Star News Digital Media’s CTO Christina Botteri Discusses ‘Morality Bureau’ Facebook as Publisher Versus Platform

Star News Digital Media’s CTO Christina Botteri Discusses ‘Morality Bureau’ Facebook as Publisher Versus Platform

 

Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – guest host Ben Cunningham welcomed Star News Media’s CTO Christina Botteri in studio to discuss Big Tech censorship and the concept of publisher versus platform.

Cunningham: Christina Botteri is across the table. Cristina, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

Botteri: Great to be here.

Cunningham: Chief Technology Officer of Star Media and Grant Henry with Americans for Prosperity. Grant, thank you so much for joining us, too. Two days in a row here. Thank you.

Henry: I’m available for three if you need it.

Cunningham: I’m actually a little bit more alert this morning than it was yesterday, so I don’t know, maybe I’m acclimating a little bit. I was a little foggy yesterday. We were talking about Facebook and Project Veritas and their disclosures from a Facebook insider that Facebook has been censoring the people who have vaccine hesitancy.

That sounds like a disease itself. And it’s extraordinary the hubris that the corporate leaders have to come out and tell Americans, we’re not going to allow you to say that. That is not allowed speech on the Facebook platform.

That’s scary as the devil. And if they’re censoring something like that, you know, they’re censoring other stuff. What other speech on Facebook is censored? And I get messages every day about people that got a 30-day suspension for this or a seven-day suspension for that.

This literally is like some morality bureau where they are sitting up there and punching the button and the floor falls out from under you and your chair goes down in a hole. (Botteri laughs)

And nobody knows where you’re gone and you’re never to be heard from again. It’s almost like that, you know? And the arrogance of these people that believe that they can censor our speech. And obviously, there are lots of people concerned about this.

And Marsha Blackburn, in particular in Congress, is saying we need to revise Section 230. Grant, you were talking about Section 230. What does that involve? Where would that get us if Facebook became not a publisher? That’s what you were talking about, right?

Henry: Yeah.

Cunningham: They would not be a publisher, they would be?

Henry: A platform, basically. This all started, obviously, in the tech bubble wave, and we’re in the 90s into the 2000s. And the idea was if we have a website that has a message board or a forum, if you will, you can’t hold the website accountable for any random individual that would jump on there and just post whatever they want to.

Especially if there’s no process by which you vet this information before it gets on there. It’s logical. And to not stifle the growth of the Internet itself, the great frontier of information you have to give them some elite as some allowance, is that you wouldn’t give a normal publisher.

And to be fair, Facebook has always said that we’re not going to be in the game of dictating what is and is not true. We’re just going to let you get out there and have an interaction. But I will say, Ben, whether it’s from Twitter, say, censoring the information of the Hunter Biden story during the election.

Or whether it’s from Facebook censoring this vaccine information right now and whether it’s from Google shutting down stories about this Wuhan Lab leak, it seems to be fairly ubiquitous that we have a problem with access to information.

If I could be so bold as to play Devil’s advocate for a minute here, there are several libertarian-leaning Conservatives that will make the argument, or should I say just conservatism in general that will make the argument of, hey, this is a free company.

They can do what they want. A private company, let them do what they want with their own product. If Facebook wants to create a terrible product and drive its revenue into the ground, then, by all means, let them do it.

Something else to come up and take its place. And I don’t know, I’ll throw it out there to the audience to see. I have my own personal opinions on this, but it is something that Conservatives are left in a little bit of a conundrum to figure out how to deal with. Part of our world uses the free market. The other part says this is a major, obvious, objective problem we have here.

Cunnigham: Christina, what’s your take on that?

Botteri: (Chuckles) Well, you are wrong. People who think, oh, we’ll just wait until something better comes along. And the problem with that is that, as you mentioned, in the early days of the whole tech boom in 1999, I’m old enough to remember 1998, let me tell you something. (Laughter)

Cunningham: Cry me a river.

Botteri: At that time, the Internet was this grand frontier. That’s a wonderful way to put it. And special deals, carve-outs were provided for these new companies, these new endeavors that were going to connect people across the globe.

So Section 230 was sort of one of those special deals. And so companies like Facebook and Google and others, Twitter, and MySpace at the time got these special exemptions. And they grew and they prospered for the most part. (Laughter) They did. They grew.

They prospered. And because they knew what they were doing, and they improved as the technology improved. I’m thinking of Facebook in particular, Twitter, especially, they were able to effectively create a monopoly of instant communications and a freely available communications monopoly on the basis that they were going to be a platform.

And so when they start picking the winners and losers, they very quickly do not become a platform. They are a publisher. I think it’d be really tough for anybody and I’ll go nose to nose with anybody on that one.

