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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The Tennessee Star Report: Crom Carmichael Talks Strategy and the Abomination of Section 230

The Tennessee Star Report: Crom Carmichael Talks Strategy and the Abomination of Section 230

 

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 the original all-star panelist Crom Carmichael to the studio to weigh in on the abomination of Section 230 and the strategy to right it.

Leahy: In studio, the original all-star panelist, Crom Carmichael. Crom, you say it’s time for the Republicans and Conservatives to get smart on tactics?

Carmichael: Yes. Why is it that big tech is able to do what they do and get away with it legally?

Leahy: They have protection from Congress.

Carmichael: And that is called Section 230. If Republicans regain the power of the House, the Senate, and the presidency, first of all, the filibuster is a very important Senate institution. And one thing that is often misrepresented is that when Republicans did control the House twice, they didn’t have 60 votes in the Senate. And so the House passed an immense amount of legislation that never saw the last day in the Senate because the Democrats could use the filibuster, even when the Republicans had a majority. But you can’t use the filibuster in reconciliation.

Leahy: Now just for our listing audience, explain what reconciliation means.

Carmichael: I’m going to take a stab at it. But I think it has to do with budget bills.

Leahy: It does.

Carmichael: And spending. Because this big COVID bill that just passed wasn’t a budget, but it was spending. And it passed with a 50 to 49 majority, which Republicans could filibuster that. Here’s what I would do if I were the Republicans, and I get control of all three because I think that Section 230 is an abomination.

The protection that it affords allows these platform companies to have a political agenda. I would increase taxes to 80 percent for all companies that are protected by Section 230. I could do that through reconciliation. And I might even impose a huge tax on the net worth of executives that have money because of Section 230 because they’re getting all of the benefits because of that law.

Leahy: Yes. The significance of reconciliation in the Senate, it’s the budget process where they’re trying to finalize the budget. There are limitations only on the reconciliation process in the use of the filibuster. That’s why it’s important in the Senate.

Carmichael: Yes. And so the point that I’m trying to make is that if you put that in legislation, the executives who are protected by 230 would go nuts and the Republicans could go to them and say this is going to pass unless you go to your Democrat buddies and get them to do away with Section 230. So we’ll break the filibuster, you’ll help us break the filibuster, or we’re going to tax your butts and ruin your value.

Leahy: Well, that’s awful. (Chuckles) 

Carmichael: And they’ll do it, Michael is what I’m saying is they will give up Section 230. They’ll give up Section 230. So what is the goal here? The goal here is not to tax them. The goal here is to get Democrats to agree to get rid of Section 230. So the way to get rid of Section 230 is to get the people who are protected by Section 230 to have more pain from the protection than they do by giving it up.

Leahy: Now, that’s a good tactical strategy.

Carmichael: Yes.

Leahy: However, how do you get Mitch McConnell to adopt such a strategy?

Carmichael: If you want to get rid of Section 230, that’s the strategy.

Leahy: I know.

Carmichael: If Mitch McConnell wants to get rid of Section 230, if he does, then Mitch, here’s how to do it. You put so much pressure on the people who are protected by Section 230. You put so much pain as long as they keep that protection that they run the Congress and say we’re willing to give up the protection.

Leahy: But Crom, here’s my problem with this and Mitch McConnell.

Carmichael: Don’t talk about Mitch McConnell.

Leahy: Somebody has to implement this strategy in the Senate.

Carmichael: Well, of course, you and I are just talking here. Well, I understand, but the Democrats do a great job putting pressure on people that they want to behave differently. Does big business support Democrats now?

Leahy: Totally.

Carmichael: Why?

Leahy: It’s in their self-interest.

Carmichael: It’s not just in their self-interest to send their self-interest because they don’t want to be punished. They fear the Democrats. They fear them. So they do what the Democrats want them to do. That’s just the way it is. I don’t like it. But if those are the rules and if that’s the playing field that I’m on, then I have a choice. I can either be highly principled and accomplish nothing. In fact, my side will always go backward.

Because the other side gets to use the fear of things like what we were talking about earlier. critical race theory. and all of these things to use power over others. Republicans, Unfortunately, it’s the world we live in today. Unfortunately, Republicans need to learn how to put pressure on other people that they want to change their behavior.

Leahy: I cannot disagree with you at all. The question is, how do you do that?

Carmichael: I just told you how you do it. I just told you.

Leahy: You’ve got to get a Mitch McConnel to change the behavior.

