By Brian Lonergan
The impact of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's recent appearance before Congress continues to have aftershocks in Washington. In a congressional hearing on April 26, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, cited a study which found that online media companies routinely censor content that is politically right-of-center. Rep. Smith specifically detailed how posts on Facebook that are critical of illegal immigration are likely to be categorized as "hate speech" and removed from the site. He added that Facebook's new guidelines on hate speech and fake news serve to "protect" illegal aliens.
The speech codes go further than just terminology; they now extend to ideas. According to Rep. Smith, expressing opinions such as illegal aliens "should return to their home country" would be classified as hate speech on Facebook. Credible polls show that solid majorities of Americans favor reductions in total immigration numbers as well as support a border wall to our south, limits to chain migration and an end to the visa lottery program. Yet, to voice these opinions on social media is to risk being classified as a hateful extremist.
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All the more disturbing is the fact that the identities of those who make these content decisions are hidden and their criteria murky. During his congressional testimony, Zuckerberg said that Facebook has between 15,000-20,000 employees reviewing site content. He also said the company does not ask employees about their political orientation, but conceded that Silicon Valley is "an extremely left-leaning place." Who are these content jurors, and why is ideological balance given no weight in their hiring when it is a critical element of the job?
When asked by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., to provide a definition of hate speech, Zuckerberg struggled to give a concise answer beyond advocating violence and human trafficking. If the founder and CEO of the company is unable to clearly define hate speech, how are the thousands of low-level employees entrusted to make daily decisions on content expected to do better?
Supporters of an open-borders immigration policy have had free reign over the language of the debate for too long, and it's time to set the record straight. The term "illegal alien" is not rooted in animus toward those who fit the category. Nor is it borne of some veiled racism against people with brown skin from Latin American countries. It is a specific legal term that has long been a part of American legal terminology. 8 U.S.C. 1101 defines the term alien as "any person not a citizen or national of the United States." If some people perceive that as a slur, it is due to the fact that the pro-illegal immigration movement has worked tirelessly to make it appear so.
There is also nothing extremist about enforcing immigration laws. There are many reasons why people support enforcement. National sovereignty, safe communities, higher wages and allowing our children to inherit a more prosperous country are just a few. To permit agenda-driven forces to characterize these reasons as unenlightened, xenophobic and racist is nothing short of rhetorical thuggery.
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To be popular, to not offend others and to avoid confrontation are fundamental human desires. Those with an imperative to weaken our immigration laws have exploited those desires to silence debate and ostracize those with opposing views. Online media companies with near-monopolies should not be in the business of using their power to advance certain political views while suppressing the legitimate sharing of information that is the foundation of their success.
Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.