Cunningham: And Facebook owns Facebook, of course, huge. They own Instagram. They own WhatsApp. And those are probably three of the biggest social media platforms around. And Microsoft owns LinkedIn. I can tell you that from first-hand knowledge because the Nashville Tea Party was thrown off of LinkedIn with 40,000 followers three weeks before the 2020 election.

And we asked, why did you throw us off? And they said, well, you were trying to influence the election. Us and like 100 million other people were trying to influence the election. It was just an absurd, absurd thing. They obviously didn’t like our politics and that I think they are beginning to respond.

The creation of this board where they decided about whether that they should keep Trump off is at least a PR attempt to create transparency. But they’re going to have to create a whole lot more transparency about how they handle these complaints.

Henry: Well, this is always what happens, right? The law always takes a prolonged period of time to catch up with technology. You certainly understand that. And I think that’s where we are.

But I will say ever the optimists, at least this morning, let me tell a quick story about what happened in the Tennessee legislature just this past session. Representative Mike Sparks, actually carried a bit that was fairly similar to what DeSantis just signed in Florida, and his ability to crack down on Facebook and social media’s quite obvious bias that’s going on right now.

Now, I don’t believe it made out of sub-committee. I’m almost certain it didn’t make it out of committee, but Representative of Michael Curcio made a fairly interesting argument in subcommittee, something to the effect of…

Cunningham: For or against?

Henry: Against.

Cunnigham: Good. Thank you for that.

Henry: Yeah, he made your arguments against why this shouldn’t pass. And his argument went something like this. He said, hey, I was just hanging out with my nieces over the past weekend, and I asked them something about Facebook.

And they almost give me this stunned, stoned perplex look on their face like they didn’t know what it was. They just don’t know what Facebook is. They’re not on there anymore. They don’t use Facebook.

So Curcio’s point was given another five years, and this entire argument itself will be moved. It will be obsolete because the product itself will no longer be used by the upcoming generation.

There are such a plethora of things to choose from nowadays, whether it’s Snapchat or Twitch, or TikTok. I can’t even remember all of them. And here’s the point that I’m making. Conservatives, here’s the optimism thing.

Conservatives, we believe in free-market choice, and we are doing that. If we can’t get the legal side, we are making the act of choice. Look what we did with Parler. We pushed that to the moon and back.

We pushed it so far that they shut it down and you can’t download the app anymore. Conservatives, we do believe what we say. We believe to some extent. And I think we actually go out there and use the alternative forms of media if we’re being censored on the other one.

Now, I think there is some conjunction use between making the legal aspect there. I mean, understandable fair, and free and at the same time, forcing free-market decisions to hold Facebook accountable at the same time.

Botteri: I’m sorry, but the thing of it is that when you have behavior that is unacceptable where a platform is, behaving like a publisher, you need to enforce the law.

Cunningham: Yes. I don’t think there’s any question. Something’s gotta change. Somebody has got to feel some pressure for free speech. And hopefully, that will evolve into something that’s useful to everybody.

Listen to the full second hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roger Simon and Andy Ogles Discuss the Immense Power of Facebook

Roger Simon and Andy Ogles Discuss the Immense Power of Facebook

 

Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles in the studio to discuss the Project Veritas Facebook whistleblower and the companies power as larger than many nations.

Leahy: All-star panelist, Roger Simon, Sr. Editor-at-Large with The Epoch Times and our good friend Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles. Andy, breaking story eight hours ago, James O’Keefe with Project Veritas, released documents and audio from Facebook. They’re going to start censoring people for vaccine hesitancy. Can you believe that?

Ogles: If you look at what Florida’s done in the bill that they’ve passed, this is akin to this social score.

Simon: In China.

Ogles: So to back up just a moment, Florida has a state legislator down there who came up with this tech censorship bill.

Leahy: Randy Fine. He’s been on our show. Great guy.

Ogles: Yes. And so I’m a fellow with Club for Growth. He is as well.

Leahy: Great minds think alike.

Ogles: Well, I guess, but it was one of those that we were seeing this coming. And so I reached out to the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the Speaker of the House. I sent them this legislation.

I implored them to do the same thing in the state of Tennessee. And they balked. And now we have a situation where you’ve got James O’Keefe unveiling and having actual proof that what we were warning people about is happening.

Simon: I can tell you why they balked. And that’s really horrible. The reason they balked is so many of our politicians are being fed money by Facebook and everybody.

Ogles: We recruited Facebook to come here.

Simon: So they’re bought and paid for, and we’re all headed to be Communist Chinese, not good Chinese. So it’s a very bad situation. And the governor ought to straighten up and fly right as the song goes.

Leahy: So here’s the actual quote. Based on the vaccine hesitancy score, we will demote or leave the comment alone one whistleblower at Facebook said.’ Unbelievable. So if you have a good vaccine, hesitancy score that is that you’re not hesitant to take the vaccine they’ll leave it alone.

Simon: That’s right.