Carmichael: I understand that. But first of all, if you don’t understand if you don’t even understand the tactic and the reason for the tactic. In other words, you don’t know what you don’t know. What you and I are talking about here is that if there is a tactic that would work, what would it be? Because you also want to maintain the filibuster.

Leahy: I’m with you. Terry in Knoxville.

Carmichael: We have Terry in Knoxville…

Leahy: Who wants to join us. Terry, you want to weigh in on our lively discussion here this morning? Terry, Welcome

Caller Terry: Morning.

Leahy: Good morning.

Terry: Morning. As usual, I agree wholeheartedly with Crom. (Laughter)

Leahy: Terry, you’re such a smart guy.

Terry: I agree with everything he says. But, well, first of all, how can you tell who’s smarter? You can tell who’s smarter by who’s winning. And who’s winning? Well, it isn’t us.

Carmichael: That’s right.

Leahy: That’s a good point.

Terry: But you have to get back to the point where he said you control the House, the Senate, and the presidency. Well, we need the tactics to do that first before you can get to the point he’s talking about. And they had the opportunity to get rid of Section 230…

Carmichael: No, they didn’t. That’s the point. They couldn’t get rid of it because Democrats would not go along with it. You have to get 60 votes to get rid of Section 230.

Leahy: Terry, thanks for your call.

Carmichael: And thank you for your wonderful comment and call in anytime, Terry.

Leahy: You have plenty of fans and Terry’s one of them. We’ll be back with Naomi Wolf. That will be fun.

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

 

 

 

 

Host Leahy and Crom Carmichael Take Listener Calls Regarding Big Tech and Censorship

Host Leahy and Crom Carmichael Take Listener Calls Regarding Big Tech and Censorship

 

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 the original all-star panelist Crom Carmichael to the studio who took calls from listeners weighing in on the constitutionality of Section 230 and Big Tech’s ability to censor free speech.

Leahy: Crom, I thought that was a very interesting dialogue with Akiva Cohen the attorney who was defending the constitutionality of this Section 230 and defending Big Tech.

Carmichael: Well, he’s not just defending Section 230. He’s defending the actions and that’s what’s key. He’s defending the actions of the Big Tech companies because there is an in spite of what he said about Skokie, Illinois, that’s not really the issue.

Leahy: It had nothing to do with the argument. What he said was accurate, but it wasn’t relevant.

Leahy: Exactly. We’ve got a lot of that these days Crom.

Carmichael: And we’ll have to have him back on because at some point there will be a case that that will determine whether or not his position or the position of these writers in The Wall Street Journal is accurate. Because the Supreme Court has ruled on numerous occasions that if the federal government gives an exemption to a private organization that the government itself cannot do then that is unconstitutional.

They’ve ruled that in a number of cases. Here is what they’re saying. I’m going to quote. ‘Section 230 is the carrot and there’s also a stick. Congressional Democrats have repeatedly made explicit threats to social media giants if they failed to censor speech those lawmakers disfavored in April 2019.’ In Louisiana representative, Cedric Richmond warned Facebook and Google that they ‘better’ restrict what he and his colleagues saw as harmful content or face regulation. Nadler did the same thing. So there are a number of other examples.

Leahy: It makes Google and Facebook state actors.

Carmichael: Yes. Well, there are a number of other examples that show that the government threatened Facebook and Google and I’d like to know whether or not Akiva believes that the federal government has the right to stifle what Trump says or what Candace Owen says. And my guess is he would say no, that the First Amendment protects their rights.

Leahy: Yeah. I think you’re probably right there.

Carmichael: So there will be a court case at some point. And North Dakota is passing a law saying that people from North Dakota can sue and this issue will come up in that lawsuit.

Leahy: If that law passes there will be a lawsuit in a federal court that will determine it. I think that they would rule in favor of North Dakota. But we’ll see.

Carmichael: There will have to be somebody in North Dakota. Some individual in North Dakota who is D platformed.

Leahy: And then sues.

Carmichael: And then sues for being de-platformed and then the issue will come up.

Leahy: Well the phones have lit up Crom! Carl in Murfreesboro wants to talk about this issue. Carl good morning.

Caller Carl: Well good morning. I’ll tell you what. Y’all just have some of the most interesting guests. And I was calling and I’m not going to comment on the other Carl said a couple of weeks ago, but I was thinking about that guy. I didn’t know where he was coming from and then at the end I realized what he was saying.

