by George Rasley
Conservatives who have suffered discrimination from tech billionaire Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook will derive a little bit of pleasure from recent disclosures the company made in a small courtroom in Redwood City, California.
According to reporting in the UK’s Guardian, Facebook has long had the same public response when questioned about its disruption of the news industry: it is a tech platform, not a publisher or a media company.
But on Monday, the Guardian reports attorneys for the social media company presented a different message from the one executives have made to Congress, in interviews and in speeches: Facebook, they repeatedly argued, is a publisher, and a company that makes editorial decisions, which are protected by the First Amendment.
As the Guardian pointed out, questions about Facebook’s moral and legal responsibilities as a publisher have escalated surrounding its role in spreading false news and propaganda, along with questionable censorship decisions.
The plaintiff, as the Guardian explained, is a former startup called Six4Three, first filed the suit in 2015 after Facebook removed app developers’ access to friends’ data. The company had built a controversial and ultimately failed app called Pikinis, which allowed people to filter photos to find ones with people in bikinis and other swimwear.
Six4Three attorneys have alleged that Facebook enticed developers to create apps for its platform by implying creators would have long-term access to the site’s huge amounts of valuable personal data and then later cut off access, effectively defrauding them. The case delves into some of the privacy concerns sparked by the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The Guardian reports that Facebook attorney Sonal Mehta argued in court Monday that Facebook’s decisions about data access were a “quintessential publisher function” and constituted “protected” activity, adding that this “includes both the decision of what to publish and the decision of what not to publish”.
David Godkin, an attorney for Six4Three, later responded: “For years, Facebook has been saying publicly that it’s not a media company. This is a complete 180.”
A 180 indeed.
Back in April of this year Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress, “I consider us to be a technology company because the primary thing that we do is have engineers who write code and build product and services for other people.”
If Facebook were designated as a media company, noted CNBC’s Michelle Castillo, it would face strict advertising regulations that govern television, print and other media types.
When testifying before Congress Zuckerberg did not say Facebook was a media company but did say it was responsible for what is posted on its platforms.
“We do pay to help produce content,” Zuckerberg said according to Castillo’s reporting. “We build enterprise software. We build planes to help connect people, but I don’t consider ourselves to be an aerospace company.”
“When people ask if we’re a media company what I heard is, ‘Do we have a responsibility for the content that people share on Facebook,’ and I believe the answer to that question is yes,” Zuckerberg said.
In other words, Zuckerberg wants to have it both ways; he wants press freedom, but not press responsibility.
As ConservativeHQ.com Chairman Richard A. Viguerie wrote back in April after Zuckerberg testified before Congress:
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before a joint session of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees was a disgusting spectacle of how the Washington – Silicon Valley Axis protects and reinforces the longstanding liberal bias in the media.
In his lengthy opening statement Zuckerberg did not offer one laudatory comment about any conservative users of the Facebook platform, but was quick to point out how Far Left groups, such as #MarchForOurLives, use Facebook to organize – listing it as one of the beneficial attributes of his embattled company.
The Liberal outrage expressed during the hearing by Democrats has nothing to do with Facebook’s questionable business model for monetizing its user’s data. It is not outrage over privacy, rather it is the same kind of outrage that they have directed at me and other conservatives over the years; it is outrage that conservatives used Facebook to defeat liberals at the local, state and national level in 2016.
As I noted in my three-part column, “Before Facebook and Cambridge Analytica Conservatives had the Viguerie Company” Zuckerberg is simply the latest in a long line of leftwing media oligarchs who want to exclude conservatives from their platforms.
Zuckerberg and the progressive oligarchs of Silicon Valley cannot be trusted to maintain a platform open to all viewpoints any more than the media barons of the dinosaur media at MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC, CBS and NBC can be trusted not to impose their Far-Left views through their platforms.
It is time to make Zuckerberg pay for his lies by imposing the same standards on Facebook that other media companies must abide by, including clarifying that Facebook is indeed liable for defamation posted in its publication and that the laws regarding fake advertising and political ads apply to it, the same way they apply to every other publication, Left-leaning or not.