Last week’s polar opposite decisions on the handling of political advertisements by Facebook and Twitter have predictably exposed the anti-free speech tendencies of the Left.
The former announced it would allow candidate and issue ads and exempt them from the platform’s fact-checking operation that it employs for news reports.
The latter said it would ban political advertisements altogether.
Advertisers crave access to Facebook’s users far more than Twitter’s, mostly because it is easy to specify target audiences (for example, those who “Like” Donald Trump). But both social media operations are desirable for politicians and activists to get their messages out, even for Republicans who complain about Facebook’s admitted anti-conservative bias, because they are an effective tool to reach desired voters.
“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” he wrote. “Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.”
Purchased “reach” means Twitter users can pay extra to make their messages (or tweets) appear to more people on the platform beyond just those who follow them. After Dorsey’s announcement, politicians can still tweet; They just can’t pay to increase the visibility of their messages to other users’ feeds.
Twitter’s decision likely comes with few negatives, as political advertisers spent only $3 million in 2018 on elections.
“It’s a way to look good without taking any financial risk for the company,” Nick Thompson, editor in chief of Wired, told CBS News.
But it is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to allow advertising that is not “fact-checked” that has the Left fuming, even though the company this year resisted a proposal by NLPC to pursue the hiring of conservatives to add ideological diversity to its liberal employment ranks, or to add conservatives to its board of directors. Moreover, Facebook continues to censor non-paid, user generated content by conservatives, and it can hardly be a neutral platform as long as the company itself takes positions on controversial public policy issues like the so-called Equality Act.
Undoubtedly Zuckerberg had more of a revenue-generating motive than did Dorsey, but he also said it was the right move for free speech.
“In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for public companies to censor policies or the news,” he told investors and journalists after Twitter announced its decision.
“From a business perspective, the controversy that this creates far outweighs the very small percentage of our business that this makes up,” Zuckerberg added, saying political ads would represent less than half a percent of revenue next year.
That fraction is still a big number. Facebook’s revenues in 2018 were a reported $55.8 billion, so .5 percent of that is $279 million.
But it’s the allowance of such ads outside of Facebook’s fact-checking process that has liberals enraged. They understand that President Trump, and his digital guru campaign manager Brad Parscale, have run circles around them in the utilization of social media.
“When Facebook is the principal news source for more than half of the American people, and the only source of news that most of them pay any attention to, and if it announces that it has no responsibility for the airing of false ads … how are you supposed to get accurate information about anything, let alone candidates running for office?” said 2016 presidential race loser Hillary Clinton.
Typical of elections, liberals seek to neutralize a delivery mechanism that their opponent utilizes effectively. And they want to eliminate that platform by placing it under the purview of one of their own effective devices: “fact-checks,” which are almost exclusively recognized as left-wing, especially under the administration of the rank-and-file at Silicon Valley-based Facebook.
The Left is also intentionally conflating ads with news, of which inaccuracies, exaggerations, distortions and outright falsehoods can proliferate on both Facebook and Twitter by those who share stories and links. But the beauty of those social media operations is that the millions of users can help police and refute those untruths.
But entering 2020, Democrats’ objection to Facebook has everything to do with Trump’s effective use of it.
“The problem is we have a president who will say anything to preserve his power, and two giant entities that spread his lies uncritically, like global-sized bullhorns,” wrote former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, in an opinion piece published by The Guardian, in which he advocates for the break-up of Facebook and Twitter through antitrust laws. “We can’t do anything about Trump until Election Day or until he’s convicted of an impeachable offense. But we can and should take action against the power of these two super-enablers.”
Of course, no one on the Left is advocating for the break-up or accountability for major media companies (like Disney/ABC, Comcast/NBC, CBS or AT&T/CNN) that run deceptive ads by candidates and advocacy groups of all political persuasions, much less call to account their often wrong news reporting. Sure, they are sometimes “fact-checked” by left-leaning operations like Politifact and FactCheck.org, but that’s like the fox watching the henhouse.
The bottom line is that their motivation is to silence conservative voices and amplify liberal ones.
“Those in the far-left of wing of the Democratic Party are afraid to defend their ideas,” wrote Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in an op-ed last week for The Hill. “Rather than engage in a thoughtful discussion based on facts, reason, and evidence, they’re urging Big Tech to simply make it impossible for anyone to disagree.”
“Mark Zuckerberg is to be commended for showing the courage to defend free speech. And Jack Dorsey should step back from his embrace of Big Tech censorship, trying to silence us all.”