tv The Communicators Conservatives and Social Media CSPAN August 10, 2019 7:01pm-7:32pm EDT
c-span has been providing america of unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, and public policy support from washington, d.c. and around the country so you can make up your own mind. 1979, c-spanble in is brought to you by your local cable provider. c-span, your unfiltered view of government. ♪ trump: there is no doubt in my mind that i should have millions and millions -- i have millions of people, so many that i don't believe it. people come up to me and they say sir, i can't follow you. they make it impossible. these are people that are really good at what they do. they say they make it absolutely impossible. i've watched some of these scenes that have been taped and got through -- talented people, by the way -- but gotten through
and gotten to the public where you see the hatred of our party, our people, our voice. and you say that's the collusion. it's a collusion between the democrats and the media, and social media and these platforms. it's a disgraceful thing. from july at the white house's social media summit, and that is our topic this week on the communicators. conservatives and social media, and whether they are centered. joining us to discuss this issue are two conservatives. patrick hedger is with the competitive enterprise institute. and robert louis is with the heritage foundation. you were at that summit. robert: it was quite an event. a combination of a celebration of social media and
the success he and other conservatives have had, taking their message to the american people. but it was also an opportunity to highlight areas he's being suppressed. stood up andatives spoke about their own examples of bias or what they perceive as bias. it's a combination of those things and as the president is known to do, it went on for a sometime and there was entertainment mixed in. peter: this is a question for both of you, but are conservatives centered on social media? patrick: the social media companies say no. they are on that one side of it. we have personally experienced examples were content has been removed. when you go to a google or facebook or twitter and ask them why, it seems it's because of their hate speech policy or community standards or other things that we see as just
where, or a policy issue, they may tend to agree with us on. so in some cases, yes, i do think conservatives experience of bias or suppression because of the media values coming out of silicon valley. i don't have a infinitive study because there are other cases where liberals complain about bias. i think what it comes down to is social media companies over exerting, and if they let free speech take priority, we might be better off. peter: same question. robert: i think it's impossible for any private entity to censor another entity. action by government and the first amendment is a restriction on government. it's not an entitlement upon other private actors. we are talking about systems crated by americans that have first amendment protections and that includes freedom of association and freedom of speech.
to the extent they are limiting, and i would agree that there is no general study that's looked at this and found any systemic examples of what they are referring to as censorship or suppression. to the extent that it is occurring, again, that is not a first amendment violation. if there is a removal going on, this is private companies exerting their own first amendment rights, saying they don't want to be affiliated with the messaging posting on our site. peter: but don't those social media companies have an outside influence, and have more of a responsibility to allow free speech? patrick: there's no size clause in the first amendment. we have a responsibility to respect the speech rights and association rights of all americans, no matter how big or small their platform or their influence may be.
value, i thinka we as americans should respect the free speech rights of others. i agree with you completely. i do not 20 see the government step in. unintendedave consequences if that were to happen. demand that, we can if we're going to be on that platform, they will respect our ability to communicate. we can take our message to a different platform but they are private companies and they get to set the rules. robert: and i think a lot of conservatives are ignoring the net positive we see from the advent of big tech. you have someone like dennis prager suing google over what he believes is suppression of his videos, videos that i've seen a
lot of. i enjoy a lot of them, i have seen them, i think they are generally doing a pretty great job, i think the numbers speak for that fact. they have over one billion views. to me, it seems hard to levy an accusation that big tech is a net negative in any way, shape, or form to conservative speech when somebody like dennis prager is now getting a billion views on the products and videos he is putting out. robert: it's true. conservatives have had great success. the president himself is a clear example of this. in fact, the president addressed this question when he was asked, would you be in the white house if it were not for your use of social media? he says he would. i think what he was able to do on facebook in terms of targeting certain audiences that maybe were receptive to his message, his ability to bypass the national news media by going directly to twitter to make his announcements and some of his policy positions, those things were all significant factors in his ascension to the white house. and so there are plenty of other
examples, the heritage foundation being some i know about firsthand, and the success we've had today is a direct result of social media. peter: when have you been censored or have you been censored on social media? robert: so, the heritage foundation, which is our news outlet, and the daily signal have experienced this problem. i have a colleague who was also censored for a period of time or was blocked from posting on twitter. his case involved an issue of misgendering. some of these companies have a policy where if you use a wrong pronoun for a transgender individual, they will block you. and so my colleague found himself in that situation. he was off the platform about a week. we appealed. twitter eventually apologized to him and restored his account. in the more notable examples for the heritage foundation and "daily signal," we interviewed a pediatrician about the dangers of giving puberty blockers to young children.
