook started, is any of this we see now a surprise?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ben (profile), 3 May 2019 @ 2:51pm

    exceptionalism in action once more

    "Just Because The Rest Of The World Doesn't Have A 1st Amendment, Doesn't Mean It Can Trample Online Speech" ... and just because the USA has a 1st Amendment to its constitution does not make it apply anywhere outside the USA.
    Laws, cultures and languages exist beyond the shores of the USA (even the extended shores of the non-contiguous states and outlying islands) that are just as valid a set of standards to live by. Some of which have had various forms of democracy since centuries before the USA was even a dream in the republican rebels wildest imaginations.
    Yes, the 1st amendment does set down a decent principal, but it is not universal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 3 May 2019 @ 3:09pm

      Re: exceptionalism in action once more

      "Just Because The Rest Of The World Doesn't Have A 1st Amendment, Doesn't Mean It Can Trample Online Speech" ... and just because the USA has a 1st Amendment to its constitution does not make it apply anywhere outside the USA.

      No, but it does apply inside the USA.

      And if a company is deferring to international speech law to determine what speech it will allow on its platform in the United States, then that raises constitutional questions.

      Facebook is allowed to delete posts at its own discretion. It's allowed to delete posts outside the US as required by local law.

      Is it allowed to delete posts inside the US as required by law outside the US, when those posts are legal inside the US? IANAL but that doesn't sound right to me.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nerdrage (profile), 3 May 2019 @ 3:56pm

      Re: exceptionalism in action once more

      This bullshit again. No all cultures and laws are not "equally valid." Try living in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia or other oppressive states and you might learn to appreciate having actual freedom of speech.

      That said, there's nothing stopping people from ditching Facebook if they object to their lack of respect for the First Amendment. I ditched that BS a long time ago or rather never bothered with it. Maybe it's time for everyone to wake up.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2019 @ 6:07pm

        Re: Re: exceptionalism in action once more

        Don't tell anyone to try living somewhere to make a point unless you've lived there yourself for at least long enough to know what the hell you're talking about.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2019 @ 7:12am

        Re: Re: exceptionalism in action once more

        "lack of respect for the First Amendment"

        Facebook is in no way part of the government, at least not officially, and therefore the first amendment is not applicable. Why is it that so many people refuse to acknowledge this basic fact?

        Not surprisingly, misunderstanding of the word respect goes hand in hand with misunderstanding the Bill of Rights.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 4 May 2019 @ 7:10am

      Re: exceptionalism in action once more

      Some of which have had various forms of democracy since centuries before the USA was even a dream in the republican rebels wildest imaginations.

      Like what? I would be interested to know which countries have had democratic government since, at minimum, 1576.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2019 @ 7:15am

        Re: Re: exceptionalism in action once more

        Pirates - Yeah, bloody pirates were possibly the most democratic bunch in the Caribbean at that time.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Digitari, 4 May 2019 @ 9:33am

          Re: Re: Re: exceptionalism in action once more

          They also helped prevent global warming at the same time.

          (there was also less folks, so less hot air)

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2019 @ 4:15am

      Re: exceptionalism in action once more

      Technically, the USA was the dream of Athens, Sparta, and the 300 men who fought so bravely without frontal body armor.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2019 @ 8:27am

        Re: Re: exceptionalism in action once more

        and the 300 men who fought so bravely without frontal body armor.

        The misrepresentation of history as promulgated by Hollywood, just to make things more dramatic.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 5 May 2019 @ 9:05am

          Re: Re: Re: exceptionalism in action once more

          If you put armor on them you can't see all the abs.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2019 @ 4:32pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: exceptionalism in action once more

            The Greeks already had a solution - "muscle cuirass" which were sculpted to look like an ideal bare chest.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2019 @ 10:37pm

          Re: Re: Re: exceptionalism in counting once more

          Everyone forgets The Spartan Hairdressers and other assorted household slaves who fought so bravely at that battle.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2019 @ 4:39am

    Kinda wrong

    Morally you are probably right, at least by the morals we here in the US grew up learning. However, no other country has to give two shits about the laws here in the US, (or what's in the Constitution). Just like we are under no obligation to abide by any laws from another country. Kinda the definition of sovereign. Are you saying the the UN should rule the world?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matthew A. Sawtell, 6 May 2019 @ 11:11am

    Hm... wasn't a few years ago when...

    ... people that sounded alarm about foreign governments attempting to subvert the U.S. Constitution were considered 'conspiracy theorists'? As for the fine folks in Silicon Valley and elsewhere with a nice shiny platform on the Internet, I can only think of the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, and others who warned about the use of mercenaries to guarding a nations safety.

    Going to be an interesting run to the 2020 elections here in the U.S., whether the world likes it or not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2019 @ 2:41pm

      Re: Hm... wasn't a few years ago when...

      Interesting that industries that employee the largest percentage of foreigners are in position to govern the speech of American citizens. Conflict of interest mucn?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 6 May 2019 @ 3:20pm

        Re: Re: Hm... wasn't a few years ago when...

        What is the conflict of interest? Usually that term means someone deciding something can benefit financially from the outcome of the decision. I'm not seeing any such conflict here.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matthew A. Sawtell, 6 May 2019 @ 11:12am

    So... comments are being moderated?

    {smirk} Let the games begin.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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