tv Social Medias Role in Democracy CSPAN June 1, 2018 2:19am-3:50am EDT
the american university of latino studies. live 7:00 a.m. eastern friday morning. join the discussion. >> on friday, a forum on national security featuring all female presenters, part of the 2018 conference hosted by the truman national security project. live coverage begins 9 a.m. eastern on c-span two. >> commencement speeches all this week in prime time. , betsy jimmy carter devos, representative mark meadows, and atlanta mayor keisha lance adams -- bottoms. on c-span.org in the c-span radio app. >> katie back -- is facebook's
-- she was a speaker at a panel on social media and democracy. it is about an hour and a half. we will have discussion for about an hour followed by your questions. social media is much discussed this day, not just because we have the first president who unleashes tweet storms. social media often prompts concern. i myself began this event with the title, does social media threaten democracy but a friend pointed out, no more control by gatekeepers means more different views articulated.
argued a, a professor cultural democracy would be a major value and consequence of the internet. i think we had these discussions. some views are not just different, but reprehensible. there might be more of them without the gatekeepers. that is the concern, at least one of the concerns. views canbeing these affect our elections. thus, an article in the new yorker posed the question, how do we fix life online without limiting free speech? he said there is no good solution to this problem but maybe he would have a different opinion today. but maybe not.
no good solution? brandeis offered what has become for all of us a libertarian answer to that question. the question is what do you do about bad speech. brandeis wrote, the fitting councils is good ones. to expose through discussion fallacies, to erode evil by education. the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence. brandeis'ase' -- answer been undone by technological innovation, does it matter if private business people are the ones enforcing the silence? and of course there are other questions related to democracy. our discussions do not have to
be just about free speech. we will discuss many of these topics. i begin with introductions and thereafter, everyone will speak for five minutes about the topic and then andrew will moderate the rest of the discussion and to q and a. let me start with george holly, y, second from your right. his books include right-wing critics of american conservatism, making sense of the altar right -- alt right, and democracy, culture and america's christian denomination. second from your left is the digital organizing director of organizing for action, a nonpartisan organization that grew out of president obama's presidential campaigns. she has directed one of the largest digital communications programs in the country working
to build healthier communities and empower agents of local and national change. in the center is a contribute an -- contributing editor who has written for the new yorker since 2011. he wrote reddit and the struggle to detoxify the internet, in the march 19 issue, available at your nearest internet portal. i urge you to read it. ned ryan is on the far end to your right, is the founder and ceo of a grassroots training organization, the son of former congressman jim ryan, he is a frequent to be common -- canommentator and his work be seen at the hill. finally, to my left and on your left, katie is a global politics and government director at facebook. prior to that, she was the chief
digital strategist at the national republican senatorial. she led the rudy giuliani for digital strategy for the rudy giuliani for president campaign and the republican national debate. >> we are going to start with , you guys are going to give remarks. why don't we go this way? take it away. >> we talk about social media's impact on democracy. i think it is time we define what we mean by social media going forward. what does this mean in the 21st century to have free speech? who actually should be the guardian of free speech in america? social media has had serious measurable positive effects for america. gatekeepers are no longer to -- able to keep conversations out that they don't approve of because social media can be an extraordinary means of communicating directly with people. it allows people to get around
these gatekeepers. there is no doubt that movements -- upstarts like donald trump or movements like brexit have been helped by facebook and twitter. we need to have a conversation about sociald media's impact on democracy, redefining these tech giants in light of what they have become. in the beginning, there was a light touch toward these entities that gives them the opportunity to grow. now they have grown up and it's time for the kids in silicon valley to start operating under the rules that govern adults. these entities are creating content, selling advertising, both live and original content, becoming publishers and content companies like tv and radio even becoming telecommunications companies like google is doing. these social media giants are collecting more identifiable data every day.
more so than the nsa. it's time to have a conversation regarding social media's impact to save or destroy democracy. i think we need to acknowledge on some level that rule by algorithm is just as stringent as any rule by dictator, perhaps more so because it is vague, faceless and hard to define. a world ruled by algorithms closes off views, closes off debate, and organizes people. - it is becoming clearer social media companies are anything but neutral platforms. we saw the revelation that facebook was suppressing conservative news stories in the 2016 election. choices are made within the algorithm are conscious choices. we already know that facebook and and twitter have cooperated with governments hostile to free speech like turkey, pakistan, and morocco.