Leahy: Like Senator Rand Paul. Senator Rand Paul has made the personal decision that he’s not going to take the vaccine. And so they will demote any of his comments at Facebook using this algorithm.

Ogles: Well, I think a lot of us suspected that Facebook was doing this, but now you have quantifiable proof that they are doing it. And again, either the fact that as in China that we’re being assigned a number, a score, and it is ranking our worthiness to be on their platform.

And some might say that this tech censorship bill smacks into the freedom of freedom of speech from the business perspective, but we’ve stepped in with antitrust laws to break up this type of behavior.

Leahy: Let me get the exact quote so you know exactly what happened. Fox News last night. ‘Investigative journalist James O’Keefe reacted on Hannity Monday to exclusive documents and interviews that were provided to his Project Veritas organization by two Facebook whistleblowers that purport to show the social media giant is using an algorithm to target users who disseminate messaging that runs counter to the company’s political ideology.’

O’Keefe told Hannity that Facebook initiated a beta test for the algorithm that classifies some users under two incremental tiers of what they dub vaccine hesitancy or your VH score without the user’s knowledge.

Based on that VH score, we will demote or leave the comment alone, depending upon the content within the comment. That’s what the Whistleblower said. Roger?

Simon: Speaking to what Andy said, a lot of people consider themselves a libertarian or conservative, complaining we shouldn’t be messing with private corporations. They are able to do what they want.

But no one ever conceived of private corporations like Facebook and Google Alphabet in the days that this kind of legislation was written. They are more powerful than 95 percent of nations. I would say they’re more powerful in every nation, but the USA in China.

Leahy: Roger, what’s your VH score? Has Facebook given you your score?

Simon: I’ll tell you, I’m going to be honest about it. I actually took the vaccine, and the reason I took the vaccine is I travel for work all the time and was afraid they wouldn’t let me on planes. And now I’m saying, well, I was a chicken and I did it, but my reason for doing it is probably accurate.

Leahy: Well, now I’ve taken the vaccines. My personal thing is I’m 66. I’m in that zone. The danger zone, if you will.

Simon: You’re looking good.

Leahy: My inner 46 says thank you, Roger, for that. And I looked at the evidence, and to me, there’s enough evidence to say, okay, well, it’s not going to hurt me, and it’s going to help me.

That was my personal choice, Senator Rand Paul, different choice. If you’re pregnant, if you’re a woman and pregnant, you may have a different choice.

Ogles: Well, I’m in the Rand Paul camp. I’ve not gotten the vaccine. I have no intentions of getting the vaccine. And that’s my choice.

Leahy: That’s your choice, because I don’t know your personal circumstances.

Ogles: That’s right.

Leahy: That’s for you to decide. Not for me, not for Roger and certainly not Facebook.

Simon: Well, you know, I feel sorry for it, because he won’t be able to go to Paris next year. But maybe he doesn’t want to go to Paris.

Leahy: Let me correct that. He may be able to go to Paris, Tennessee.

Ogles: Well, and let me tell you, over the next year, I plan on visiting Paris and lots of places in Tennessee, so it’s going to be a busy keep you busy.

Leahy: That’s good. But, look, this is very dangerous, very dangerous. And I do think here’s a bit of the problem. We have antitrust laws that could be used by the Department of Justice, but Merrick Garland isn’t going to use them. Nor, by the way, did Bill Barr.

Simon: No.

Leahy: A big disappointment.

Simon: H.L. Mencken again, it’s about the money.

Leahy: It is about the money.

Simon: I mean, that’s the scary part about it. People are so easily bought.

Ogles: Well, when going back to that quote and this VH score, what’s frightening about this or concerning is that this is a beta test of an algorithm that is going to be applied in a much broader use and broader function.

Simon: Or has been already.

Leahy: We don’t know.

Ogles: And so, again, this is just the tip of the iceberg. And again, that is why I begged the governor. I held a press conference. I sent a letter. I sent the actual piece of legislation that Florida passed and said, we’ve got to do this in Tennessee to protect freedom of speech and I got crickets.

I got nothing in response. And here we are, now we have the proof. And I hate to say it, but I told you so we saw this coming. And once again, we’ve done nothing about it.

Leahy: And that is, I think, a little bit of the problem here in Tennessee.

Simon: A little bit? It’s the biggest problem that may be facing America in the next 50 years.

Leahy: But in particular in Tennessee because Maury County in Tennessee, where our friend Andy Ogles is the Mayor there.

Simon: The one Tennessee free zone.

Leahy: It’s a bastion of freedom.

Simon: Tennessee should be a bastion of freedom. I mean, it’s one of the that’s interesting about it is being an immigrant here from California for three years now duration. I came thinking it was going to be pure red.

And actually, it’s one of the reddest states, and at the same time, the government is not as red as the people. It’s very weird situation that we have, whereas in Florida, the government seems to be more red than the people. I mean, we should be out front on these things rather than lagging behind.

