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Hang Facebook

Written By: - Date published: 11:15 am, May 9th, 2021 - 30 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, facebook, human rights, Media, Politics, Social issues - Tags:

The decision by the Oversight Board of Facebook to continue banning Donald Trump is one of the biggest moves against free speech and the modern definition of its limits that the world has seen. The left may laugh now, but they should fight this precedent alongside with political competitors.

The rules that they originally made the decision on could become even more important if Trump decided to run for political office again.

There’s almost zero chance this will not end up as a test in the Supreme Court.

Those rules, the decision, and the fact that this oversight board has zero political mandate for its massive power, mean that they have implications far beyond the politics of the United States.

Political leaders around the globe have been allowed to break some of Facebook’s content rules if public interest outweighed the harm done by their posts.

Republicans are quite reasonably outraged. Every person who is a politician who wants to incite revolt or revolution should also be worried: if it’s good for the right, it’s good for the left. This is what this Facebook “regulator” said in its recent decision that “If a head of state or high government official has repeatedly posted messages that pose a risk of harm under international human rights norms, Facebook should suspend the account for a period sufficient to protect against imminent harm.”

So on that immortal and incredibly woolly judgement, we should expect to see Brazil’s Bolsonaro shut down, and Modi for inciting mass unmasked gatherings, or in fact all the way down to some Greenie protesting in a tree with some human harm around them.

And of course by using the word “hang”, the could probably ban me for use of a metaphor. It’s not of course in their interests either way, but that’s the ‘free speech’ quagmire they are wading into.

I’ve posted before about the need to regulate these massive social media ‘broadcasters’ who simply define themselves as ‘platforms’.

I have zero sympathy for them now.

Facebook, by refusing full state regulation as a broadcaster, have tied another noose around their own reputational neck.

30 comments on “Hang Facebook ”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz 1

    Same goes for the Auckland venues ( both public and private) who banned the Canadian duo, you can ban those speech you dont approve of.

    The suggestion of it ending up in Supreme court shows theres a complete misunderstanding of the 'qualified' free speech in US constitution. It DOESNT apply to companies and individuals. Facebook probably bans or removes material by the truckload every hour of every day.

    So ZERO chance if it even getting past even the lowest level of federal courts

    'First Amendment constraints don’t apply to private platforms, Supreme Court affirms'

    That was a hybrid of public-non profit public access TV channel

    • Tricledrown 1.1

      They were banned from venues but were able to freely speak anywhere else.

      • woodart 1.1.1

        quite correct. there was nothing stopping don brash and chris trotter opening their homes and inviting fellow free speakers to come in and say whatever they liked. maybe if brash, trotter and their fellow travellers had done so, we could have had a good laugh at the resulting dust-up.

  2. RedLogix 3

    A fascinating problem. The tech platforms thrived precisely because they were at the outset content agnostic. In making this transition from an open channel medium, to a publisher taking responsibility for content – they essentially demolish the foundation of their own business model.

    Personally I never engaged with FB, Twitter, Instagram or any of the big social media platforms – with the exception of Youtube, and that mainly because it's not very 'social'.This is something well presaged by Vernor Vinge in one of his later novels, that much of humanity would live a huge fraction of their lives on vast cyber platforms – while another significant fraction, like myself, would turn their backs on it, strictly maintaining their privacy and real world life. Often at considerable personal cost. I don’t understand quite why I’ve always felt like this, but while I opened a bare minimum FB account about a decade ago because my daughter asked me to, I always felt a repulsion toward using it. A few years later I deleted the account (with some difficulty) and have never been tempted since.

    In the medium term I suspect we're seeing an evolution. Already I've witnessed the net migrate from a techo-nerd wild west in the 90's (I rather miss that era), to an expanding commercialism in the 00's, to the rather sudden and deep impact of unlimited streaming video and social media from around 2013 onwards. We're still very much grappling with the implications of all this.