do these social media companies represent american values to the world or are they willing to help governments from the best -- governments of the world to make sure facebook and twitter earned market share. who's to say that can protect the speech of america. i am aware that algorithms are necessary to serve up content that people want to interact with. however, social media companies fail to be transparent on this front and it is dangerous. algorithm tweaking is not neutral. whats a massive impact on content people see every day. facebook is uncomfortable with the consequences of their actions in the most recent election and have decided to try to scale back resources that were potentially used to help trump win, something tells me they would not have gone in this direction if hillary clinton ended up in the oval office. we saw obama's campaign celebrated for using these tools
while denigrating the trump team. while i do applaud facebook's response to cambridge analytica, i fail to remember them taking the same approach to the obama campaign. who likely sucked out five times more data than cambridge analytic. -- analytica. if algorithms start filtering away sensitive opinions about issues like abortion, and favor some sites over the others, we should ask ourselves, with the small hands of controllers over the algorithm, who controls the controllers? i argue now is the time for everyone producer -- everyone to start playing under the same rules. far be it from me to argue for more regulation or new rules. perhaps if these tech giants were brought under the 1996 telecommunications act. with the fcc providing governance and oversight. instead of a rigged system that we are now operating under we could encourage greater competition, isn't it better that everyone play by the same rules? we should not be afraid to
promote a healthier democracy by breaking monopolies. it's not that hard to think of the kings of the silicon valley as the robber barons of the 21st century. there is a tradition in republican politics of breaking up monopolies. think of the 1980's and ma bell. the idea of a thriving democracy is for there to be debate. rigorous debate in the public venue on public platforms. isn't the internet nothing more than a modern-day forum? a modern-day venue for free expression of thoughts and ideas? should we allow social media and tech companies be the arbiters of speech? or should we allow the elected representatives of the american people and the constitution? to allow a very small handful of people to control the debate , and havee democracy shown themselves to be incapable
of being responsible corporate citizens. it is time we redefine their approach. [applause] >> i suppose i should start my -- by giving my answer to the question will social media save democracy. in my view, the answer is probably not but i'm not sure i agree with the premise of the question which is that democracy is in danger and needs to be saved. nor am i sure that if democracy is in trouble, it is reasonable to ask tech companies to take on such a grandiose task. none of this is to say that our democracy has no problems and we don't need to be concerned. my own research has caused me to take a deep dive into the worst elements of the online world. i am someone who would like to see civility and decorum in our public debates and i don't think twitter and facebook are facilitating that. i don't know that i would blame the creators of platforms for that development.
one thing that is worth noting is that at least theoretically, social media is an ideologically neutral tool. it is also a tool of the politically weak. social media is a great equalizer in political communication. you don't need any kind of budget to build an audience. you don't even need to provide your real name. on twitter, a check mark is the only thing that distinguishes a mainstream public figure from an ordinary user and i am not sure that that amounts to much. social media becomes a favored tool of political extremists because it is the only effective tool a lot of them have. to use the example of the alt right, social media was their only method of penetrating mainstream discourse. the far right has had a presence on the internet since the web was created, but twitter was
really a game changer because it was a way for the radical right to escape the confines of its own platform. it was mostly ignored people who were not interested in the material. obviously, extreme right websites have always been around , but if you were not trying to find them, you might not have known they existed. social media became the way by which they could engage with the mainstream. social media changes the situation because it allows individuals and groups to specifically target their message in a public manner. there is a period in which the alt-right was able to use social media to establish a false reality to journalists and other major public figures that had large platforms. we need to remember that as of the start of 2015, the so-called alt-right was totally insignificant. but with the launch of the trump campaign and heightened racial
tensions and new concerns about racist movements, the alt-right saw an opportunity. what it was able to do was use social media to target specific individuals with a massive amount of anti-semitic and racist invective. this was done by a fairly small number of people. they managed to project themselves as a substantially growing movement, a real part of the election cycle. ultimately culminating in hillary clinton dedicating an entire speech on the subject. the troubling campaign they engaged in led to a massive amount of free media and attention far beyond what they would have been able to create on their own. there is some truth to the alt-right claim that it memed itself into existence, using technologically naive journalists, activists, and politicians as tools.
before we panic about this and decide we need to rein in social media, i do think it is worth noting that any changes that we make to try to hinder the of the -- the ability of the alt-right from growing has a potential to hinder other movements that would use these tools to spread similar messages in the future. it is worth noting that very few -- that comparatively few people were concerned about social media's disruptive power when it was used by things such as the arab spring and the occupied -- occupy movement. i am not sure i support making massive changes to public policy or how social platforms operate because of how they were used by the alt-right in 2016. especially because i think that movement is on the decline and will likely not recover. i do not think that american democracy is in existential danger at the moment. i do think we are facing a disruptive period.
