Executives from Google, Facebook, Reddit, Microsoft, Twitter, and the Internet Association met at the White House on Friday to discuss the influence content on the internet has on violent extremism and what, if anything can be done to help prevent more violent acts like the mass shootings in El Paso, and Dayton over the weekend, but without limiting freedom of speech.
With not one, but two mass shootings over the weekend that have be linked directly to social media accounts that regularly pushed different political ideologies, some that could be considered insightful in nature, the pressure for something to be done is paramount. The challenge: how do you do so without chipping away at the First Amendment?
White House Deputy Press Secretary posted an update after the meeting on Friday via Twitter, calling the meeting with execs from Silicon Valley as “productive,” adding their hope is that social media companies will focus more on “addressing violent extremism and helping individuals at risk, and to do so without compromising free speech.”
The goal of Friday’s meeting was to address how top social media platforms can identify and remove posts, videos and photos that could invoke actual violence in the real world, while continuing to operate “neutrally”.
CNN reported to have viewed a summary of the draft executive order Friday from the White House titled “Protecting Americans from Online Censorship” that would essentially allow the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in tandem with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to oversee the curation of content social media companies allow to appear on their sites.
This will present new problems, however. Currently under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, art of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, social media companies qualify for broad legal immunity when they remove content they’ve determined goes against their Terms of Service, in an act of “good faith”. According to CNN, the draft outlined on Friday would ask the FCC to find social media sites ineligible for “good faith” immunity if content from the user is suppressed or removed without their knowledge or if the decision to act on content sites have deemed inappropriate can be proven at be unfair, anticompetitive, or deceptive practices.
While Facebook reported earlier in the year they had taken action against 6.4 million pieces of content their Terms of Service considered to be “terrorist content”, 33.6 million posts that contained graphic or violent content, and 4 million videos they considered to be related to hate speech -or “borderline” hate speech”, they still allow groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and others to have a presence on their platform. While Facebook has no problem allowing content from these groups, they have banned conservative online personalities like our own Laura Loomer, Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, and Milo Yiannopoulos, labeling them all “dangerous individuals”.
“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” Facebook said in a statement in May. “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”
Republican lawmakers have questioned mainly left-leaning social media executives on their censoring of conservative voices on their platforms in Congressional hearings over the past year. The President held a social media summit featuring over 200 participants in May to address some of the obvious political bias social media companies continue to exhibit, which to this day they all deny, though the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. In addition to the summit, the White House launched a website for complaints of partisan bias against the social media giants. The website received over 15,000 complaints of content and accounts being censored across a number of social media platforms, all of which were offered up to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the draft.
The “Protecting Americans from Online Censorship” draft still has plenty of time to be revised before being officially implemented.
The FCC and FTC had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.
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