Aug 292018
 


Salvador Dali The burning giraffe 1937
Dali: “The only difference between immortal Greece and our era is Sigmund Freud who discovered that the human body, which in Greek times was merely neoplatonical, is now filled with secret drawers only to be opened through psychoanalysis.”

 

An ancient Latin saying goes: “Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi” (what is permissible for Jupiter, is not for an ox). It feels very much on topic when social media are concerned. And as the heat over their censorship is turned up, it may well be the decisive factor.

Reuters reiterates today that on May 23, Manhattan US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that Donald Trump’ Twitter account is a public forum and blocking Twitter users for their views violates their right to free speech under the First Amendment. The same, says the ruling, applies to other government officials’ accounts.

On August 10, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sent the Justice Department a list of 41 accounts that remained blocked. Since, at least 20 have been unblocked. Interestingly, the same Justice Department has stated that the ruling was “fundamentally misconceived” arguing Trump’s account “belongs to Donald Trump in his personal capacity and is subject to his personal control, not the control of the government.”

Potentially even more interesting is that “the Internet Association, a trade group that represents Twitter, Facebook Inc, Amazon.com, and Alphabet Inc, filed a brief in the case earlier this month that did not back Trump or the blocked users but urged the court to “limit its decision to the unique facts of this case so that its decision does not reach further than necessary or unintentionally disrupt the modern, innovative Internet.” “

Yeah, they would like that, to make this about Trump only. But that would be strange, because the First Amendment doesn’t only apply to Trump (and/or government officials). It applies to everyone, including Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and Alphabet. Or does it? Well, not according to the Internet Association:

“Despite any First Amendment status that this court might find in the ‘interactive spaces’ associated with President Trump’s account, Twitter retains authority to revoke access to both his account and the account of any user seeking to comment on President Trump’s account.”

Hmm. So Trump can’t block people from his own Twitter account, but Twitter can do whatever it wishes to that same account. Apart from, you know, banning him, even though many in the ‘left-leaning’ company would like to do just that. Then again, Trump’s 54 million followers make it a profitable account for Twitter. Still, this can obviously not stand. There are no different constitutions for different parties. And they’re not done:

“..there is a considerable risk that any decision that may recognize isolated public forums on Twitter will be misunderstood to hold that Twitter, too, can be subject to First Amendment scrutiny. …Twitter itself is not a state actor when it blocks or withdraws access to its account-holders or users, and it is therefore not subject to the First Amendment’s restraints.”

See? According to the Internet Association, the First Amendment doesn’t apply to its ‘members’, it applies to state actors only. It feels encouraged to make such statements directly by the wording of Judge Buchwald’s ruling. Put differently, Donald Trump’s Twitter account is a public forum but all the rest of Twitter is not (except for other officials).

Now, I’m not a lawyer, but it seems obvious that these people may well be shooting themselves in the foot after first having put it in their mouths. To date, the Internet Association’s members have been able to picture themselves as private enterprises not under the same rules as public ones.

 

But how much longer is that a feasible attitude? As I said recently, Twitter and Facebook have become the no. 1 warning system in cases of emergencies and disasters, and banning or blocking people from it is as dangerous, life threatening even, as banning people from having radio’s, phones or TVs.

When the first radio’s, phones, TVs were introduced, other warning systems were in place. But over time they became the warning system. As I put it earlier, first you’re an entity, and then you become a utility. And the US judicial system has acted decisively on this in the past, though by no means perfectly.

Twitter, Facebook, Google seek to find the magic sweetspot where they can do whatever they damn well want while raking in billion after billion. But they’re as much behind the curve as the political and legislative systems are. They have already fallen victim to their own success, but they either don’t realize it or try to obfuscate it.

Meanwhile, they’re still banning, shadowbanning and blocking to their heart’s content. They should understand that cannot go on. They’re not some Harvard hobby club anymore. They’re killing off the very legal protection they claim to be protected by, because their position in society shifts. It takes a while, largely because their rise has been meteoric, but politics will catch up; it has to.

Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray wrote yesterday:

Facebook has deleted all of my posts from July 2017 to last week because I am, apparently, a Russian Bot. For a while I could not add any new posts either, but we recently found a way around that, at least for now. To those of you tempted to say “So what?”, I would point out that over two thirds of visitors to my website arrive via my posting of the articles to Facebook and Twitter. Social media outlets like this blog, which offer an alternative to MSM propaganda, are hugely at the mercy of these corporate gatekeepers.

As for us, the Automatic Earth, Facebook closed our 9-year account a while back without one word of warning or explanation. We asked many times why, but never received an answer. Sent documents to prove who we are, nothing. Gone 1000s of followers, gone traffic, gone revenues. It’s simply too much power for a bunch of geeks, now aligned with the Atlantic Council, to have. It must be broken up.