we have not developed a language for dealing with the issues area for example, we are now seriously debating questions of free speech but i think the issue is a little bit different in the internet age. the standard libertarian response to this free speech question is that the government should never ban speech or only do so in limited circumstances. but the libertarian perspective is also that private companies should be free to dictate how their platform is being used and would therefore be able to ban people for any reason. maybe that is the right approach, but given that the internet is now the most important means of communication and it is mostly in private hands, i wonder how much practical effect the first amendment really has. i understand why libertarians would be uncomfortable with the government limiting their ability to speak, but is censorship ok if it is engaged in by a giant tech company who has a monopoly?
perhaps it is something they need to think about first. i think these discussions might put most of the left in an awkward situation as well, although i can understand an argument stating that combating racism has to be the number one concern, overruling all others, i can imagine feeling a bit uneasy with the idea that we should allow a handful of silicon valley giants to dictate what can and cannot be said online. at the very least, it feels like that position is in tension with the idea of anyone being against unrestrained corporate power. i am open to the idea of creating certain aspects of the internet like public utilities. i am ambivalent about the issue, and there are a number of reasons that might be a bad idea. in terms of the second conversation, one problem with it is if we were to start doing that it means the internet will be subject to the first amendment and that would make it harder to deny free speech rights to the most irresponsible voices. at this point, it's not clear to
me what is the available option. at present, the only thing i believe and would recommend is that people do not panic. a number of troubling things happened in the 2016 presidential election cycle. i'm not sure they represent any long-term existential threat. my hope is that any changes made by the government and the tech companies themselves change how we interact online will be made in a very sober manner and after long consideration. [applause] >> thank you. i do not agree that more speech is always the best answer so i am going to stay quiet for now and pass it on. >> i want to address a different part of the first amendment , which is not just what happens on social media, not just free speech, but the right to
assemble. and not just our right but our ability to assemble. permit me to speak up front about a personal story. for the historians in the room, i apologize if i get details wrong, this is coming from my family. my stepfather was born in 1944 in lithuania. as the soviets were invading, and they had a clever strategy. they were asking people to give some benign information. seemingly benign. where is he today? did you see him last tuesday? he goes there every tuesday? he missed that one time? they would map out the movements of the lithuanian people. what that did was it fundamentally destroyed, disintegrated the trust between people, between friends and family members because they didn't know if they were going to give up information that was going to incriminate them. so they did not just have feelings about the soviets
moving in, they no longer had a collective. that then they could leverage for collective action. my argument as far as social media is concerned is not just that what happens on social media is an important discussion , but that we are missing a larger discussion. at least i am not hearing it. which is that we are in many ways allowing the same kind of social disintegration to happen and we are not realizing it. we are passively endorsing it if not wholeheartedly embracing it. what i mean by that, many of you may know dr. robert putnam from harvard, he is a political scientist who wrote a book about 20 years ago. i bet you are very familiar with this. about the disintegration of our communities and how since the late 60's early 70's there has been a steep and steady decline in our participation in volunteer activities.
that could be anything from club sports, civic participation in party activities, the pta, unions, religious activities across the board. people are participating in these things less. it's not just a political problem, it's a fundamental society problem, people are not collecting the way they once did. he attributes it to a few different factors. first, the growth of the suburbs. people moved further away from one another so it took more work to actually have conversation in person. and sometimes conversations are sloppy when you have different opinions from one another, you are going to butt heads. but when you are in a network where you are dependent on the one another, you get past that. you learn to develop and exercise empathy skills that enable you to respect the difference while still being in the same team.
he also says technology and specifically tv had a big impact on our participation. we would go home and watch tv instead of going out and playing baseball. he talks about bowling leagues in his example. there is a generational shift toward hyper individualism, the same thing, this movement away from a feeling of responsibility to the collective and more toward the individual. things like slogans that are less do your duty for your country, and more be all you can be. when there is a problem in the school district, how is that going to affect our kids, instead of our kids meaning the community kids, you mean your biological kids. it determines the degree to which you pitch in verses moving into a different school district. these things have a measurable impact on the strength of our
community ties. without those collectives, it is hard to make any kind of social movement or change. it is different in the age of the internet. we are assembling online. my claim is that is fundamentally not true. assemble, perhaps in the blink of an eye, very quickly. but it is not commitment, it is not dedication. in fact, one of the biggest public health considerations now is that because we have these personal devices on us at all times, we are more and more enclosed in our own personal spaces. we are less likely to have interpersonal interactions. researchers are seeing that especially with the youngest generation. m.i.t. professor describes as the igen.
