Update 2018 12 31: Rewritten to incorporate two sections, “Comparing Facebook to other utility-access services,” and “FB must not have the right to censor”
Speech codes limit the right to free speech and to freedom of expression. Who gave Facebook the right to act as judge, jury and executioner, to be a lawmaker, to issue the rules, to enforce, monitor compliance, judge adherence, hand down punishment for non-compliance and administer punishment accordingly? Why did Facebook assume the powers of legislator, police, judge, jury, and jailer?
I’m no longer confused.
I became confused when I heard the word ‘service’ used by these agencies: Revenue Canada Service, Canada Postal Service, Telephone Service, Civil Service, Provincial-, Municipal-, City-, Public Service and Social Media Service.
That is not what I thought ‘service’ meant, but today I heard two farmers talking. One of them said he had hired a bull to service a few cows.
BAM!!! It all came into focus.
—With apologies to Anonymous
In some fashion, the powers that Facebook wishes and began to impose are being used by other social media corporations, too. YouTube most definitely does. That means that, collectively, all of the social media services will eventually do so, when one of the largest sharks swimming in the tide pool of public opinion, Facebook, is permitted to gobble up the right to free speech and prevent the little fish swimming in the tide pool from using Facebook to hitch rides that Facebook had offered.
Facebook without doubt offers a utility-access service, comparable to those offered by utility-access corporations for access to water, natural gas and electric power. Facebook explores and exploits a niche in the utility-access market, an opportunity that it saw and jumped to employ when Mark Zuckerberg realized how popular the initial launch of it was in 2004. It caught on like a wildfire in dry grass on a windy day in California.
Many people jumped to what was being offered by the novel, new-age utility-access service, the simplification of getting in touch with relatives and friends, the opportunity to make new friends, faster. Facebook made that possible by nothing more than to offer convenient, user-friendly access to a utility network that would carry interpersonal communications from one individual to another, some or many individuals. Facebook offered user friendly access, friendlier than anything closely comparable had been.
The new Facebook utility-access service brought the promise of the global village a lot closer to reality, within reach of many who longed for it. In some ways it was like bringing water to the thirsty, electricity to those who wish to be able to read after dark, natural gas to those who can no longer look for the nearest forest to cut down and haul back home the firewood they need for cooking or to heat their homes.
When Facebook launched its utility-access service, it was a eureka-moment every bit as monumental as was permitting private individuals access to a road-network that could not be accessed before, as convenient as installing private phones in every home compared to having prior access only via pay phones that could be a few blocks or even miles away from home. So far, so good. After all, unlike the construction of utility networks that many utility corporations and governments at many levels had to design, engineer and build over the span of many decades and even centuries, Facebook did not have to do much.
Facebook merely provided convenience of access to an existing communication network that others had laboured by the sweat of their brows to put into place over the span of generations. What Facebook thereby did was comparable to:
- Enabling readers of books and newspapers to use eye glasses for reading;
- Providing home owners with instructions for conveniently operating their heating furnaces and cook stoves:
- Providing home owners with the ability to use programmable thermostats to control their furnaces;
- Training people to use intelligent remote controls for their televisions, and thereby
- Enabling billions of owners of smart phones to use the latter as devices for convenient, speedy access to the Internet, giving them quick and easy contact with their friends.
Just as in each case of those examples of utility-access service use and improved user-friendliness, Facebook offered convenience, more convenient access to, and a user-interface for, a utility network, the telecommunication network that was in place, to which new Facebook users in virtually all cases were already connected. So far, so good. Facebook had put together an application, a social media service that became popular.
Now comes the problem that makes Facebook different from the providers of any other utility-access service in the history of mankind. Imagine what would happen if all utility-access service providers were to follow the precedent set by Facebook. No one would be satisfied with having,
- A natural gas utility-access corporation cut off the natural gas, to boot without warning, when one is cooking a steak, a roast, a chicken, a filet of sole, or anything other than veggies;
- A water utility-access corporation cut off the water when one intends to shower with a friend;
- A paper-supply company – offering writing pads or printing paper – dictate what words or expressions may be recorded or printed on the paper they sell and cut off sales and deliveries of their products if a violation of their undocumented “community standards” were to happen, plus prevent the printed products (letters, newspapers or books) from being sent out by the user to their destinations.
As surely as travel restrictions in the USSR and in the Hitler regime constrained the right to freedom of movement for individuals who were regarded a danger to the State, so does Facebook censorship constrain the right to freedom of expression for those whom Facebook deems to be in violation of its nebulous rules of conduct laid down in its unpublished, non-legislated, uncontrolled, unauthorized “community standards” Facebook cooked up. Speech codes limit the right to free speech.
Why should FB have the self-assumed right or obligation to tell anyone what sort of words, sentences, messages or images their utility-access service must be used for? That is not the only concern we must have about what Facebook is setting a precedent for.
Precedents – once set – will be used, time and again. We must be very concerned that the precedent set by Facebook will be used time and again, for anything that may serve to constrain interpersonal conduct, for anything that constitutes or is part of any human conduct! Just leave it up to innovative corporations or any sort of lawyer to find ways to make that happen, to follow Facebook’s lead.
Without doubt, we do not wish to have governments, bureaucracies, and corporations impose speech codes that constrain, restrict or prohibit free speech and freedom of expression. It does not matter how badly or for what reason any of them want to have the power to do so and what methods they wish to use to impose their power.
The more a government uses its power to restrict and censor freedom of expression, the more totalitarian it is. The extent of restrictions on freedom of expression is not the only but a very good measure of the extent of totalitarianism in any regime. What business do corporations out for profit have to seek and impose the power to limit free speech and freedom of expression?
What purpose is being served in spending countless hours and literally hundreds of millions of dollars discussing (in anyone country), designing, implementing, administering, and monitoring adherence to rules for the promotion and safeguarding of free speech, when a corporation can undo those enormous efforts in a flash? Facebook provides the means for transmitting an ever-increasing portion of everyday exchange of interpersonal communications in which the exercise of freedom of speech is being shackled. It is being shackled through Facebook or any comparable corporations out on self-imposed missions to re-engineer society, and, in doing so, Facebook and other social media corporations are more Draconian, and ever more and faster so, than even oppressive governments are. Speech codes limit the right to free speech.
The next section discusses the subject, Individual rights and freedom of expression vs identity politics and censorship.
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