Murray on the Atlantic Council: “..extreme neo-con group part funded by NATO and whose board includes serial war criminal Henry Kissinger, Former CIA Heads Michael Hayden and Michael Morrell, and George Bush’s chief of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, among a whole list of horrors.”

The companies could try and hide behind the fact that they’re international, and can’t be defined by US law only, but that would be a risky proposition. Julian Assange has by and large been denied his First Amendment rights by the current administration because he’s not an American, while Christopher Steele was granted his despite not being an American. Wobbly ground, that.

But yes, stay American and Baby Bells loom in your future. Not that this is the only issue Silicon Valley’s legal teams will have to tackle with:

Sammy Ketz, AFP’s Baghdad bureau chief, wrote yesterday:

.. it is not the news organisations who reap the profits but internet platforms, which help themselves to our reporting without paying a cent. [..] The media have endured a lot of pain for a long time before reacting to the financial drain, struggling with the consequences rather than the cause. They have laid off staff almost to the point of absurdity. Now they are demanding that their rights are respected so they can carry on reporting the news. [..]

We can no longer swallow the lie spread by Google and Facebook that an EU directive on such rights would threaten people’s ability to access the internet for free. Free access to the web will endure because the internet giants, which now use editorial content for free, can reimburse the media without asking consumers to pay.

Difficult? Impossible? Not at all. Facebook made $16bn in profits in 2017 and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) $12.7bn. They simply have to pay their dues. That is how the media will survive and the internet titans will be contributing to the diversity and freedom of the press they claim to support.

The Internet Association members don’t appear to get it yet, but their opportunity windows are fast shuttering. There is no way for them to keep on doing what they have, as they have, for much longer. They’ve drawn the ire of Donald Trump, and though they may tend to focus more on denouncing him, they’d better pay attention.

Because they don’t hold the cards. Or rather, they’ve been overplaying them. We know they’ve been meeting with the explicit goal of coming up with a general strategy for the November US mid-term elections. We also know they are left-leaning. And that they’ve banned and blocked many accounts.

All it takes is for a judge or the president to label them a utility, and put them in the same legal frame as a phone company or broadcaster. Because if they can’t be objective, while they are the no. 1 source of news for many people, the potential influence of their secret algorithms and obvious political bias is just too great.

And that is obstruction of democracy, and in the end, justice. As I wrote last week in The Shape of Trump to Come:

Trump will end the ‘monopolies’ of Facebook, Google, Twitter et al. [..] .. you simply can’t have a few roomfuls of boys and girls ban and shadowban people with impunity from networks that span the globe and reach half of the world’s population on the basis of opaque ‘Terms and Conditions’ that in effect trump the US constitution the way they are used and interpreted. Whether they are private companies or not will make no difference in the end.

I have the impression that they think they can fight this. All those billions buy good lawyers. But in the end, you can’t have the president under one set of constitutional rights, and Jack Dorsey or Mark Zuckerberg under another.

Sure, the intelligence community may protest whatever ‘solution’ the White House or DOJ comes up with. But they, too, must realize that elections that are very obviously skewed towards one side are a huge danger to America. And social media have obtained the power to skew them. Much more than a few bucks worth of Russian ads on their podium, that whole story is entirely insignificant compared to America’s ‘own’ social media.

Trump can simply say: if my account must be open, let that be true for everybody else’s too. Forbid any and all banning and blocking unless and until a judge permits it on constitutional grounds, on a case by case basis.

Judge Buchwald has opened that door by declaring Trump’s Twitter account a public forum. That speaks to the status of Twitter -and Facebook et al- in American society. She can’t take that back.

 

 

Home Forums Social Media vs the Constitution

This topic contains 7 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  John Day 3 weeks, 3 days ago.

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  • #42628

    Salvador Dali The burning giraffe 1937 Dali: “The only difference between immortal Greece and our era is Sigmund Freud who discovered that the human b
    [See the full post at: Social Media vs the Constitution]

    #42630

    zerosum
    Participant

    Simple solution

      WARNING:

    YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ CONTENT WHICH YOU MAY FIND DISTURBING AND CONTRARY TO YOUR BELIEFS.

    #42631

    zerosum
    Participant

    NAFTA
    What is the truth about farm subsidies?
    Who are the hypocrites?
    NOTE:
    I did a search “farm subsidies” and my computer got seized. I had to shut off my explorer.

    Culprit
    News articles produced by newspapers that are behind paywalls.