Ogles: You look at the lawsuit in Texas not to get us off of this vaccine score thing from Facebook because it’s so important and it needs to be discussed, and we need to be shouting from the rooftops.

But that lawsuit against the government on election integrity. Tennessee, by the time we signed on to the amicus brief, we were like 16th or 17th, the decision had been made. The outcome was predetermined. So, again, we were following instead of leading. And we’re one of the reddest states in the country.

Simon: The politicians here should be in the front because they have nothing to lose. They got the people behind them.

Listen to the full second hour here:


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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Andrew Ogles” by Andrew Ogles and photo “Roger Simon” by Roger Simon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Dirty Bird With Two Corrupt Wings: Diamond and Silk Talk About Congress, Picking a Side, and Their New Social Media Sight Chatdit.com

One Dirty Bird With Two Corrupt Wings: Diamond and Silk Talk About Congress, Picking a Side, and Their New Social Media Sight Chatdit.com

 

Live from Music Row Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –host Leahy welcomed authors of Uprising, Diamond and Silk to the newsmaker line to weigh in on what’s going on in D.C., their new show on Newsmax, and social media site Chatdit.com

Leahy: We are joined now on our newsmakers line by Diamond and Silk! Good morning, Diamond and Silk. How are you doing?

Diamond: Wonderful. We hope you are doing well.

Leahy: Well, the last time we met was about a year and a half ago in Washington, D.C. A lot has happened since then. Give our listeners an update on what Diamond and Silk have been doing lately.

Diamond: Well, what we’ve been doing is calling out the obvious. When we look at everything that’s happening in our country when we look at what’s happening in D.C. You have the military in D.C. You have somebody that says, hey, the President, but we look at him as the resident.

Leahy: That’s a good line.

Diamond: We’re checking all of this out and we’re calling out the obvious. That’s what we’ve been doing. And what we’ve also been doing is telling people to drop the party affiliation and stopped picking a side and get on the same side. Because right now, our freedoms are being dismantled.

Silk: That’s right.

Diamond: Piece by piece and bit by bit and we’re tired of it.

Silk: And when you look at the parties, they’re both the same thing. One dirty bird with two corrupt wings. And with the way that our Republicans, even though they fought for our freedom, during slavery, and they are supposed to be the party of freedoms, they handed our freedoms over to the left, Liberal, white Liberals.

Leahy: Your phrases are really good. One dirty bird with two corrupt wings. I like that one, too. That’s very good.

Diamond: Well, we figured it out after this election. I’ve never seen anything like this here. And I know people don’t want you to talk about the election of 2020, but let me tell you something. There would never be another free and fair election if they don’t straighten out what happened in 2020 because constitutional laws were broken.

Silk: That’s right.

Diamond: We are a Republic government by constitutional law, and there’s no other law that supersedes that. So when you see people breaking the law, when you see the highest court in the land ain’t standing up for the law, where do we go? Where do we turn? What’s happening? We’re not a Banana Republic. We’re the United States of America, and we want to remain that.

Leahy: I’m told and I think this is true that Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook doesn’t like you guys very much.

Diamond: Oh, no, he sure doesn’t. Let me tell you something. They censor us so much it’s pathetic.

Silk: But if you look at it, a lot of them, the one thing that scares a lot of these Liberals is the fact that you have Black women or Black people who are awakening from the Democrat stupor. So they don’t like that regardless.

Leahy: About Facebook, it’s hard for me to keep track of when you’re officially on Facebook when they censor you. What’s your current status? Are you on Facebook today, or are you in the censor mode with them?

Diamond: Okay, we’re on Facebook, but we’re in the censor mode. We have over two million fans and followers. But if we come on live, they’re only going to let a few people be able to see it.

Silk: Right. They are purging our page.

Diamond: Sometimes people can’t like our page. They can’t follow our page, they can’t see our content, they can’t see our videos. These are the games that they play. They do it to a bunch of Conservatives. They do it when you start questioning their motives. They do it when you start questioning things like the vaccine. They want to say you’re a conspiracy theorist. But there ain’t nothing conspiratorial about want to those facts before you tell me to stick something in my arm.

Leahy: Let’s follow up with that on Facebook because we’ve had our own experiences with them. And the question is, you don’t know why. So you’re up on Facebook, but they won’t let all the people that like your page see what you do. When you talk to Facebook, what do they say to you?

Diamond: It’s the same old, same old. We’ll check it out, we’ll get back to you. All you can do is document this stuff because one day I just believe that the chains and fences are going to open up and somebody is going to be able to sue Facebook.

Silk: That’s right. But keep in mind that you can still stay connected to Diamond and Silk on our own social media platform Chatdit.com. What we’re not going to do is just sit back and cry like babies. What we’re going to do is join them if we can’t beat them and that’s what we did.

