A former executive with Facebook is proudly advocating for television service providers and social media platforms to do what is necessary to suppress conservative content, citing outlets like OANN and Newsmax.
Alex Stamos, former chief security officer for Facebook, made the stunning suggestion during an appearance Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with host Brian Stelter.
He told Stelter telecommunications providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon should remove conservative outlets from their networks. Allowing Americans access to such spaces, Stamos reasoned, has given people freedom to follow the reporters, commentators, and outlets they like most.
The crux of Stamos’ argument is that some actors are taking advantage of the constitutional protection of free speech and, as a result, need to be held back by the gatekeepers, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and media service providers.
“I think that gets to a really core issue with our freedoms as Americans in the way we have treated press freedom in the past,” he explained. “[It] is being abused by these actors in that we have given a lot of leeway — both in the traditional media and on social media — to people to have a very broad range of political views, and it is now in the great economic interest of individuals to become more and more radical.”
The onus of responsibility to suppress conservative outlets, Stamos told Stelter, is on social media platforms and service providers because of the propensity for content to go viral in those spaces. He said such platforms need to determine if they “want to be effectively cable networks for disinformation.”
Stamos rightly pointed out the magnetic pull toward existing solely within our chosen echo chambers. However, he failed to acknowledge the same thing is happening on the left.
“We have to figure out the OANN and Newsmax problem that these companies have freedom of speech, but I’m not sure we need Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and such to be bringing them into tens of millions of homes,” he said. “This is allowing people to seek out information if they really want to, but not pushing it into their faces, I think, is really where we’re going to have to go here.”
Conservative news sources, Stamos lamented, have created “a huge challenge in figuring out how do you bring people back into the mainstream of fact-based reporting and try to get us back into the same consensual reality.”
Stelter nodded along to Stamos’ comments, offering no pushback.
Stamos’ dystopian suggestion is particularly jarring as it comes less than a week after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a self-avowed socialist, has expressed her desire for a government-run “commission” to regulate media, weeding out what it deems to be “disinformation and misinformation.”
Other big-name voices, like singer and actor Selena Gomez, are echoing Stamos’ point of view. In an interview with the Associated Press, Gomez lambasted social media platform CEOs for not doing enough to censor speech on their sites.
“It isn’t about me versus you, one political party versus another,” Gomez told the news outlet. “This is about truth versus lies and Facebook, Instagram, and big tech companies have to stop allowing lies to just flow and pretend to be the truth. Facebook continues to allow dangerous lies about vaccines and COVID and the U.S. election and neo-Nazi groups are selling racist products via Instagram.”
“Enough is enough,” she said.
Then, on Monday, “Morning Joe” co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough placed quite an outsized amount of blame for the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol on Facebook and Twitter.
Scarborough went so far as to say the deadly melee “would not have happened” without Twitter and Facebook, arguing their respective algorithms are designed “to cause this sort of radicalism to explode.”
Brzezinski called Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg as well as COO Sheryl Sandberg “pathetic” and told them their platform “need[s] to be shut down.”
“Nobody needs what you have to offer,” she claimed. “You have destroyed this country.”
All of this comes after Twitter has permanently suspended President Donald Trump’s account and Facebook has barred the outgoing commander-in-chief from posting to his page. Trump has likewise been banned from virtually every other social media platform on the internet.
And in the wake of the deadly riot inside the Capitol, Amazon’s web hosting service terminated its account with the conservative social media platform Parler, essentially removing the website from the internet altogether. It appears the site is now back online and will launch with another hosting service sometime in the future.
First and foremost, the things AOC and Stamos are advocating for seem to be clear and unquestionable violations of Americans’ constitutionally protected First Amendment rights. Additionally, it raises the question: if such regulatory apparatuses were put in place to determine truthfulness and “consensual reality,” as Stamos described it, who would be in charge of deciding right from wrong? And how would information be regulated?
It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that CNN and The Washington Post reached settlement agreements with Nick Sandmann, the Catholic teenager who, in February 2019, fell victim to inaccurate media portrayals of his encounter with an elderly Native American man.
Sandmann, who was participating in a pro-life rally in Washington, D.C., with his schoolmates, was grossly mischaracterized when media outlets ran stories based on misleading video footage that purportedly showed Sandmann — wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat — and a handful of other teenagers intimidating the Native American demonstrator. As a result, Sandmann was instantaneously villainized by social media users and political prognosticators.
Additional footage later cast doubt on the media’s initial description of the confrontation, revealing it was actually Sandmann and his friends who had been accosted by counter-protesters.