and this pediatrician's video went viral. on facebook, it was taking off. it currently has 74 million views. when it got to about 70 million views, the video disappeared from the platform. we couldn't find it anymore, we contacted facebook, and facebook restored the video. we're currently in a dispute with google over the same videos removal from youtube. youtube is currently blocking that video because they say it violates youtube's hate speech policy. in many cases, we try to resolve these with the company. prager take a different course and decided to sue. peter: have you been blocked or censored? patrick: in my case, no. nothing that i've seen. just this week, we have an example of somebody on the far left saying that they have been blocked or censored. you have tulsi gabbard who is claiming, suing google, claiming censorship, as well. so, there are a lot of examples
from both the left and the right about this perception of broad-based censorship or suppression and it's important that we point out those examples on the left, but i do think conservatives tend to be a little louder on this issue because there's been that long-standing issue that in the conventional media that conservative voices have not been heard, so they're vigilant about these rings. -- these things. there are plenty of cases where they said they violated community standard or terms of service and have been taken down that come from outlets such as the "huffington post," which has had more videos put behind the same barrier that dennis prager is complaining about then he has. peter: why isn't there either a conservative or all-everything facebook type page out there, where everybody can post anything?
patrick: well, i don't think a lot of people would like to use a product like that. if anybody can post anything on a platform like that, you're going to get a lot of spam. you're going to get obscene images. you're going to get a lot of hate speech. it's going to be a pretty nasty place to go. the laws that protect these companies ability to moderate content is what creates these platforms as people does places that people do like to go for the reliable information. peter: can you put anything you want on competitive enterprise institute's website? patrick: i cannot, no. i go through an editing process because we control what goes on our website, but i do believe we have a comments section, where instead of prescreening, people will leave comments. of course, if something in there is a legal or a threat, then we take action. peter: why isn't there a conservative facebook? robert: there have been people who have tried. one of the other factors is that the reason facebook and twitter and other platforms are successful is because they don't
just cater to a specific ideology or political party. they bring in diverse viewpoints. so, in many cases, they started out as an exchange between friends, or high school or college classmates, where people did not have monolithic political views. so, i think there are values that these social media platforms bring to the table. for instance, i'm able to keep in touch with my friends from back home in upstate new york, as well as hear perspectives from people at the competitive enterprise institute. you don't want to necessarily have a walled garden where you will have republicans or democrats talking. then we get into this whole other issue about filter bubbles and whether or not people are exposed to different ideas. i'm the biggest believer that you should subscribe to multiple news outlets and consume information from a wide variety of sources, because if you're just relying exclusively on one, say a republican or conservative
social media platform, you're probably not going to get the full perspective. patrick: indeed, to get back to a distinction of a small website like ours versus facebook, which is a platform for third parties to post content, this really get -- gets at that a lot of the criticism that we see levy devotees book and some of these other platforms, that they're acting like publishers. they're not. most publishers are reading what goes on their page or into their newspaper or into their book before they decide to publish. if you were to apply that standard to facebook or google or amazon or etsy or ebay or some of these e-commerce platforms, they would cease to exist in the way that we know and enjoy them today because there are literally billions of different post going up on these websites at any given day and to expect them to prescreen all of these before they go live is completely unrealistic, and to be able to then say that they should be held accountable for what is really just a third-party creation from
billions of different sources, is really going to undermine their ability to operate. and i think you would see a lot of them not accept that legal risk and end up shutting down and we would lose all of the benefits that come with having these platforms for decentralization. robert: and there already are market forces at work. if somebody goes on to a platform and they start bullying me or patrick, we have the ability to report that to these companies and they have anti-bullying policies in place. in order to flag comments like that and raise them to a certain attention. i think private individuals have certain protections in place where they can shield themselves from speech that they may find insights violence or whatever it may be. i think the other issue we're talking about is we have a daily video we post on the platform
and in some way, the policy we are talking about conflicts with the community standards, that's where you get into this gray area. while i don't want to see the government step in and regulate that in any way possible, i do think that the consumers should have the ability to push back and to raise awareness about this. and if so be it, take it to their own website or go to a competitor like youtube or another platform where maybe they allow more of that speech. patrick: what's so funny about this, as well, tragically funny, is that a lot of those kind of protections that the companies have put in place that do filter out content that folks may not want to see or find harmful, those programs that are part of these platforms are things that conservatives generally call for. they don't want their children to be able to go want to these platforms and be exposed to nudity or violence or other what in their view is unseen material. and then they're now turning back and saying, well, these
same things are what are causing the perceived censorship. so, i really -- they have to be careful what they are asking for here and realize that the same tools that these sites have to ensure that, in general, facebook and some of these other platforms, twitter, are places that are generally safe for people to go, where they won't be spammed or they won't see pornographic images, things like that, are the same things that conservatives believe is leading to the suppression of some of the content that they post, as well. peter: what do you think about twitter's new rules with regard to so-called hate speech or community standards? by the way, is community standards a set legal definition or is it fuzzy? patrick: yeah, i'm not an attorney, so i can't speak to that. but i would say that i think, as
with any other private area, it's their expectations of here is what we expect from you in exchange for using our free service. peter: from twitter safety, which is a blog on twitter, defining public interest on twitter, they write that they will be using a notice if they find something that they consider to be hate speech, etc., and they will put that notice on a tweet if it's from a government or elected official , you have more than 100,000 followers, and are verified. so they're going to start putting notices on tweets. robert: yeah, we've seen this with facebook, as well, in terms of its fact checking program. this mostly came into play when president trump, i think people think of him immediately and whether or not some of the things that he tweets would apply to this new policy that twitter has put in place -- on the flip side, we've seen it with facebook and its fact checking program. facebook will put a label on certain news items that it may
-- or the fact checkers they work with deem as false. look, again, they're private companies and they're able to monitor this content however they want and if they want to put a label on it, i think they have every right to do so. some people may disagree and challenge it. in the case of a "daily signal" article that we published shortly after the state of the union, we actually did publish the fact check and were able to address that matter head-on. in other cases, smaller players might not have that same ability to do so. patrick: what i think this signals is something that's really important, the different platforms are experimenting with different things in order to keep their platforms as accessible as possible to the widest possible user base. and ultimately, that is something that goes against these claims that conservatives have that they are being broadly censored. i can't think of any company that bases their business model on having as many viewers as possible and wanting to censor half the country.
we want to ensure that we have a competitive dynamic, were -- where facebook is trying one thing, twitter is trying another, and people will migrate. the market needs to be able to function and figure out this fact checking software or this label is the preferred solution that we have here for content that, you know, runs along that line for some people. the really dangerous thing that we're staring downright now is the prospect of having a uniform set standard having handed down by government, and then there will be no experimentation and people won't be able to say this works better or this doesn't. you'll have the set rule imposed by government whether you like it or not and you will have to deal with her that, you won't be able to go to another site and work within their community that you may find to be better.
peter: well, let's listen to a little bit more from the president from july 11. president trump: today, i'm directing my administration to explore regulatory and legislative solutions to protect free speech and free speech rights of all americans. that's you people in this room and a lot of people out there, a lot of people. we hope to see transparency, more accountability, and more freedom. that's on both sides. peter: patrick hedger, you heard the president. patrick: i think his heart is in the right place, but as soon as government gets involved in talking about protecting speech by interfering with the actions of other private individuals, that's when we actually start to have a first amendment problem. remember, the first amendment is exclusively a restriction on government. it is not an obligation upon private citizens to provide a platform for all speech, no matter what. and so i get concerned when i start hearing about inserting government as a referee for speech, and i think conservatives should really take
a step back and be careful what they wish for here. because it was not five years ago that conservatives were explaining about bureaucrats at the irs using law enforcement and tax enforcement laws to try and silence conservative speech. so, to inject government as the answer to try to protect speech online really goes against everything that history tells us and it goes against this idea -- i wish more tech companies would say that it's ok to be biased and we may not try to be biased, but everybody has a bias. government agencies, and the people that run those, they have biases. i have a bias. everyone has a bias. and to think that there is some perfectly neutral arbiter out there that can police content online, in government or one of these companies, is just a fallacy.
robert: conservatives have overcome challenges like this in the past. look at the national news media, for instance. the fairness doctrine or a government regulation like that. what did conservatives do? they went out and invested in talk radio and they came to dominate talk radio. what happened when the internet came around? you had what, maybe a handful of conservative sites, the national review, etc., that existed before and conservative media organizations have flourished. conservatives frustrated with the leftward tilt of academia went and created their own colleges. a hillsdale, grove city, patrick henley. there are other examples in other spaces where conservatives have successfully overcome these complaints. what troubles me is that you almost have the tech companies and the government both in agreement here, some in the government, in agreement that there should be regulation. i mean, you've seen mark
zuckerberg come out and say that he wants to be regulated. that gives me concern. peter: why does that give you concern? robert: because we've seen in other industries -- first of all, they're the dominant player -- i think it will stifle competition. it will lock them in as the primary entity, and they will probably have it begin fluence in terms of writing what the rules are, and the competition and the experimentation patrick was talking about will longer happen. you'll have a government agency right the rules. there is no doubt that conservatives, they may feel confident right now because you have a president in the white house that tends to agree with them, but i guarantee that as soon as that president leaves the white house, you might have somebody from a different political party, that that tide will begin to turn. patrick: i would like to remind folks that there was an article that has been going around a
little bit in the wake of all of these calls, trying to break up these companies or regulate these companies. it was an article from "the guardian" in 2007 and it was something to the effect of what will we do about the myspace monopoly? we look back on that and how silly was that? so long as we keep government regulation out of the way and do not allow it to stifle the dynamism that we do see in silicon valley, we will be looking back 10 years from now at how silly it seemed to say we need to break up the current big tech companies because who knows? i mean, the next huge player in this industry may have already been founded in a dorm room somewhere. we will never know until it happens, and we will never, never know if we institute a regulatory structure that that startup can never hope to get through because they don't have the kind of resources that facebook and google have. peter: november 19, 2018, rush limbaugh. quote, "they should be busted up. they are monopolies controlling the flow of information.
