Twitter’s Jack Dorsey — @Jack — has just made it plain: Twitter is now officially a publisher.
Here is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on the subject:
The law still protects social media companies like @Twitter because they are considered forums not publishers. But if they have now decided to exercise an editorial role like a publisher then they should no longer be shielded from liability & treated as publishers under the law.
Sen. Rubio pointedly observed the obvious after Twitter stamped a Trump tweet on mail-in ballots and their potential for fraud with a “get the facts” alert.
Back in the Dark Ages of 2018, over there in the Federalist, writer James Altschul headlined this:
It’s Time for Congress To Treat Twitter As A Publisher
Platforms like Twitter and Facebook are treated as distinct from publishers in large part because they refrain from discriminating based on ideology. That’s so yesterday.
Wrote Altschul — presciently:
After two days of public outcry, Twitter has reinstated the account of conservative commentator Jesse Kelly. Contradicting their initial message to Kelly, which notified him that his account had been “permanently suspended” and “[would] not be restored,” a Twitter spokesperson stated on Tuesday that Kelly’s account had instead been “temporarily suspended for violating the Twitter rules.” Precisely which rules Kelly violated were not specified.
Given the opacity of the process, we can only speculate on what caused Twitter to reverse course, but a good bet would be the threat of governmental reprisal hinted at by tweets from Sen. Ben Sasse and Senator-elect Josh Hawley.
While Sasse merely commented that “The trend of de-platforming and shutting down speech is a bad precedent for our free speech society,” Hawley was more explicit, writing, “The new Congress needs to investigate … Twitter is exempt from liability as a ‘publisher’ because it is allegedly ‘a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.’ That does not appear to be accurate.”
Hawley was referencing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states, among other things, that “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.” In essence, Section 230 exempts online platforms from legal liability for the content their users post.
Note well: The Twitter suspension of conservative writer Jesse Kelly has now moved on to “fact-checking” the president of the United States. Fact checking by one Yoel Roth, Twitter’s “Head of Site Integrity.” Roth, we soon learned, had a trail of his own tweets that were the personification of Trump-hating, depicting the president as a Nazi, racist, yada yada yada.
Dorsey replied by tweeting,
Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me. Please leave our employees out of this.
Fair enough. So let’s be clear, @Jack. You are responsible for Twitter crossing the line from forum to publisher. And now the president has finally said, “Enough.” Specifically, Trump tweeted this:
Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that happen again.
And with that, by Thursday afternoon the Washington Times was headlining this:
‘We’re fed up’: Trump signs executive order targeting social media companies’ political bias
The Times story begins this way:
President Trump signed an executive order Thursday to compel social media companies to operate without political bias, saying platforms such as Twitter are a monopoly with “unchecked power.”
“We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers,” Mr. Trump said as he signed the order in the Oval Office with Attorney General William P. Barr at his side.
The order requires the Federal Communications Commission to craft a regulation that could exempt social-media companies from protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields companies from legal liability for material posted by their users, if they censor or edit content.
And for sure the Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale has issued his own statement on the Trump social media executive order, saying this:
Social media has been allowed to operate unchecked for years while enjoying the protection of federal law. These Silicon Valley giants have set themselves up as the arbiters of truth, censoring or labeling posts they disagree with, but they have shown that they cannot be trusted to be honest and fair. We have known for a long time that social media companies have it in for conservatives in general and President Trump specifically. There are various reasons we pulled our massive advertising spending from Twitter months ago, and their obvious political bias is one of them. In the most recent egregious act, Twitter targeted a Trump tweet, but still leaves alone posts from Joe Biden which are obvious lies, and outrageous propaganda claims from accounts linked to the Communist Chinese government. Since social media companies have not appropriately self-regulated to stop the bias on their own, President Trump has stepped in to make sure Silicon Valley is held accountable for trying to manipulate the American people. Good for him and good for America.
The real problem here? The hard fact is that, as with Twitter’s Yoel Roth, Twitter’s “Head of Site Integrity,” Twitter, and other Big Tech social media companies are filled with left-wing, Trump-hating zealots. Their first instinct — not to mention every other instinct — is to target conservatives.
Now Jack Dorsey says, “Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me.”
Bingo. Well said, @Jack. And by your own actions, you have now openly admitted Twitter is no longer a forum — it’s a publisher.
Welcome to admitting you have allowed Twitter to join the world of editing opinion, @Jack.
Congratulations, Mr. Publisher. Well done!