Leahy: Okay, so give me that detail on your own social media platform. Spell it out again.

Diamond: C-H-A-T-D-I-T.com.

Leahy: I am going there right now, and there you are on Chatdit.com. When did you open up Chatdit? When did you open it up?

Diamond: Actually, it was a year ago, April 26, and it appeared to be the same day that we were on the Hill back in 2018 April 26th. So we utilized that particular day as our day of getting started. So it was April 26, 2020, that we started Chatdit and opened IT up to the world, and we are growing leaps and bounds.

Leahy: How many people are using Chatdit now?

Silk: We have close to over 200,000 and we’re doing it independently. You know, we’re not trying to be like Facebook. We’re trying to be better than Facebook. We want to be honest with everybody, and we want people to come there. You sign up at your own will. And then one thing we do not do, we do not censor you. If there is something on there that you do not like then you can block yourself and seeing that person. This is how we operate.

Diamond: And whenever we put out a live video if we want the public to see it. We like to put it over there because you can’t talk about certain things on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter anymore.

Silk: That’s right.

Diamond: So we put it over there so people can see the full context of the video.

Silk: And the video is on our home page where you can see it without having to log in because we want you to see our content. We want you to see what Diamond and Silk have to say.

Diamond: Right.

Leahy: So what’s the home page again?

Diamond: Chatdit.com.

Leahy: When you say the homepage it’s Chatdit.com. Are you two doing live appearances and speeches, or are you just online these days?

Diamond: Okay, so we are doing live. We were on tour when this pandemic hit. And now that we’re still in the midst of this pandemic, we stopped touring because we didn’t think it was fair to make our people wear masks and have to follow all of these Draconian measures just to come to a show. We do have our new show on Newsmax called Diamond and Silk Crystal Clear that comes on Saturdays at 8:30 pm Eastern at a time. That keeps us busy.

We have a weekly podcast that comes out. You could find it on where you find your podcast. That way you get your podcast that’s weekly and that keeps us busy. And we do have a best-selling book called Uprising: Who the Hell Said You Can’t Ditch and Switch? — The Awakening of Diamond and Silk. And you can get the book at D&SStore.com and a signed autographed copy.

Listen to the full first hour:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Diamond and Silk” by The Alex Jones Channel CC 3.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TechLife: State Gov. Relations Manager for the Heartland Institute Samantha Fillmore Discusses Big Tech and the First Amendment

TechLife: State Gov. Relations Manager for the Heartland Institute Samantha Fillmore Discusses Big Tech and the First Amendment

 

Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Samantha Fillmore who is the state government relations manager at the Heartland Institute to the newsmakers line to discuss the institute’s mission ensuring First Amendment rights are protected from Big Tech censorship through state legislation.

Leahy: We are joined now by Samantha Fillmore. She is the state government relations manager for the Heartland Institute in cold Chicago, Illinois. Welcome to The Tennessee Star Report, Samantha.

Fillmore: Thank you for having me. Good morning.

Leahy: You are a Texan!

Fillmore: I am.

Leahy: You attended the University of Texas at Austin. You worked in the Texas legislature. You’re a big UT Longhorn fan and a fan of the Dallas Cowboys.

Fillmore: Yes, sir. That’s pretty much just about everything I’m passionate about. Football and politics, what more is there?

Leahy: What more is there? What kind of adjustment does a woman from Texas make when she moves into cold Chicago to work at the Heartland Institute?

Fillmore: Let me put it this way, my dog and I are not thrilled. And I just discovered that you have to own a shovel to shovel your car out of snow. This is news to me. Otherwise, though, I’m very happy to be here. Chicago is a great city and I love what I do at the Heartland Institute. So, I have no complaints.

Leahy: It is a great city. But it is also much colder than Austin, Texas.

Fillmore: Yes, sir. That is true. But I’m very happy to do what I do. And again, I think anyone who is able to maintain and keep a job in the last year that we had is I should only be grateful. So I’ll handle the snow. I’ll put on my big coat and look like a marshmallow and I’ll keep quiet about it.

Leahy: Where in Texas are you from? What county?

Fillmore: My family’s from Dallas historically. A very deep, Texas family that goes back about six generations. I definitely broke the norm by coming to Chicago. I’ll definitely be going back eventually, but this is just a fun place to be building up my career. But no I did definitely think often that Texas is calling me. (Chuckles)

Leahy: Are you from Highland Park in Dallas or you from Frisco or Plano? What part of Dallas are you from?

Fillmore: Okay, so you’re familiar with the area. My family has a historic home in Arlington. I grew up very close to the stadium and Six Flags. Which I somehow never got tired of growing up.

Leahy: My wife is from Texas near Nacogdoches in Saint Augustine, and we actually met when I was working in Dallas. I managed a retail store not too far from Highland Park at the intersection of Preston Road and Lovers Lane. I’m sure you know where that is.