    However …

    https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/tbb-82.pdf
    April 12, 2018 | Number 82 Reforming Federal Farm Policies Chris Edwards

    The federal government spends more than $20 billion a year on subsidies for farm businesses. About 39 percent of the nation’s 2.1 million farms receive direct subsidies, with the lion’s share of the handouts going to the largest producers of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice.1 The current farm law—enacted in 2014—added new crop programs that have turned out to be more costly than promised. The law expires this year, and subsidy proponents are eager for Congress to pass another expensive bill.

    #42633

    rapier
    Participant

    We enter the Reichstag to arm ourselves with democracy’s weapons. If democracy is foolish enough to give us free railway passes and salaries, that is its problem… We are coming neither as friends or neutrals. We come as enemies! As the wolf attacks the sheep, so come we.

    Joseph Goebbels

    #42636

    VietnamVet
    Participant

    The power elite had a woman presidential candidate who would follow their wishes – enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else. They employed 40 years’ worth of dirty tricks and black propaganda. It didn’t work. The global overclass lost. It can’t work with laborers’ lives getting worse. Also, it is getting hard to ignore the West burning, rising seas or the worst hurricane to hit American Territory since Galveston in 1900. Scapegoating Russia also will not work. A shooting war between nuclear powers will destroy the world. One day The Automatic Earth will be gone. That won’t work. Ultimately, there will be a bloody middle class revolution unless there is a restoration of government by and for the people.

    Today is not the best of all possible worlds. We are the audience in an apocalyptic sequel of the 1930s being played on a Hollywood Sound Stage but for real.

    #42638

    V. Arnold
    Participant

    The Dali is fascinating. When I read about the drawers it was obvious.
    Edward Bernays (Freud’s nephew) and Freud probably influenced the 20th century more than any two other individuals; the damage they wrought in western societies is incalculable…

    #42642

    Dr. D
    Participant

    Put another way they are either platforms as they claim, neutral providers of a posting service that removes no one without an actionable crime, OR they are publishers, meaning they choose and form the news including editorials. There are existing regulations for both types, and all of them would be subject to Sherman anti-trust monopoly laws, none of which have been enforced for 40 years, insuring we have neither capitalism nor democracy.

    Trump’s personal position is also untenable. Existing law already recognizes that a CEO cannot, as Elon Musk did, simply spout off ‘personally’, as if their opinion is somehow unrelated to the company. And the point at which an employee, like the fry chef at McDonald’s becomes a spokesman for the company, is most ill-defined. Companies routinely demand humans be their spokespeople, 24/7 simply as employees, claiming their time and their lives and off-time actions in some bizarre reconstruction of slavery. At the same time, whenever convenient, they overlook the Hampton coke parties, and are not a representative of Goldman Sachs there. That’s because there’s no rule of law in America, just the rule of men and what you can (pay) to get away with. Whether you’re a ‘pal’ on the in-crowd, or an enemy we prosecute for breathing. No different for Zuck and Dorsey, Trump, Clinton, Cheroff, Assange, or Manning. If you’re a pal, all is forgiven: theft, treason, murder, war crimes, we understand. If you’re not a pal, a 10 year old tweet will have you lose your job and career without trial or appeal, and in so very many cases, of so many reporters, your very life. Sounds great! Sounds great to be on top! One thing, when Bosch and Bayer backed the Nazi party, got on top the in-crowd: before too many years, their in-crowd kidnapped their families and held them hostage as assurance of loyalty to the state. Right now a flip of in-crowd has made all the former darlings under investigation, and all the former crumbs in control. But as they say about jack boots going up the stairs and slippers tumbling down.

    This is why there is rule of law and not rule of men. Before long, it’s not the men who rebel, having been always abuse by police, used at the whim of the law and power, no, it’s the lords, the aristocracy, the oligarchs who put King John in a ditch and make him sign a Magna Charta of limits and rules and juries and evidence. Because when “the law is in my mouth” the only possible result is madness. Corporations are trying this now, being one thing with one judge and ruling, and the opposite with the next judge, or not infrequently, both at the same time, from paragraph to paragraph, word to word, as you see in CNN, or with the FBI or Dorsey saying on T.V. ‘we don’t have the bias we have because we’re left-leaning’, ikyn.

    So we certainly have these problems with picking the law, the rules, but a far larger problem with having no rule of law in the first place, and no rule, no desire, no expectation of there being any law but what I can get for myself, today, within everyone I know from the janitor to the President. And that does not go well. Such cultures lose, if no collapse, as we are losing and collapsing now, with these same men helping it along on purpose.

    #42643

    John Day
    Participant

    I feature you on my post today, and include much that you have put together on this, as well as this post of yours, Ilargi. Eleni is not actually wrong about those conspiracies, just abrasive, perhaps. Sincerely, John.
    http://www.johndayblog.com/2018/08/invisible-hands.html

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