    Personally I think it's driving us all crazy to some degree. Human beings outsource much of their mental health, and the net doesn't give the kind of social feedback that we evolved to respond to. Indeed much of the past decade of social media can be considered a massive unregulated social engineering experiment with little oversight and no circuit breaker. It's not surprising then that FB finds itself obliged to react has it has done this week.

    Whether this OB turns out to be useful remains to be seen, but the potential for this global 'uber-moderator' to go rogue is both obvious – and not obvious as to how to contain it. If nothing else the CCP will be delighted to see the West putting in place the same mechanisms they've long used to rigidly control their own internal internet.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 3.1

      'In making this transition from an open channel medium, to a publisher taking responsibility for content –"

      Thats was always the case, they have had user terms and conditions from the start but often their ability to moderate anything other than a small amount wasnt there, videos especially were a major challenge because the volume and of course watching every one was near impossible.

      ' For years, we’ve had Community Standards that explain what stays up and what comes down. Today we’re going one step further and publishing the internal guidelines we use to enforce those standards. And for the first time we’re giving you the right to appeal our decisions on individual posts so you can ask for a second opinion when you think we’ve made a mistake.'


      Trump broke all the terms and conditions for a long time but was given a free pass because of his political position, but he eventually went too far … but trying to set up a putsch was never going to be OK. Im surprised the crocodile tears. He can set up his own platform and thats not something the US government can interfere much at all.

      • RedLogix 3.1.1

        The obvious problem here is that it hasn't just been Trump. There is dubious material all over FB from all possible points of the political spectrum. The big question is how the hell to handle all of this even-handedly.

        Because if this OB sets off down the path with a heavy handed political bias – the reaction will be swift and brutal.

        • Tricledrown

          No one else incited a riot and invasion of the capitol building.

          Advertisers put pressure on Facebook they are free to do that as well.

          • RedLogix

            So the OB is only going to censor Presidents who 'incite riots of the Capital Building'? That should make their job a lot easier.

  3. Stuart Munro 4

    I think Facebook finally got it right about Trump. For commercial purposes however, Facebook might be wise to tell all candidates for national office, to find another platform.

  4. Peter 5

    Do other private companies ban / censor individuals from using their sites?

    Should social media ‘broadcasters’ have different expectations and rules by dint of their size?

    • Ad 5.1

      Twitter blocked Trump.

    • woodart 5.2

      yes ,and no. any organisation, private or not, has the ability, and right, to choose their customers. as it should be. trump, or anybody else, shouldnt have the right to write vwhatever they please, on my wall. as the owner of the wall, shouldnt I have the right to choose who writes on it?

    • Phil 5.3

      If a woman accidentally exposes a nipple on their Instagram post, that can get them temporarily or permanently blocked from the site.

      But, of course, we can all agree that is a far worse 'crime' than, say, calling all Mexican immigrants rapists, or claiming that a legitimate election was fraudulent and having your supporters storm a federal building.

  5. ghostwhowalksnz 6

    So did Reddit, Snapchat, Youtube and a few smaller others. same goes for Trumps well known followers, probably countless others with similar comments


  6. bwaghorn 7

    Yeah nah trump is a truly dangerous man.

    He had his supporters attack capital hill ffs.

    Block the fucker out till he dies.

  7. Macro 8

    IMHO Facebook should ban him until 12 days after he commits to stop telling lies, stop spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories and insulting people and generally behaving like a spoilt brat. In other words this ban would only last until the 12th of Never.

  8. McFlock 9

    So on that immortal and incredibly woolly judgement, we should expect to see Brazil’s Bolsonaro shut down, and Modi for inciting mass unmasked gatherings, or in fact all the way down to some Greenie protesting in a tree with some human harm around them.

    How does a hippie up a tree pose harm contrary to international human rights laws?

    I'll also point out that calling for armed insurrection to overthrow the government (aka "revolution" or "storming the capitol") in NZ would seem to already make one a party to treason. Might not pick up a facebook ban, but might pick up jail time.