they perhaps are more vocal on social issues, but they are less likely to participate in civic engagement opportunities. when we are talking about saving democracy, if that has to do with civic precipitate -- participation, that is a decision -- a conversation that needs to be had. they were 33% less likely to show up in the younger generation. in 2016t that everything changed. there has been a heightened level of activity. the problem is we are seeing long-term trends, and any little blip is not necessarily going to be enough to overcome that when we have laid a structure for our societies that pull people away from empathetic relationships where they have to disagree and still love one another and cooperate and more toward a society where i will do what i
want, it's a spectator sport. politics is interesting but it's not for me. my claim as to social media is that the degree to which we are less likely to have personal interactions, face-to-face with other people, if that is responsible for having negative impact on our democracy, or haps there is something to be talked about. we are now spending on average 10 hours 39 minutes a day as american adults online. interacting with screens. that could be movies, it could be under smartphone. the number is going up. year.atistic is from last if we are seeking connection online and we are finding shallower connections there, our loneliness rates are going up. it is now considered a health epidemic. we need to have a conversation.
not just about what is happening on social media, but whether we are being wise with the tool that we have. we are getting smart. can we also get wise? [applause] >> i want to thank cato and all of you for giving me the opportunity to come here. this is obviously a conversation that has been weighing heavily on my mind, even before the 2016 election. i have been at facebook for seven years. when i first started in d.c. doing digital work, it had not been created yet. this is a dramatic shift of things that has happened in a short period of time of 15 years. i want to talk today about how we are addressing it. how we are trying to think about this. and how we are grappling with these questions. for us, there are five main areas we are looking at.
we fundamentally believe that social media can be good for democracy and can encourage civic discourse. we have to make sure we are doing what we can to mitigate the risk and be looking at the consequences that have come out of these platforms. whether that is combating foreign interference and also what is happening domestically when you look around the world. what we can be doing to be removing fake accounts. much of the activity we see on our platform and that we saw in 2016, particularly from the russians or the macedonians sharing fake news, they were using fake accounts to do that. they were not using their authentic accounts. the more we can do there to be taking those down in a timely manner or even preventing them from being created in the first place gets us a long way.
there is work we are trying to do on add transparency and make it more transparent on the ads for political partisan political action committees running online. we launched a tool last week, an archive where you can see those ads and they will be there for seven years. i will talk more about that. looking more at what we can do around fake news, what we can and should be doing in fact. it has been interesting even in just the year's time that we have been trying different tactics i will talk about. what the impact those have had or have not had. finally, there is a lot of work we are trying to do on the civic engagement side, helping people to remind them to register to vote, to know who is on the ballot, giving different perspectives in terms of where the parties and candidates stand on the issues and even reminding them it is election day and to go vote. when you go back to the first
one i mentioned in combating foreign interference, looking for how bad actors may be exploiting the platform, you have to look at the different areas of the platform. you have to look at the ways -- what they might be doing. we look at that in three buckets. we want to be sure that people have the right information about the election, we want them to feel safe expressing themselves , and that they are motivated to participate and turn out. we are looking at everything from misinformation, people sharing things like republicans vote tuesday and democrats vote wednesday, and how do we make sure that is not on the platform. how do we make sure people are not creating pages that could be impersonating a candidate or political party trying to spread a message. what are we doing in terms of, one thing we see a lot of is people registering url's and just transposing two letters and making a site look like it is
the new york times or cnn or bbc. because those are trusted brands , but they are actually sharing news that is stuff they just made up. on the safety side, we want to make sure people aren't bullied for sharing political positions on the platform. but how do you define -- where is the line between the political speech and political discussions and bullying and harassment? if i asked each one of you, you might have a different way you would draw that line. we want to make sure our platform is not used to instigate off-line violence. this is something we worked on a lot of in the elections last year. there is a lot of work on account security, making sure folks are using two factor identification and a strong password to make sure their accounts are not hacked or taken over by somebody that should not. on the turn outside, i mentioned
