Marjorie Taylor Greene bans Twitter and Big Tech censorship

Not surprisingly, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is a politician who built her career by promoting a viral conspiracy. theories such as QAnon – was suspended Sunday from Twitter and on Monday from Facebook for publishing misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines.

It is equally not surprising that Greene and her supporters reacted accusing Twitter and Facebook of censoring it because of her political beliefs, not because of her repetition of false statements denial of damage from Covid-19 i vaccine efficacy.

But the suspension of Marjorie Taylor Greene from social media raises questions again ahead of the anniversary of the January 6 Capitol uprising and the mid-term election cycle of 2022: How will social media companies cope with the impending influx of controversial speeches by elected officials and political candidates this year?

“I did not see or hear anything about how [social media companies] they plan to entertain the team, ”said Katie Harbath, director of public policy at Facebook from 2011 to March last year, who now runs a technology policy consulting firm. “As far as I’ve seen, they’re waiting for something to come to their door that they have to decide on. I’m just really worried. “

During 2019 and 2020, the world was caught up in a heated debate over whether technology companies should intervene or not when politicians like former President Donald Trump used social media to broadcast harmful misinformation or incite violence. That debate culminated around the January 6 riots and Trump’s subsequent ban on access to the site. Earlier, Facebook and Twitter allowed Trump and other world leaders to get away with violating their rules because their speech was mostly considered “worth the news” – but they withdrew from that position with Trump’s ban. It was a controversial but justified move in the opinion of Facebook and Twitter, given the imminent violent threat to American democracy.

But in recent months, there has not been much progress on the topic of social media platform access to moderating politicians ’speeches. Facebook pushed the can down the road by 2023 on whether Trump will be allowed to return to his platform. Twitter is still in the process of making new policies about how it should control world leaders, which he says expects to appear in the coming months.

Now, Greene’s situation is a reminder that whether or not social media companies are ready for it, the debate over how politicians should be allowed to use social media is flaring up again. And that is happening in a high political climate polarized i guided by conspiracy theory.

Greene has long tested the limits of social media engagement conditions

Much like her political ally, Trump, Greene has built a career around making bombastic, inflammatory and false statements on social media.

Prior to her recent suspension, Greene had already garnered four “hits” from Twitter for posting misinformation about Covid-19, and 12-hour suspension in July. Her fifth strike, which triggered her permanent suspension, was a post that included a false statement that “an extremely large number of deaths from the Covid vaccine are being ignored.” Greene posted a similar message on Facebook, which responded on Monday with a 24-hour suspension of the bill.

Although Twitter has permanently banned Green’s personal account, she still has access to Twitter through her official congressional Twitter account which has nearly 400,000 followers. He is now actively raising funds for “Urgent contributions” to her political campaign to fight “Big Tech censorship”.

Greene, as well as some other extreme right-wing and conservative figures banned from accessing mainstream social networks, turned to the Telegram social networking application – which is more relaxed content moderation and encrypted chat – to reach her companions. “Twitter is the enemy of America and cannot deal with the truth,” Green said in a post on the Telegram in response to Twitter’s suspension. “It’s okay, I’ll show America that we don’t need them and it’s time to defeat our enemies.”

On Monday, Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made a public statement that did not mention Greene by name, but seemed to be referring to her case, referring to the famous Internet law called Section 230 should be changed so that technology companies can be held legally responsible for their content moderation decisions.

Today, below First Amendment of the Law, companies like Facebook and Twitter are considered private actors who are in line with their legal rights to ban anyone they want. This includes those like Greene who have repeatedly violated their stated terms of service.

But aside from legitimacy, there are widespread concerns about how much influence private corporations like Facebook and Twitter should have in politics. Facebook and Twitter have avoided responsibility to weigh in on political issues, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company should not be an “arbiter of truth” and founder and former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey freedom of expression the central tenet of company philosophy. But despite the reluctance of these companies to make judgments based on political speech, the reality is that both companies continue to face these issues every day based on people discussing politics on their platform. And that opens them up to criticism and accusations of censorship.

“Private companies have so much power. There are only a few platforms – two of which are Twitter and Facebook – that control much of public discourse, ”said Gautam Hans, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School who specializes in first amendment law and technology policy. “I think we’re all a little embarrassed about that.”

Social media rules on political speech remain murky

In a way, Greene’s case of violating social media rules was clear because it was Covid-19, an issue that Facebook and Twitter have moderated more rigorously since the pandemic began in early 2020.

But when it comes to other topics like Trump’s fake story of the “big lie.” about whether the 2020 elections were stolen from him, or whether the uprising at the Capitol on January 6 was justified, social media guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not are much more ambiguous.

During the 2020 presidential election, for example, Twitter and Facebook stepped up their efforts to control voter misinformation. Companies regularly tagged or removed information that made false allegations of voter fraud or election fraud.

But now, a year later, it is unclear exactly how those standards could change, especially as many Republican members of Congress and candidates continue to support the “Big Lie.”

In the immediate aftermath of the Capitol unrest, social media platforms have also taken urgent action to try to minimize the glorification of violence that has taken place. Facebook, for example, has issued an emergency policy to remove any praise for the attack on the Capitol, or calls for weapons to be brought to locations anywhere in the United States.

Facebook did not answer the question whether these measures are still in force on the anniversary of the event, when 34 percent of Americans they believe violent action against the government is sometimes justified, according to recent polls.

Facebook Vice President for Content Policy Monica Bickert said in a November call that the company was “taking steps to combat meddling in election and misinformation, while working to help people vote”, but gave details of potential new plans.

“We are pursuing our policies against the removal of content that distracts voters and will continue to refine our strategy to combat content that discusses the legitimacy of voting methods, such as allegations of voter fraud,” Bickert said in the call. “And this is all based on our efforts during the 2020 U.S. election, and we will have more to share as we approach next year’s election.”

A company spokesman for Twitter sent the following statement to Recode on Tuesday:

Our approach both before and after January 6 was to take strong action against accounts and tweets that incite violence or have the potential to lead to offline harm. The involvement and focus of government, civil society and the private sector are also crucial. We are aware that Twitter has an important role to play and we are committed to doing our part.

There is a long way to go for Facebook and Twitter to make their politicians ’speech policies clearer. But even then, the problem around the complicated boundaries of political speech will not be completely solved.

“You can have all the clear rules and guidelines,” Hans said. “But basically, there’s always some human discretion coming into this, and that’s a little confusing.”

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