You know that friend you have? The friend that does really weird stuff? And most of the time, you dismiss that weird stuff because your friend is probably just a silly person?
But sometimes you look into that friend’s eyes and you catch a glimpse of the depths at which they’re operating, and you wonder if they know exactly what they’re doing and if they’re doing it for some reason that you’ll never truly understand?
To me, the First Amendment can be that friend.
Sure, in the long run, it’s a good thing to have around, but it gets up to some really weird stuff sometimes. Like, when it allows actual Nazis to goose-step down the streets of Charlottesville, Va., or when it’s used by Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, as an excuse to profit off of misinformation campaigns.
A few weeks ago, at Georgetown University, Mark Zuckerberg spoke about the First Amendment, free speech and how things have changed.
“Movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo went viral on Facebook,” Zuckerberg said. “With Facebook, more than two billion people now have a greater opportunity to express themselves and help others.”
Zuckerberg is right; without social media, activists wouldn’t have as wide of a reach as they do now. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are critical for circulating messages and ideas to large groups of people. That is exactly why what he said later in that speech is very concerning.
“We don’t fact-check political ads,” Zuckerberg said. “We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying. I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy.”
On the surface, Mark Zuckerberg is just respecting our rights; he’s looking out for us, with our best interests at heart. But he’s not. He’s refusing to be held accountable for what someone using his platform might say. Sure, he’ll take partial credit for the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements, but not when somebody wants to blatantly lie, in a brazen attempt to incite hate and fear.
He’s not protecting us; he’s abandoning us to the consequences of his actions. It is a fact that the Russians used Facebook to spread misinformation in support of the President’s 2016 campaign. Since then, children have been put in cages, rights have been trampled, we have moved closer to global catastrophe and the President is trading military aid for dirt on a political opponent.
Now, with the 2020 election approaching, candidates know two things: spreading misinformation on social media is a reliable campaign strategy and that Facebook, one of the biggest social media platforms, won’t try to stop them from doing it.