North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer – along with Senators Ted Cruz (Texas), Josh Hawley (Missouri), and Mike Braun (Indiana) – has sent a letter to Facebook asking them to remove any restrictions placed on content produced by a pro-life group which was “fact-checked” by people with ties to the pro-choice side of the abortion debate.
The letter is below, and at National Review Alexandra Descantis describes what happened to prompt the letter:
At the end of last month, Facebook notified Live Action that fact-checkers had given a “false” rating to two videos shared by the group’s president Lila Rose. One featured Rose herself and the other featured Dr. Kendra Kolb, a board-certified neonatologist; both videos included the claim that abortion is not medically necessary. After bestowing a “false” rating on the videos, Facebook prevented Rose and Live Action from promoting or advertising content and alerted users who had shared the two videos that they had spread “false news.”
But as the senators’ letter points out, Facebook’s “fact check” was conducted by two abortion providers, both of whom also have formal ties to abortion-rights activist groups: Daniel Grossman, who is on the board of NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, and Robyn Shickler, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health.
That seems pretty egregious, but not surprising given the difficulty social media platforms are going to have when it comes to policing the content users post. In fact, I’m not so sure organizations like Facebook or Twitter should even try to police content beyond explicitly illegal content and obvious efforts to defraud and mislead.
Better to deal with the problems created by trolling and fake news, I think, than to have committees of supposed experts deciding what the rest of us do and do not see.
These are private organizations, so the 1st amendment doesn’t apply as law, but to the extent these companies want to apply the idea of the 1st amendment to their platforms they’re going to run into the same problem that created the need for speech protections in the first place.
If you’re setting out to police bad speech – be it “fake news” or hate speech or what have you – which perfect angels among us get to decide what speech fits in those categories?
“If Men were angels, no government would be necessary,” James Madison wrote in Federalist 51. “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
In other words, who fact-checks the fact-checkers?
It’s a problem our government has been wrestling with since it was founded. The social media giants are running into the same dilemma.
Here’s the full letter: