June 18, 2019 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 188

President Macron, Strip The Internet Companies Of Their Ill-Gotten Judicial Immunity; Don't Sell Out For Empty Concessions

June 18, 2019 | By Yigal Carmon*
MEMRI Daily Brief No. 188

After years of protesting that it could not be done, YouTube is pledging the wholesale removal of hate and atrocity videos, even though doing so will cut down its traffic stream and its profit stream.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is now on the side of the angels, following the Christchurch Appeal.[1] The president of the Sovereign Republic of Facebook told his colleague, president of la République française Emmanuel Macron, that he was elated to have France regulate his company and would be only too happy to cough up $5 billion per annum plus a tax on global corporate revenues, and to allow French regulators to freely enter Facebook corporate inner sancta in Dublin and Silicon Valley to carry out their supervisory function.

Google, which greedily placed ads next to neo-Nazi and jihadi videos – thus assuring a cash flow for the videos' creators – has also announced steps to foster increased accountability and provide protection for web users.

Even the elusive AI that will power the algorithms for removing hate speech and incitement is, Big Data happily informs us, now on the verge of being discovered.

In 1997, the Internet-infatuated U.S. Supreme Court Justices, conservatives and liberals alike, produced the greatest disaster in Internet history and public safety when they granted Internet companies a status that was above the laws of democracies and their justice systems, giving them license to publish criminal content with immunity. This status, set out in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, read: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." This privileged the companies over print and broadcast media. The justices failed to realize that, like nuclear energy, the Internet harbored dangers to life and therefore required regulation. Thus freed from liability, the companies could now enrich themselves from a mighty stream of criminal content: pedophilia, pornography, jihad, antisemitism, Holocaust denial, racism, white supremacism, and Nazism.

Only last year was this legal abomination partially rectified, in the form of the Fighting Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). It lifted the protection of Section 230 for pornographic and pedophilic content online. But all other criminal content remained for the Internet companies to exploit with impunity.[2] The companies did not fight for the right to profit from pornography and pedophilia; they felt that they were no longer the darlings of the politicians and the public. They are now trying to pacify their persecutors with concessions that will have no serious impact on their bottom line.

Ahead of the June 2019 summit between Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Zuckerberg praised Macron's approach and welcomed the French regulators: "If more countries can follow the lead of what your government has done here, that will likely end up being a more positive outcome for the world in my view than some of the alternatives."[3] Zuckerberg is worried about one specific possibility: Facebook, along with others, may lose its precious and unwarranted immunity under Section 230, putting it on equal footing with other media.

For years, Facebook and others have hidden behind the ACLU and other useful idiots, who bought into the story that Big Data's immunity was designed to protect dissidents, not corporate dividends. Zuckerberg and his fellow social media barons have allowed white supremacists, racists, jihadis, antisemites, and hatemongers to help them reap a bonanza from ad revenues on Holocaust denial, apologetics for Hitler, beheading, racial incitement, and jihad recruitment.  Shame on them, and shame on governments prepared to make deals that will preserve their immunity.

President Macron, you may welcome $5 billion of hush money for France's deficit-ridden budget, and the creation of new regulatory agencies providing jobs for the boys. But this will only make you an accomplice of Facebook.

The only effective policy is to remove the Internet companies' immunity shield – thus granting payback, in both senses of the word, for the victims of their rapacious policy. Level the media playing field. Do not sell out for $5 billion; just strip the companies of their ill-gotten immunity.


*Yigal Carmon is President of MEMRI.


[1] New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's initiative aimed at preventing online incitement, which has been recognized as a contributing factor in the March 15, 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings.

[2] The companies called off their lobbyists because they realized that public and legislative sentiment turned against them and they were therefore willing to sacrifice this most lucrative area that they had milked for years.

[3], May 11, 2019.

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