User content is now routinely removed and edited by Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, et al, and it is increasingly evident they are doing so strictly along ideological lines. Moreover, users are routinely censored or banned for “hate speech” and other “terms of service” violations for simply expressing non-defamatory views void of obscenity or other non-1A protected forms of speech.
Leaks from social media giants (as well as demonstrable behavior) strongly indicate that these actions are not intended to maintain “civility” of discourse – rather, to censor opinions to achieve well-defined political goals.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) provides sweeping “immunized” protections for social media platforms to free them from liability, even when exercising editorial control. There are exceptions of course, such as editing or altering content in such a way to make non-defamatory comment defamatory.
But how about when a social media platform assists political operatives in doxxing ideological or political opponents, especially when those opponents are private citizens who have committed no civil or legal infractions? Section 230 is mute on this point, but a recent article by the Daily Wire seems to indicate that Facebook did exactly that.
Purportedly, Daily Beast columnist Kevin Poulsen sought and received the cooperation of Facebook in obtaining the personal information of the individual responsible for posting a video critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In his article, Poulsen went on to disclose personal details of the poster’s name, occupation, location, and contact details. This resulted in the poster receiving death threats and other forms of harassment.
This wasn’t news reporting on Poulsen’s part – it was an act of politically motivated vindictiveness and punishment, and Facebook helped.
Not only is this chilling, it’s downright dangerous. It’s time for Congress to amend Section 230 protections. If tech giants want to serve as “neutral” platforms that only exercise editorial control in cases of non-1A protected speech, I favor liability protections. But if they are going to use their monopolistic power to censor legitimate criticism and opinion – or worse – violate the personal safety and privacy of users, it’s time for them to be held to account.