If someone says they are for free speech “but” —they aren’t for free speech.
While giving a speech at Stanford University, former President Barack Obama lamented the rise of disinformation on social media platforms. And while Forty-Four claims he is “pretty close to a First Amendment absolutist,” he also says that doesn’t apply to Twitter and Facebook.
“The First Amendment is a check on the power of the state. It doesn’t apply to private companies like Facebook and Twitter,” Obama said, adding “while content moderation can limit the distribution of clearly dangerous content, it doesn’t go far enough.”
Careful, Mr. President —you’re flirting with Orwellian dystopia here. Go on…
“[O]ver time we lose our capacity to distinguish between fact, opinion, and wholesale fiction. Or maybe we just stop caring,” the former president continued. “Our brains aren’t accustomed to taking in this much information this fast, and a lot of us are experiencing overload.”
That’s true. There are now many studies on the dangers of the “infinite scroll” of information on social media —it works on the brain much like addiction. But what’s your solution, Mr. Obama?
Obama goes on to propose a set of principles of how content should be moderated — “people are dying” from disinformation, he says. Content should be moderated based on:
Whether it strengthens or weakens the prospects for a healthy inclusive democracy.
Whether it encourages robust debate and respect for our differences.
Whether it reinforces rule of law and self-governance.
Whether it helps us make collective decisions based on the best available information.
Whether it recognizes the rights and freedoms and dignity of all of our citizens.
“Regulation has to be part of the answer,” Obama said, calling for ways to start “slowing the spread of harmful content” online.
“The former president cited the principles in the ‘Fairness Doctrine,’ widely criticized by the conservative movement, to help control what kind of information was allowed in broadcasting,” Breitbart reports. “He also called for social media algorithms to be regulated by government inspectors and regulators, just like other industries.”
Well, we’ve finally landed: government inspectors and regulators. Thought and speech police. And who watches the watchmen? Are we really going to empower a small group of unelected officials to control what we say and see in our social media feeds?
“We have a choice right now,” Obama says. “Do we allow our democracy to wither? Or do we make it better?”
We make it better. And we do that in the way Elon Musk wants to make Twitter better: we level the playing field, increase transparency, and trust people to think for themselves.
We are still allowed to think for ourselves in America, yeah?