Facebook, Twitter, and other tech giants have spent the last few years trying to convince Congress and the American people that they don’t wield as much power as they do and that they deserve to continue benefitting from a sweetheart deal in U.S. communications law. That facade stops today after Big Tech unconscionably censored a New York Post report that exposes lies straight out of the mouth of their preferred candidate Joe Biden. Big Tech, led by Facebook and Twitter, have officially interfered in the election — and they’ve unequivocally proclaimed they are publishers, not platforms.
For too long, tech giants have enjoyed cushy protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which affords immunity for websites that host third-party content, treating them as platforms rather than publishers. The core of Section 230 states:
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
This distinction between platforms and publishers is important. For instance, a publisher, such as The Federalist, could face defamation lawsuits if it were to publish libelous information. In contrast, a platform, such as Facebook, could not be sued for one of its third-party users posting defamatory content since it ostensibly does not monitor what users post.
Facebook and Twitter, however, have taken a giant leap into blatantly partisan censorship — choosing what should and should not be visible to their users — proving definitively that they are not merely viewpoint-neutral platforms deserving of legal immunity. They function as editors and gatekeepers for what content users may and may not see.
Twitter and Facebook Censor News They Don’t Like
Both tech giants on Wednesday, just 20 days before the election, censored a story from the New York Post revealing that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden lied about lacking knowledge of his son Hunter’s Ukrainian business interests.
After repeatedly insisting he didn’t know about his son’s “oversees business dealings,” the New York Post obtained emails that demonstrate the opposite. The emails, which reportedly originated from a computer left at a Delaware repair shop, show not only that Joe Biden knew of his son’s business entanglement. They also reveal that Hunter introduced his father, then the vice president under Barack Obama, to Vadym Pozharskyi, a Burisma adviser, less than a year before Joe Biden lobbied for the firing of a prosecutor who had investigated the energy company.
The computer hard drive reportedly included other unpalatable content, such as “a raunchy, 12-minute video that appears to show Hunter, who’s admitted struggling with addiction problems, smoking crack while engaged in a sex act with an unidentified woman, as well as numerous other sexually explicit images.” None of this information is great for the Democratic presidential nominee.
While I will intentionally not link to the New York Post, I want be clear that this story is eligible to be fact checked by Facebook's third-party fact checking partners. In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform.
— Andy Stone (@andymstone) October 14, 2020
While the reporting might “harm” Biden’s election chances, it certainly doesn’t promote violence or hate or result in imminent lawless action — not even close. Nor should the article fall under the much-abused “Good Samaritan” clause of Section 230, a protection Republican Sens. Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio, Kelly Loeffler, and Kevin Cramer have worked to reign in through legislation. This so-called Good Samaritan provision protects platforms that restrict access to content deemed “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable” so long as they do so in “good faith.”
The New York Post’s reporting is none of these things. As far as Twitter and Facebook are concerned, the only problem with the article is that it negatively reflects on the “wrong” candidate.
Twitter and Facebook, under the guise of protecting against false information to ensure a free and fair election, have committed themselves to information censorship, appointing themselves the arbiters of what is true. In the words of Facebook:
On Facebook and Instagram, we work to keep confirmed misinformation from spreading. For example, we reduce its distribution so fewer people see it — on Instagram, we remove it from Explore and hashtags, and on Facebook, we reduce its distribution in News Feed. … [O]n Facebook, if Pages, domains or Groups repeatedly share misinformation, we’ll continue to reduce their overall distribution and we’ll place restrictions on the Page’s ability to advertise and monetize.
Over the next month, content across Facebook and Instagram that has been rated false or partly false by a third-party fact-checker will start to be more prominently labeled so that people can better decide for themselves what to read, trust and share.
Big Tech Pushes Left’s Viral Misinformation All the Time
But if Facebook and Twitter are so concerned about “viral misinformation,” why does their censorship manifest itself in such egregious viewpoint discrimination?
Facebook and Twitter didn’t appear too concerned about preventing the spread of the dangerous, government-crippling Russian collusion hoax peddled by nearly every mainstream media outlet. Big Tech did nothing to stop the spread of illegally leaked and falsely characterized, top-secret transcripts of former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s conversations.
These sites did nothing to halt the spread of untrue stories based on fabricated emails that claimed Donald Trump Jr. communicated with WikiLeaks before it released hacked emails. Twitter and Facebook did nothing to stop the spread of the demonstrably false “whistleblower report,” also based on falsely characterized and illegally leaked transcripts, regarding Trump’s phone call with another world leader.
With all that fake news still actively circulating on Facebook and Twitter while the tech giants censor reports about Hunter Biden’s corruption less than three weeks ahead of a presidential election, Big Tech has shown its hand. If there were any remaining doubt about the nature of these powerful actors, this election interference sure buttons things up. Nothing about habitual conservative viewpoint censorship is in “good faith.”
Twitter and Facebook make editorial decisions. They decide whose ideas are worthy of publication and amplification. They decide what you should see and what you shouldn’t. They aren’t unbiased third-party platforms. They are hyper-partisan and malign publishers that have just declared war on you.