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Sprinkles from the Left

An overwhelming majority of Democrats think Trump should be banned permanently (81%; Pew Research)

“[If] Facebook’s Oversight Board lets Trump back on Facebook and Instagram, he’ll assuredly restart his assault on democracy. And if we let Facebook (or Twitter) off the hook for having let him go so far before they stopped him, they’ll do it again, too.

We must compel Facebook and then Twitter to take all necessary steps at their disposal to prevent their platforms from being used by political leaders to spread propaganda to undermine democracies ever again, both here in the U.S. and in other countries. We cannot afford to have them make the same mistakes again; our democracy may not survive Round Two.”

Adam Conner, vice president, technology policy, Center for American Progress (published in NBC News)

“The main problem is that Facebook has offloaded important decisions, like that of Mr. Trump’s fate on the platform, to its Oversight Board, an unwieldy and ultimately ineffective body that makes the United Nations look decisive. The board is apparently independent — but it’s a system essentially created by Facebook. It’s paid for by Facebook, and its members are picked by Facebook. It’s a glorified corporate advisory board of just 20 people who have made a key decision for the rest of us. And it appears as if the board members realized that this decision was not theirs to make.

Agreed. This lazy abrogation of responsibility by the Facebook leadership is par for the course for the most hopelessly compromised company in tech, which has bungled controversies for years…

… For now, though, we are saved by a decision of a body that cannot keep doing this over and over, with no fail-safe for the next time, when a smarter, more savvy version of Mr. Trump emerges and makes no unforced errors.

It also shines a spotlight on the actual problem: Facebook has grown too powerful and the only fix is to get government legislators to come up with a way to allow more competition and to take impossible decisions out of the hands of too few people.”

Kara Swisher, NY Times

“[G]lobal activists have repeatedly noted since Trump’s ban early this year that Facebook was inconsistent or slow in applying its own standards in some countries that oppress their citizens or where the government instigates violence. ( ‘We have established policies for dealing with praise of violence on the platform,’ a Facebook spokesperson told the LA Times in an article about those issues in January. ‘They apply impartially to all users around the world, including politicians, heads of state and leaders.’)

That is another compelling reason for a lifetime ban on Trump: it would send a powerful message not just to the former president but also to the other trolls on Facebook–posting both from the halls of power and their parents’ basements– that they can’t get away with hateful conduct. This single act could therefore make the overall tenor of conversations on the platform much more civil. It would also be a warning to other heads of state that there really are long-term consequences to abusing social media while in office.”

Kara Alaimo; associate professor of public relations at Hofstra University (published in CNN)

Sprinkles from the Right

An overwhelming majority of Republicans think Trump should not be banned permanently (88%; Pew Research)

“Multinational, private corporations do not always have the interests of American voters at heart. Sometimes they play favorites to markets that are hostile to U.S. interests. If they have the power to de-platform politicians that stand in their way — especially ones that threaten to regulate them — it represents a grave concern to the chief pillar of our democracy: free and open debate.”

Hal Boyd, Deseret National

“The common rationalization is that these companies [big tech] are not subject to the First Amendment so there is no free speech issue. The First Amendment is not synonymous with broader values of free speech. Private companies can still destroy free speech through private censorship.

This is particularly the case with companies that not only run platforms for communications but received immunity from lawsuit under the view that they would be neutral providers of such platforms. Imagine if your telephone company took it upon itself to intervene in phone calls to object to something you just said or ban you from further calls for spreading misinformation. Some of us believe free speech is a human right that is defined by values beyond the confines of the First Amendment.”

Jonathan Turley; Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University (published in Fox News)

“Whether Facebook’s Oversight Board decides to allow former President Donald Trump back on its platform Wednesday is an exercise in distraction from a far more significant point: the raw power an unaccountable, private platform has to memory-hole a president of the United States.

Facebook, with its 3.45 billion monthly global users across its products, is far and away one of the biggest speech platforms the world has ever seen. What content the company suppresses or amplifies changes the flow of information, opinion formation and the nature of independent thought around the world for billions of people at a time.

This was most recently on display when the company temporarily canceled Australians over a dispute about ad revenue – and in doing so, removed critical hubs for the distribution of news, public health and safety information. It was also demonstrated when the government of Myanmar successfully used Facebook – which in Myanmar is largely indistinguishable from the internet – to perpetuate a genocide…

… The fundamental problem remains unaddressed. The cat-and-mouse game between the corporate overlords – who now represent the most influential speech, thought and news gathering platforms in the world – and an American style of democracy – that depends on pluralism, dissent and the ability to speak and be heard in our global, digital public square – will continue unabated.”

Rachel Bovard; senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute (published in USA Today)