  9. WeTheBleeple 10

    Trump gaslit the entire world with a ceaseless and merciless barrage of hate and disinformation. He's negligently overseen hundreds of thousands of death. He's increased fear, confusion and mental illness in countless millions and emboldened the most shit people of the planet to bring out their murderous hate.

    Lies is truth, up is down, education is for dumbies – planet Trump!

    His legacy is death and insecurity. If he retained power the planet would have no hope of mitigating climate. He'd let the planet burn, so long as his name was on it. Block him? Tear him, his foul family and criminal cohort out of their beds and flay them till they cease to exist.

    And jam that bible he posed with up his fat ass.

    Free speech. Pffft. He had his chance, he's had a thousand chances.

  10. Phil 11

    banning Donald Trump is one of the biggest moves against free speech and the modern definition of its limits that the world has seen

    I love the irony of your very first sentence containing a mash-up of Trumpian 'greatest hits' – bombastic overblowing of events, creation of an entirely imaginary grievance, and complete ignorance of basic legal concepts.

    • Ad 11.1

      There are several legal avenues to constrain Facebook et al which are already afoot.

      In no particular order:

      1. Regulate them as utilities, as Clarence Thomas was edging for in this recent decision:


      2. Anti-Trust reform that breaks them up. Democrats agree on this …


      … and Republican leadership agrees …


      …they disagree on the next steps to do it.

      3. Revisit Federal Communication Commission regulations. They are entirely insufficient for social media, and they are in dire need of an update. We have never before had communications platforms operating on this scale. It's just a patchwork of US regulations that becomes more fragmented every time a new technology becomes more important.

      Last year following Trump's directive, the Commission were considering how to pare back liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. No action in this Biden era on it yet.


      It could well be the first big agreement that Democrats and Republicans make this term.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 11.1.1

        Trouble with any regulation by the Federal government is that it runs up against the First Amendment… no law ..abridging the freedom of speech..

        Controlling what Facebook and Twitter can or cant allow under a federal government law is exactly the speech regulation the First Amendment prohibits. There is no legal difference between making you 'spout nonsense' or 'preventing the spouting' of same nonsense.

        Didnt notice other utilities having speech rights regarding use of their 'pipes'. Indeed the utility part is the 'inter-network' itself.
        Justice Thomas is the worst person to look for legal guidance.

        • Ad

          They had identical thoughts about the freedom of radio on the early 1930s …


          … then television content and ownership in the 1950s…

          … followed by cable television in the 1980s…


          So it can be done in both content and in utility forms.

          Personally I'd be looking for the anti-trust breakup as one of the more likely routes. Here's some of why regulation in this sense isn't working at the moment:


          Both Republicans and Democrats are gaining the political gumption to have a go at it. They just need to get over themselves and figure their common ground on it.

          • Phil

            Both Republicans and Democrats are gaining the political gumption to have a go at it. They just need to get over themselves and figure their common ground on it.

            The word 'just' is doing so much heavy lifting in your last sentence that it could power Elon Musk's mission to Mars.

            Personally I'd be looking for the anti-trust breakup as one of the more likely routes.

            I think you're right that this is a risk to the major social media players, but it's entirely wrong to link it to individual freedom of speech on any given platform. The anti-trust concern is how media giants (e.g. Disney, Facebook, Amazon, Apple etc.) have acquired control of entire supply chains and are able to use them to price competitor-platforms out of the market.

          • ghostwhowalksnz

            Radio and TV have some regulation 'in the public interest' because the air waves they use are owned by the public and only those who have licenses for their frequencies are allowed to braodcast.

            No such 'owned by public' regarding the inter-network at all, In US the comms companies and others own the internet backbone. There isnt any 'power and frequency' issues as required by broadcasters.

            The US has a hybrid broadcaster in their ' cable TV channels' who dont use airwaves.

            Inter-network is already open access, as you only have to have a server and bandwidth to make your content available in competition to Facebook. facebook doesnt prevent other social media sites from working. They may be commercially dominant but they dont care what competitors say, so anti trust competition laws isnt going to get them to run Trumps speech or other nut jobs who break their terms of service regarding false information

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