The tech and web giants of Apple, Facebook and YouTube had just announced their ban of InfoWars and founder Alex Jones over allegations of “hate speech” when a report appeared making it clear that he isn’t the only target.
It was Apple that launched the newest censorship battle Monday, followed on the same day by YouTube — a subsidiary of Google — and Facebook, which removed Jones’ pages “for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies.”
The Gateway Pundit blog, which noted the convergence of tech giants banning Infowars, said it found in an analysis that Facebook has eliminated 93 percent of traffic to top conservative websites since the 2016 presidential election.
Now a report by Reason cites a “leaked memo circulating among Senate Democrats” that it described as containing “a host of bonkers authoritarian proposals for regulating digital platforms.”
The purported aim of the proposal is to save Americas “institutions, democracy, free press, and markets.”
Titled “Potential Policy Proposals for Regulation of Social Media and Technology Firms,” the paper was authored by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and leaked to Axios.
It proposes that social-media companies be required to:
- Authenticate and disclose the geographic origin of all user accounts or posts;
- Authenticate identities;
- Label bots;
- And be regarded as “essential facilities,” which would make them “subject to all sorts of heightened rules and controls.”
“Other proposals include more disclosure requirements for online political speech, more spending to counter supposed cybersecurity threats, more funding for the Federal Trade Commission, a requirement that companies’ algorithms can be audited by the feds (and this data shared with universities and others), and a requirement of ‘interoperability between dominant platforms,'” the report said.
The Democrats also want web platforms to turn over internal data and processes to “public interest researchers” to hunt down possible “anticompetitive behavior, radicalization.”
The paper does concede “attempting to distinguish between true disinformation and legitimate satire could prove difficult.”
But it’s all so necessary, claimed Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.,
The Washington Examiner reported Murphy is calling on other tech companies to ban “more sites” like InfoWars.
America’s future depends on it, he insisted.
“Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it,” Murphy tweeted Monday.
Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) August 6, 2018
The Washington Post reported the progressives of Silicon Valley long has been offended by Jones’ opinions.
“In acting against Jones in recent days, the technology companies cited unspecified violations of their rules against hateful language. Facebook said in a statement Monday it was removing four of Jones’ pages ‘for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies.’
“Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have long clung to the claim that they are neutral platforms and that they don’t want to be in the business of deciding what is true or false. The action echoed the abrupt removal of the accounts of some white supremacists a year ago, a few days after the far-right rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia. But companies are increasingly willing to limit free speech, after the backlash from Charlottesville and Russian manipulation.”
In fact, the crackdown was continuing. ZeroHedge blog reported Tuesday Twitter had suspended the accounts of several, including the director of the libertarian Ron Paul Institute.
Tyler Durden reported another was Scott Horton, the new editorial director at Antiwar.com.
“If you go to their accounts, you will see their old tweets, but they are prohibited from making new tweets,” said a statement from the website. “They were reported by @KatzOnEarth for criticizing his posts. Please complain to Twitter.”
And Metro, in the U.K., confirmed Tommy Robinson had his social media account on Instagram closed.
“Robinson, 35, was already banned from Twitter in March this year, supposedly for breaching its ‘hateful conduct’ policy. However his Facebook and YouTube pages remain active,” the report said.
He faces further court appearances on claims of contempt after he broadcast details of a live trial on Facebook against reporting restrictions imposed by a judge at Leeds Crown Court.
Campus Reform suggested that many in the tech industry are willing to violate the precepts of the First Amendment with speech restrictions because they lack knowledge of the Constitution.
“This month, a new study was released analyzing Americans’ perception of the First Amendment, as well as their knowledge of what it entails. As many would expect, the results were bleak,” the Campus Reform report said.
“For example, 40 percent of those surveyed were unable to list any of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, while another 36 percent could list just one,” the group reported.
So a reporter headed to Columbia University “to talk with young people about their knowledge of the First Amendment.”
“Offering $20 to any person who could tell me the five freedoms guaranteed under the amendment (Speech, Religion, Assembly, Press, and Petition), it quickly became clear no one would be going home with the money,” the report said.
“Throughout the afternoon, the majority of the students were able to identify 1-2 freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment, but no one was able to list more than three.”
There are, however, those who want to be exempted from the rules for the rest.
The New York Times reported Facebook was being asked to change its rules on how it restricts how “journalists and scholars” conduct research on the site.
It brings the First Amendment directly into the issue of social media.
The report said a letter from lawyers for a group of researchers and journalists asked Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to change the rules people must follow to use the site.
“They want Facebook to create a news-gathering exception to its bans on creating inauthentic accounts and on using automated tools that scrape public data about users for large-scale analysis,” the report said.
“We understand that, in the wake of revelations concerning the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook is facing new pressure to protect the data that users entrust to it,” the lawyers wrote. “This pressure is warranted and indeed overdue. Addressing legitimate privacy concerns, however, need not entail the obstruction of public-interest journalism and research.”
The Times said, “If Facebook made the institute’s proposed changes, it would be clear, for example, that journalists can create temporary research accounts expressing different political views in order to see which political ads are targeted at real Facebook users. Such accounts would be labeled to avoid fooling users into thinking real people were behind them.
“The letter to Mr. Zuckerberg asks him to voluntarily change Facebook’s terms. But its footnotes contained the outline of a legal argument based on First Amendment concerns,” the report said.