Facebook Ads Argue for Increased Regulation of Speech

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By Quentin Choy

May 4, 2021

Over the past few months, I’ve been seeing an ad online regarding Facebook and Internet regulations. These two words together surely spell trouble.

While I support most financial and corporate regulation, this Facebook ad discusses a different kind of regulation. This isn’t the type meant to protect the consumer but is rather meant to further empower big tech giants like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter.

The ad’s argument goes something like this. The Internet has come a long way in just 25 years. Doesn’t this mean Internet regulations should have come a long way too? This argument is flimsy and assumes that viewers won’t ponder and think deeper about the question. Facebook basically argues that because the Internet has been around for a long time and has advanced, regulations should follow at the same rate.

Here is the ad:

This may make sense when you think of something like guns, pharmaceuticals, or air travel.

However, Internet and regulations are something completely different. I’d compare the Internet more to something like societies or nations rather than inventions. The Internet is simply another form in which people communicate with one another, whether through text, video, audio, or other medium. Since the Internet acts as a major form of communication, to regulate it would be like regulating speech.

I know that the Internet does not equal speech per se, but it is by far the most widely used methods of communication, with Facebook being a major player in that communication system.

The Internet ought to be as free and open as our own mouths. Unregulated and able to say whatever we please. It shouldn’t be the job of the companies to regulate what should be online or not depending on what they think is and isn’t true. While misinformation can spread online, that is one of the consequences of people being able to communicate with one another, just like in real life. I don’t think that people should be banned from the Internet for spreading misinformation, hate speech, or offensive language, like former President Trump was.

Trump’s banned Twitter account. Courtesy of CBS 8.

Instead, it is the responsibility of people to reach out to those impacted by misinformation and to gracefully educate them and to lead them to the truth. While there are truly bad actors online whose sole purpose is to spread hate, offensive language, and misinformation, the solution is not to ban them or to deactivate their accounts. The speech of the Internet should be as free as possible.

While speech is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution, the Congress and the government cannot infringe upon these rights. The Silicon Valley social media companies are not the government, but in some ways they play equal roles of the government deciding who is and isn’t accessible online.

According to Facebook’s regulation site, they say “we’ve taken steps to reduce the spread of misinformation and provide more transparency and control around political ads. We’ve also launched the largest voting information campaign in US history.” Regulating elections and political ads is not the job of a private company who has interests in elections and its results. The site also has a goal of stopping influence operations on elections, saying “our security teams investigate and take down coordinated networks of inauthentic accounts, Pages and Groups that seek to manipulate public debate.”

These ads should scare those across the political spectrum who truly are unapologetic advocates of free speech, and Facebook’s power in the realm of politics should be curtailed and limited.

It is not the job of tech giants like Facebook or Silicon Valley billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg to decide what is and isn’t true. It is not the job of CEOs of companies like Twitter and YouTube to decide what should and shouldn’t be displayed for people to see.

Image Courtesy of Twitter

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