this has become untenable, the social media contract of today, the left loves to throw around the word fairness, they are obsessed by it, there is not any fairness, there is not anything approaching fairness in the social media universe. busting them up as monopolies is not to facilitate conservatism, it is to help american consumers by providing competition and so forth, which they, these companies, are all shutting out by buying them up." patrick: to address that point, my favorite oxymoron is the term monopolies. if it's clerical, you don't have -- plural, you don't have a problem. if they offer slightly different services, they are vicious competitors. facebook on apple, google, amazon. they all compete in many different areas. these are not social media companies. facebook is not a social media company, per se.
it's an advertising company. what is google? it's a search engine, but it's an advertising company. they're competing with each other for advertising. they're competing with every last advertiser out there down to a billboard owner on a rural highway somewhere. they're competing for your eyes, they're competing for your ad dollars. you have amazon and apple competing in hardware sales. you have apple, google, facebook, and others competing and how they treat your data, and who are you going to message your friends and family through? am i going to send a facebook message? am i going to send a gmail? am i going to send an imessage on my iphone? these are all competing alternatives. and so to bring in antitrust action, one, it ignores the fact that you have vibrant competition. two, where is the actual consumer harm? all we're seeing is, is not falling prices in the case of some hardware that is out there and other products being sold on amazon and online platforms, you see completely free services that are offered in exchange for
targeted advertising. and then you also have companies that are looking at americans' concerns over privacy and responding to that and providing an alternative. apple is championing itself is a -- as a privacy based tech company. where your data isn't going to be used to target advertising at you. so, we have a fledgling market. we are talking in a very short timeframe. again, 2007, myspace as the -- is the dominant player, no word to be found at that point. robert: and if you talk to young people, younger than us, they are probably talking about different platforms that we talk about today. snap chat tick-tock are on the rise. and who are they on the rise with? the next generation. we could be talking about a completely different landscape. facebook, i don't know if it will disappear like myspace. but there always will be other competitors trying to go after these audiences.
young people, they view facebook as something their parents or grandparents use and i think that's why there is a healthy competition going on in the marketplace right now and that's why you don't need the government to step in. peter: charlie kirk of turning point suggests section 230 protections should be removed from these companies if they don't keep suppressing speech. robert: that's a big focus on capitol hill. you see some republican senators coming out in favor of doing that. i think one of the options we should have a robust debate about. i look forward to having that type of debate. there is no question that this is going to be an issue that in some ways unites the right and the left. i think you're going to have those conservatives and those liberals who see some ability to work together on this issue and hopefully those who believe in the market and competition can push back effectively. patrick: i'll start that debate
and unfortunately, i think charlie is dead wrong on this issue. a law professor wrote this book, the 26 words that created the internet. basically, the internet that we know today, for all the immediately, very fast services that are falling in price, if not free services that we have, would not exist without section 230. in section 230 was really a preemptive codification of the direction the courts were going. what section 230 says is you can't hold these huge platforms accountable for what individuals are doing on the platforms because they don't prescreen everything that's getting posted. and so if you were to assign liability to any online platforms, what third parties upload to these platforms, you would shut down not just facebook and google overnight, you would shut down amazon and platforms where
americans are creating small businesses and are able to reach consumers directly without going through a middleman. section 230 is a broad-based protection, and it's not special treatment. it is, again, a codification of privilege we afford to a lot of other industries. i hate when we talk about tech, we tend to think they are complete lead different industries that should be subject to the same standards we apply to other companies like manufacturers. if somebody negligently uses an automobile, you shouldn't be able to sue ford. you should be able to go after the person using that technology, but if you hold for liable for the misuse of their products, there are going to stop providing products. peter: thank you for participating in this roundtable on the communicators. patrick hedger is with the competitive institute, robert bluey with the --
available, as well. the house will be in order. c-span has been providing america of unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, and public policy support from washington, d.c. and around the country so you can make up your own mind created by cable in 1979, c-span is brought to you by your local cable provider. c-span, your unfiltered view of government. ♪ sunday night on q&a. we were taken out of the hall and confronted this mob of angry people. >> this political science professor talks about being physically attacked in