In a speech at Stanford on Thursday, former President Barrack Obama described himself as “pretty close to a free speech absolutist.” As with any leftist who pretends to care about the Constitution and the First Amendment, there was a ‘but’ clause following his self-proclamation.
He followed up by saying he believes that content needs “valued judgments” on content moderation and that “while content moderation can limit the distribution of clearly dangerous content, it doesn’t go far enough.”
It is a nearly indisputable fact the platforms that Facebook and Twitter provide have become the de facto public squares for information. Surely the former President understands that leaving “valued judgments” up to unmistakably biased tech executives and employees poses a greater threat than the subjective ‘dangerous content.’ If nothing else, it is painfully naive to believe that the people responsible for censorship will not have their personal beliefs affect how things are censored.
The former president continued, “I’m convinced that right now one of the biggest impediments to doing all of this, indeed, one of the biggest reasons for democracies’ weakening is the profound change that has taken place in how we communicate and consume information.”
He then explained to the audience that, “social media platforms aren’t just our window into the internet, they serve as our primary source of news and information.” He continues, “No one tells us that the window is blurred, subject to unseen distortions and subtle manipulation.”
This remark by the former president appears willfully ignorant of the fact that many Americans are well aware of the distortions produced not only by legacy media but also by social media. Obama’s successor Donald Trump succinctly warned his supporters about the dangers of the current state of media by dubbing the media fake news.
Obama continued by explaining that the current social media models allow for the flow of information as people choose – many would argue that this is a good model because it avoids the existence of a de facto ministry of truth. He attempts to play on the emotions of his audience by saying, “All we see is a constant feed of content where useful, factual information and happy diversions and cat videos flow alongside lies, conspiracy theories, junk science, quackery, white supremacists, racist tracts, misogynist screeds.”
Time and time again, democrats try to demonize those who dissent against the narrative by throwing any sort of insult that invokes emotion in their base in spite of whether the insult holds any truth to it or not. Digging deeper into that statement reveals that the former President wants his side of the political aisle to have complete control over all narratives, which should surprise no one.
Obama then offers a statement that seemingly damages his claim that he is a free speech absolutist:
“Tech platforms need to accept that they play a unique role in how we as a people and people around the world are consuming information and that their decisions have an impact on every aspect of society. With that power comes accountability and, in democracies like ours, at least the need for some democratic oversight.”
It appears Obama is painfully unaware that this statement is an admission that the platforms do in fact represent the public square and that their actions should be susceptible to the First Amendment. He cannot simultaneously call for more censorship, call himself a First Amendment absolutist and maintain the importance of the tech platform’s role in disseminating information.
Should the platforms be the main square in which information flows, then the democratic oversight he mentions should absolutely be guided by the First Amendment.
Time and time again, big tech censorship has proven itself to be too powerful and too often incorrect in its attempts to label posts as ‘disinformation.’ Often times information on the platforms with indisputable evidence will be suppressed or tagged with an ‘information is misleading’ or ‘this post has been fact-checked’ label.
The tech companies appear to be more willing to censor right-leaning individuals or publications over those on the other side of the aisle – a clear indication that the current information manipulation has little to do with fact and everything to do with narrative control.
Overall, it seems Barrack was just pandering to the crowd to make his censorship dreams appear more moderate, but as the past half-century has shown us if you give Democrats an inch on any policy, they’ll take a mile.