Fillmore: I know exactly where that is. I can imagine that in my mind. A very smart man ends up with a Texan woman.

Leahy: Well you have a very important job. and tell us a little bit before we get into the government state relations work that you do. tell us about the Heartland Institute in the important work it’s been doing in the area of State sovereignty and states rights.

Fillmore: Absolutely. So the Heartland Institute is about 37 years old. And we are an independent and national nonprofit organization. So we have that 501-C3 status. And our mission is to discover and develop free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Generally, the way that translates is we just don’t like a lot of heavy government oversight regulation.

We think that states should always maintain, have, and push for as much sovereignty as they should. And so we are headquartered in Illinois as you mentioned around the Chicago area. And we just focus on providing local and elected state officials with research to push policy that goes along with our mission.

Leahy: So you wrote a great piece last week. Why Big Tech Censorship is Super Scary. The subtitle says, the rapid innovation of technology and the ways in which it affects our daily lives has baffled those of us who remember the pre-digital and dial-up days.

Fillmore: Absolutely.

Leahy: Talk to us a little bit about this alarming and frightening trend of Big Tech domination of individual liberty and what states and individuals should do about it.

Fillmore: Of course. So as we all know overnight basically in the blip of human time we saw this huge emergence of these massive innovations of Internet social media platforms. And there was something really good about that. It elevated this national conversation and political discourse to kind of become the modern-day public square for people to discuss their opinions and listen to thought. And that is still a miraculous thing.

But with that, we have allowed it to become factored into the hand than to a handful of powerful tech titans. And unfortunately, the way that laws are right now, they’re protected from liability and they operate as monopolies which has led to Americans becoming fearful. They see a lot of prominent and especially conservative politicians or people that might not have any viewpoint that falls out of the normal lose their ability to speak. And at what point does that stop? At what point does that just become the trend? And you get into the Orwellian almost dystopian novel of being silenced and unwritten.

Leahy: Some states have been pushing back in North Dakota some legislators proposed legislation that could or would allow the citizens of that state to sue Facebook or Google if they censored them unnecessarily. And that’s been quite controversial. I know your associate there who is the director of government relations Cameron Sholty had submitted testimony before the North Dakota House Judiciary Committee on that legislation. Tell us a little bit about that issue and where you see that going?

Fillmore: Absolutely. So we actually currently now know that there’s somewhere between a dozen and 15 states that have already begun to propose legislation that looks like that. And if not, we are speaking to them and try and help them craft that. So this will definitely be a sweeping legislative trend for the 2021 session.

And that’s important because every state legislature is meeting this year, which is not always the case. so pretty much as I’m sure you know, President Trump signed his executive order on social media censorship in May 2020. And that cracked down the ability of the Communication Decency Act and Section 230 for social media outlets to begin to censor.

Leahy: And if we can stop here just for a moment. You’re talking about Section 230 of the 1996 national law called the Communications Decency which prohibited citizens from suing Facebook and Google and other social media outlets for censoring them. Critics have said what they’re doing is they’re privatizing the government’s ability to violate First Amendment rights. That’s the criticism of it.

Fillmore: Yes sir it is. That is correct. So the way that it’s written and what in the law of Section 230 it absorbs these large platforms from ever having to be liable for material that their users post because they are just simply hosting platforms. However, the more that they censor certain tweets or certain people they turn into an editorial context.

So then the logic is that if you’re that in turn to this editorial contact, you should then be able to be liable for these actions. And the way that states are fighting against that such as North Dakota are is with legislation that would allow that you said private citizens to take private action in court if they feel that they have been silenced unnecessarily.

What is important to note about this is that it does have to be proven through all this legislation that they did not break any of the Good Samaritan laws or rules-based in the industry that goes along with posting. Which I think should be fair. Obviously, anyone outwardly pushing for violence was saying atrocious things which we have seen on social media that that does violate the terms and conditions that you sign up for and some of these platforms.

But if you were saying something simply political or something that has nothing to do with politics until it got taken down and you were still within those agreements then that is actionable to be taken into a court of law.

Leahy: So give us an update on the possibility and likelihood that this legislation in North Dakota will move towards passage in both the House and the Senate and then signature by Governor Doug Burgum.

Fillmore: Well, it is still pretty early in the legislative process however, the committee meetings are going very well. And I am very confident in the ability of the good legislators in North Dakota to see the value in this. And it is a concern for both the Senators and the Representatives that I know in North Dakota but also around the nation. I think this could be sweeping legislation that has lasting effects and can stick in many states and hopefully go across a multitude of Governors’ desks.

