Facebook Versus Freedom (2019 May)

by Barry A. Liebling

Mark Zuckerberg, the spectacularly successful founder of Facebook, has a long history of being an active leader in the high technology leftist cabal. He and his management team do what they can to promote Democratic candidates, dispense progressive left talking points, and tamp down (while hypocritically proclaiming complete neutrality) opposing conservative and libertarian voices.

If you appreciate the virtue of free markets you can see that this is “mostly” acceptable. “Mostly” because there is no valid excuse for pretending to be disinterested while actually being a zealot for a political cause. The management of the company should come clean and announce their objectives accurately – to bring about a world that is supportive of modern “woke” Marxism.

People join and use Facebook voluntarily. Anyone who does not like its policies can simply decide not to participate. As of now, while Facebook is the behemoth in the social media universe, there are alternative internet services that have different standards and cater to customers who have viewpoints and attitudes at variance with the Facebook elite.

Mr Zuckerberg is not content to be the biggest, most powerful, dominant player in social media. He yearns to shut down all possible competition by forming a partnership with the government where he and his allies set the rules that apply to everyone.

Recently Mr Zuckerberg published a column in the Washington Post where he describes his ambitions. While he touches on several topics, the most significant are his recommendations concerning harmful content and preserving the integrity of elections.

What is “harmful content?” To Zuckerberg’s gang it is anything they find offensive. Note that there are numerous instances of Facebook silencing or at least muffling points of view that are not in line with progressive leftism. Again, as a private company, Facebook has the right to decide what content will be on its site. But what disturbs Mr Zuckerberg is that other internet sites have the power to publish content that he does not like. His solution is to recruit the strong arm of the government to enforce Facebook standards on everyone.

Mr Zuckerberg writes, “We have a responsibility to keep people safe on our services. That means deciding what counts as terrorist propaganda, hate speech and more… But at our scale we’ll always make mistakes and decisions that people disagree with.” So he proposes that a government agency decide for Facebook – and for everyone else involved in the internet – what is allowed and what is forbidden. With the state in charge of identifying “harmful content” the opinions of bureaucrats would have the power of the law. No rival company will be permitted to have standards that are different from the Facebook “woke” agenda. And consider where the bureaucrats will come from. Some will be career government deep-state professionals. Others will be former Facebook executives who are eager to volunteer their services to the public sector.

Mr Zuckerberg writes, “Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree. I’ve come to believe that we shouldn’t make so many important decisions about speech on our own.” Enjoy the irony. Facebook has too much power over speech because it controls its own site. But to Zuckerberg there is no problem with “too much power” if the government is invited to control every internet site.

The founder of Facebook goes on to say, “Internet companies should be accountable for enforcing standards on harmful content. It’s impossible to remove all harmful content from the Internet, but when people use dozens of different sharing services – all with their own policies and processes – we need a more standardized approach.” This means that harmful content, now decided by each internet player, will be defined by one player – the state. There will be no tolerance for alternative standards. Anything the leftist elite considers harmful will be legally banned.

The top executive at Facebook asserts, “One idea is for third-party bodies to set standards governing the distribution of harmful content and to measure companies against those standards. Regulation could set baselines for what’s prohibited and require companies to build systems for keeping harmful content to a bare minimum.” Note well the sleight-of-hand in Zuckerberg’s statement. “Third-party” suggests people who are disinterested. Labeling government officials and former Facebook employees as third-party is fundamentally dishonest. In fact they will be carefully selected zealots who will enforce the leftist vision. All the while they will insist that they are completely unbiased and are only doing what is “best for society.”

Mr Zuckerberg is convinced that government must regulate the internet to assure that elections are fair when he writes, “legislation is important for protecting elections… We believe legislation should be updated to reflect the reality of the threats and set standards for the whole industry.” Of course, this is Mr Zuckerberg’s response to his bitter disappointment regarding the results of the 2016 presidential election. His preferred candidate lost, and he is calling for government action to make it easier for a Democrat to win. Note well that in 2011 Facebook enthusiastically and actively supported the re-election of Barack Obama, and the company had no problem with “industry standards” at that time.

The most revealing element in Mr Zuckerberg’s column appears near the beginning of the article. The Facebook founder writes, “I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators. By updating the rules for the Internet, we can preserve what’s best about it – the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things – while also protecting society from broader harms.”

The assertion is stunning because it falsely promises that state control of the internet will result in benign outcomes. His proposal will do exactly the opposite. Zuckerberg says “freedom of people to express themselves,” but he intends to shut down expressions he does not like. He says it will be good for “entrepreneurs to build new things,” when he knows that “new things” that threaten Facebook will be prohibited. He talks about “protecting society from broader harms,” while he means obliterating content that does not conform to his leftist ambitions.

Mr Zuckerberg and his coterie are clever, and they fully understand the implications of the Washington Post column. It is important for those who value freedom to grasp the significance of the proposal and reject it.

*** See other entries at AlertMindPublishing.com in “Monthly Columns.” ***

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