Facebook’s Uneven Playing Field
Here is a riddle for you.
Q: What do you call it when laws apply to some people or organizations but not to other similar people or organizations?
A: An uneven playing field.
That’s exactly what exists right now with Facebook (and Google, Twitter, and other social media companies)
compared to newspapers, television stations, and radio stations. Here’s how it works: If a newspaper (or radio or TV station) publishes something false about you, you can sue them and get them to retract it, or get monetary damages. But if Facebook or the other tech giants publish something false about you on their platform, you are out of luck. The law protects them from responsibility for publishing false information! I find that stunning. The specific law, if you are curious, is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Is that fair to you? I don’t think so, and you probably don’t either. Shouldn’t you be protected from false statements wherever they appear—not just newspapers and TV, but also Facebook and Google? Of course you should.
If you’ve read my past columns, you know there are other issues that I think we need to address, like Facebook and Google’s ability to creepily track you all around the Internet without your permission (unless you think it counts when you give “permission” in the fine print of a legal release that no one reads). Then there’s the way they take other organizations’ content, publish it on their platforms, sell ads on it, and don’t share that revenue with the producer of the content—that is what is killing the news reporting business. But I digress.
If you want to take back your power to hold Facebook and Google accountable for publishing false information, call your Senator and Representative. Their contact information:
Senator Ron Johnson
Senator Tammy Baldwin
Your Congressional Representative
Do it today. You’ll be glad you did. And for that we will be grateful.