Listen to the full second hour here:


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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Samantha Fillmore” by The Heartland Institute. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TechLife: New York Attorney Akiva Cohen Weighs in on Section 230 Laws and Freedom of Speech

TechLife: New York Attorney Akiva Cohen Weighs in on Section 230 Laws and Freedom of Speech

 

Live from Music Row Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed New York City attorney Akiva Cohen to the newsmakers line to discuss the dynamics of the Section 230 law citing how it is constitutional in relation to the recently proposed state law by North Dakota legislators that would allow citizens to sue Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

Leahy: We are delighted to welcome you to our newsmakers line to joining myself and all-star panelist Crom Carmichael Mr. Akiva Cohen. He is an attorney in New York City and a graduate of Columbia Law School where he was a Harlan Fisk Stone Scholar. Pretty smart guy. And also drew my interest because Mr. Cohen has commented on a proposed North Dakota law that would allow residents to sue Facebook, Google, Twitter, and all those folks. Mr. Cohen welcome to the Tennessee Star Report.

Cohen: Thank you, Michael. Thank you for having me on. I appreciate you guys making me jealous right at the start of this.

Leahy: Why are we making you jealous?

Cohen: You had me holding on listening to the radio through your weather report. It’s not going to hit 64 degrees here in New York for another several months.

Leahy: Akiva, let me do this. Now I know you practice law in New York City but you are a smart guy. We have no state income tax here in Tennessee (Cohen chuckles) and we have lots of great law firms. You all should think about coming down sometime. Crom wants to say something to you.

Carmichael: But yeah, the first test is, you know when we get into the back and forth on the question at hand is you’re going to have to defend living in New York. (Laughter)

Cohen: This is by far the most pleasant place in the world to be a Jets fan and there are not really many places where it’s pleasant to be a Jets fan. So, you know.

Leahy: All right. Well look, so caught our attention because you know, one of the themes of this program is that right now there needs to be pushback from state governments against the usurpations of the national federal government. that’s our key theme of this program. And we saw an article about six state legislators in North Dakota who had introduced a state law that’s not under consideration that would allow residents of North Dakota to sue Facebook and Google and Twitter if they censor them. And you actually don’t think that that’s got much of a chance. Tell us your argument.

Cohen: So there are a couple of problems. The first problem is just a purely straightforward technical legal problem, which is the Constitution has a supremacy clause. The supremacy clause says that if the federal government steps in and regulates something in an area where it has authority state governments can’t vary from that.

So for example, if the federal government says look, for purposes of interstate commerce we want to make sure that money and goods can flow through freely and therefore no state can impose a tariff on steel. You can’t have a state that comes in and says, well, you know what federal government that’s very nice, we’d like to impose a tariff on steel. That won’t be allowed.

The immunity section that these North Dakota legislators are trying to override is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which says that basically, internet companies can allow comments on their websites. And if they moderate user content on their website, they can’t be sued for what they do in moderating it. and in that section it expressly says and this preempts any contrary state law.

This is Congress making a policy decision that this is best for Interstate Commerce and no state law can vary from it. So right at the outset, you can’t have a state law that says well, we don’t care federal government, we’re going to create a state cause of action to sue for the very thing that you said nobody can be sued for and by the way, where pre-empting state law. So it’s dead in the water. the question then becomes aside from the fact that is dead in the water legally the straightforwardly, as a policy matter is this really something that we want? And to me, that’s the more interesting question.

Leahy: And Akiva, if you could hold with us. When we come back we’re going to push back…

Carmichael: On the part that he says is the most important policy matter. I like that. That would be a good discussion.

Leahy: Well just as a heads up. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Vivek Ramaswamy and Jed Rubenfeld, but they had a contrary view in The Wall Street Journal will talk to you about that after the break.

(Commercial break)

Leahy: I’m going to read an excerpt brief excerpt from an article in The Wall Street Journal. I don’t know if you read it by Vivek Ramaswamy and Jed Rubenfeld. Have you seen this article?

Cohen: I’ve seen bits and pieces of it. I’m looking forward to hearing.

Leahy: I’ll read the excerpt and get your reaction to it. Conventional wisdom holds that technology companies are free to regulate content because they are private and the first amendment protects only against government censorship. That view is wrong. Google, Facebook, and Twitter should be treated as state actors under existing legal doctrines using a combination of statutory inducements and regulatory threats Congress has co-opted Silicon Valley to do through the back door what government cannot directly accomplish under the Constitution.

It is axiomatic the Supreme Court held in Norwood versus Harrison in 1973 that the government ‘may not induce encourage or promote private persons to accomplish what is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish.’ That’s what Congress did by enacting section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Well, there it is. What’s your reaction Akiva?

Cohen: So my reaction is it fundamentally misunderstands Section 230. So Section 230 was enacted not in an attempt to induce anybody to censor things but to protect decisions that tech companies had already made that there was certain content they didn’t want on their servers. And essentially what had happened was somebody sued CompuServe because on a CompuServe message board where one CompuServe user had posted something defamatory about another CompuServe user.