And the reason I was calling you is that I couldn’t tell you this case, but I was listening to I think Mark Levin and he had Glenn Beck on. And Glenn Beck brought up a very interesting case from 1946. And this would be for Crom or you Michael to investigate. But back in 1946, the Supreme Court ruled that a corporation cannot infringe basically on the civil rights of an individual.

He said that a farmer is freer on his own land with his own tractor. So I could cut through the chase on all this mess of opinions and for and what you’re wanting to say and what you can’t say. I have to look at it if we can go back to the Jim Crow laws and discrimination. What we need to do is look at this. This is no different than saying I’m a White guy and a Black guy is not allowed in my restaurant.

Leahy: Hold on. Let’s get Crom responding to that Carl.

Carmichael: Well what you have here, and I’m not really disagreeing with you because I think the protections that are provided by section 230 are now unconstitutional because of the actions of the protected parties. So if Section 230 were to be ruled unconstitutional then what you’re saying would it would happen. What they’re trying to do is they’re trying to claim that Section 230 allows them to discriminate.

I think you’re exactly right. That’s what they’re arguing. They are allowed to discriminate against a Black person, against a gay person, and against anybody they want to because Section 230 allows it. now what these people arguing is that no they don’t have that right because by doing what they are doing they are acquiescing to the threats made to them by government officials. And that therefore Section 230 does not protect them. They are now by legal term state actors.

Leahy: The phones are lighting up. We thank Carl in Murfreesboro for that call and we go on now to Colin in Nashville who wants to talk about Akiva Cohen’s argument that Section 230 is is perfectly okay. Colin, you’re on the Tennessee Star Report.

Caller Colin: Hey, good morning gentlemen. The way he was going about his argument and how he explained how Section 230 came into being was because of a defamation issue with CompuServe. But what he didn’t really point out was that free speech doesn’t mean that everything can be said. There is protected speech and there’s unprotected speech.

Defamation is unprotected speech just like things like National Security. You can’t give away government secrets because that’s unprotected speech. But what Section 230 is done has allowed those corporations to discriminate against protected speech. And I think that should be one of the bigger issues brought up because political opinion is 100 percent protected speech. So for them to say that they can discriminate against protected speech I think maybe a little bit of a different avenue that could be taken in regards to Section 230.

Carmichael: And that’s really what the argument being made by the writers in The Wall Street Journal. What they’re claiming is that if it were not for the fact that Democrats in Congress had threatened Big Tech telling them if you don’t eliminate speech that we disagree with we’re going to take away your protection under Section 230. And then each one of these companies then did exactly what the Democrats demanded that they do.

And so that is what these authors are saying makes these companies now state actors. Because they have done what government itself would not be able to do constitutionally. The government could not say Trump does not have a right to speak. But the Democrats threaten Twitter and Facebook and Google saying if you don’t deny them their right to free speech because we disagree with what they’re saying. Not because they’re dropping the F-bomb or this type of thing or that they’re even lying, they just don’t agree with the opinions. And so that’s really where this hinges Colin. So I agree with Colin.

Leahy: Are you an attorney by any chance Colin?

Colin: No, I met one of your Millennial listeners. I’m only 30.

Leahy: There are attorneys who are aged 30. But you’ve made a very good grounded legal argument.

Carmichael: Obviously you’ve stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. (Laughter)

Leahy: Just out of curiosity, what do you do for a living Colin?

Colin: I’ve been in the United States Marine Corps for the last 12 years.

Leahy: There you go. Are you still in the Marine Corps?

Carmichael: Thank you for your service.

Colin: I am currently on a program to the commission to become an officer. So I’m actually I’m studying political science at Tennessee State University.

Leahy: There you go.

Colin: I’m outnumbered.

Leahy: What are those classes like Colin? The Marine studying politics at Tennessee State University. How how does that go?

Colin: Oh, they’re interesting. But I fully understand my First Amendment rights and that being a student there I can’t express my opinion. And I have no issue at all arguing with whatever other opinions are brought up. So I have a whole lot of fun in every one of those classes.

Carmichael: And the state of Tennessee cannot tell Colin what he can and can’t say.

Colin: Exactly.

Carmichael: But nor can a company that has protections from the state or protections given to it by the state. Nor can it do the bidding of one particular party. That’s really what the issue is here. And whether or not they are what is defined by the courts as a state actor.

Leahy: Colin, call in again. And by the way, thank you for your service. And we wish you the best of luck in getting that officer’s commission in the Marine Corps.

Colin: Thank you. And I appreciate the support.

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 “Online Censorship” by Mike Mackenzie CC BY 2.0.