And CompuServe in that litigation basically said look, we don’t have anything to do with that. This is between two users. We didn’t post it. We didn’t write it. We didn’t review it. And what the court there said was, yeah, but when people post things that for example offered to sell cocaine or offer to sell drugs you delete that stuff. So you have the capacity to moderate and you didn’t moderate it here.

So we are going to hold you liable for the private defamation that one of your users committed against another user. And this was a pretty big problem. And it’s a big problem because people keep misunderstanding what the internet is because we write stuff on the internet. So people think about the internet the same way they think about books or newspapers.

But really the internet Michael is more like your talk radio show. Users post things on websites without the website being able to review them in advance and decide if this something I want to be published or not. And I assume you guys have a seven-second delay or something on here in case I lose my mind and start cursing. But I got to ask you. If you were in a situation where you didn’t have a seven-second delay and any time a caller called your radio show they could say something that would expose you to millions of dollars in liability and legal costs. How many callers do you think you would have on your radio show?

Carmichael: Let me jump in. This is Crom Carmichael. I think you’re approaching it from one direction but that’s not what the issue is today. The issue today is not somebody posting something and then somebody else wanting to sue. The issue today is that these large companies are picking and choosing who they would like to be able to express themselves on their platforms.

And that’s an entirely different thing that is proactively telling Candace Owens a black female that she will not have a Twitter account. It’s telling Candace Owen, a Black female she cannot have a Facebook page. It is telling Brandon Straka a gay person that he cannot have a Twitter account because they don’t like what he is saying. So that’s the issue. The issue today is they are discriminating against particular points of view rather than doing what Section 230 is supposed to do. And that is to make them so that they can allow all parties to debate with each other and not be sued.

Cohen: Sure. But now you’re making a different argument than the argument in The Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal piece said well, this is really state action because really what happened was Congress enacted Section 230 because it wanted private companies to have the ability, and to specifically they wanted them to engage in viewpoint discrimination.

So really when these private companies are engaging in viewpoint discrimination and saying we don’t want this type of topic or this type of commentary on our website it’s not really private. It’s really Congress doing it through other means and my point is it wasn’t Congress doing it through other means. That’s not what Section 230 was enacted to do.

As you said, what Section 230 was enacted to do was to provide a liability shield that enabled private companies to decide for themselves what type of content they want to have on their website. That to me is a core First Amendment right that anybody who cares about free speech should defend. One of my heroes from way before I ever became a lawyer was David Goldberger.

I don’t know if you guys know the story of David Goldberger, but he’s the Jewish ACLU lawyer who defended the Nazis marching through Skokie, Illinois in the 70s when Skokie, Illinois said look, we really don’t like Nazis. We don’t want them coming through. So we’re just going to ban them not because of any sort of neutral principle, but because they’re Nazis and we don’t like Nazi speech.

And it fell to a Jewish ACLU lawyer to say look, I don’t like their speech. But you the government have no right to say that they can’t engage in it just like any other group. And what that really comes down to is I may not like the moderation decisions that any particular private platform or website is making. They may not be the decisions that I personally would make. But it is critical from any First Amendment standpoint and from a free-speech standpoint that private parties get to make those decisions.

Carmichael: My argument is that members of Congress have threatened Big Tech with taking away their 230 protections if they don’t stifle speech that the members of Congress disagree with. And Big Tech has done exactly what those governments threateners demanded that they do. And so therefore that makes them a state actor.

Cohen: There the response to that isn’t to then say oh, well, then we should take away the 230 protection. It’s to reinforce that and to push back on the people who are saying you make your moderation decisions the way we want you to make moderation decisions, or if you don’t we’re going to open you up to all sorts of lawsuits. That would be the problem.

Carmichael: Does Candace Owens a Black person does she have a right to sue Big Tech for de-monetizing her?

Cohen: No, absolutely not. Not if she’s Black or if she’s White.

Carmichael: I thought we had federal anti-discrimination laws. And if we do and if she was being barred because of a protected characteristic, so if a tech company was barring somebody from their services because they were Black. Because they were gay. Because they were male. Because they were female. It doesn’t matter which one. If that was the basis for kicking them off the platform then that would be something that you could bring an anti-discrimination suit on.

Leahy: The basis is they don’t like what she’s saying.

Carmichael: So what you’re saying is these platforms are free to tell people who have a different point of view from the owners that the owners of these sites have a right to take away their first amendment rights?

Cohen: 100 percent.

Leahy: On that note Akiva. We have more to discuss. I think you’re also saying 230 is not unconstitutional?

Cohen: 100 percent.

Leahy: All right, we will continue the dialogue. Please come back because we’re going to load with more arguments of logic and perhaps law then and see what you have to say with them. Thanks, Akiva for joining us.

Cohen: My pleasure. Thank you, guys.

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Akiva Cohen” by Kamerman, Uncyk, Soniker & Klein