those civic engagement projects. when you look at all of these, you have got to be looking at it as, what can you do to prevent the behavior from happening in the first place? the issue immediately after the election wasn't the russians or anything. it was about fake news sites from macedonia, people doing it to make money. one of the things we did is reduce the reach of sites where if you click on them, they are going to a page that is mostly ads. trying to reduce the economic incentive of sharing the content on this platform. we are doing what we can to identifyo potentially activities. one thing that happened in the alabama special election is we were looking for content that was getting a lot of reach in the u.s., that came from mother -- pages where admin's were in other countries. we found a handful of url websites for macedonia that we were able to blackhole and make
sure people could not share on the platform. it came from those monitoring efforts. we are looking at what we could do to be better on enforcement. i have to be honest, this is one of the trickiest areas, and the fascinating questions coming up on how we should be handling some of these issues , and even if they are issues and trying to identify them. and how do we do that in a quick way and in a way so we're thinking about the unintended consequences, so we are trying to be thoughtful in making decisions about how they will not just impact democracy in the united states but how it will impact the entire world. and then we do a lot of research. we start for every election internationally, we start working about one year and a half to two years out, researching countries to identify what election risks they might see and how they civicallycally --
engage. all of the things we're trying to do to tackle these different problems. i want to make sure, i keep going on for a long time about a lot of different stuff we are doing. i'm happy to answer questions , but i will say this to close. these are the conversations we want to be having. everyone up here has made incredibly valid points and questions and criticisms of our platform. these are the conversations we need to be having. you do not necessarily just want facebook making one decision in google making another decision. twitter making another decision, too. these are conversations we have to be having collectively, to be thinking about what are the right ways we should be handling this. where is regulation, the right answer, versus companies like ours making those decisions? i hope we do more of this.
i hope we keep having these. i really appreciate you letting me be here. [applause] >> thanks to everyone. we have a lot of big stuff on the table. everyone did a good job of getting the big stuff out. i am going to try to narrow a little bit. what usually happens when you put the big issues on the table is in each of these remarks, you have big tensions. katie is talking about how we crackdown on bullying without cracking down on speech. alex is talking about, how do we remove inherent shallowness of online interaction without turning away from online interaction entirely? george is saying we should be sober and reflective and not rush into anything but let's sayally, if there was a genocide going on, you would want to act rationally. you are arguing forcefully that
rule by algorithm could be worse dictatorship, and yet also, we want to make sure algorithms do not crack down. everyone has very dynamic tensions right at the heart of what you are saying. that is to be expected. i guess one thing that could narrow a little bit, what is one thing you could unambiguously get behind that could help right away tomorrow that we don't have to wait for congress to do, what is something you think the platforms could do, that society could do culturally that you would be unambiguously ready to get on the ground with? if you want to do the political that is not tomorrow, that is yesterday. >> we announced it act in -- back in october. it took us a little while to not only just build it but to think
through how we wanted to define what a political -- and later on when we have an issue, what a political or issue ad is. requiring the advertiser to go through an authorizations process and add a disclaimer and those ads go into an archive. that was something we felt was important to do before there was any legislation. the honest ads act passes, depending upon where those end up going and where the rulemaking goes, we may have to adjust the product depending upon where that happens. we think the transparency part is the thing we are to do more -- we are trying to do more of and looking at to help right away. >> of that is something that can and has been done. do you have something you would get behind as something you could do right now?
>> one thing i would like to see, this relates to twitter more than facebook, i have been personally confused by twitter's rules as to what constitutes hate speech that will get people d.nd -- banne it does seem to be an arbitrary element to it. rather capricious at times. there are people band from things i find abhorrent that seem to be in violation of the rules and other accounts that really should not have any place there that remain untouched here -- untouched. and a little bit of clarity as to how these decisions are made. it would be useful from the perspective of someone trying to analyze it from the outside and perhaps from users themselves to have a better idea as to how one should behave online. >> i think that is fair. the thing to think about is it
is not just clarity on what our standards are. which is something we have been attempting to do more of. but your point to have the decisions are made. conversations happening within companies, whether it is ours or twitter , and how these policies evolve. they do evolve. they are really long. and how do we make sure people understand that and how we are getting to it. it is important for both parts of that. >> one thing i see, a tension within that is, if you want -- people want clarity and ofnsparency, but a lot platforms, keep it light touch. you were saying, who controls the controllers? how could a platform go out and affirmatively say we are making these value distinctions while maintaining an appearance of neutrality? >> welcome to democracy.
i do not think there is an easy way to get to that. there has got to be a lot more transparency about how rules are made, what is acceptable, what is not. i'm very hesitant to let certain private companies decide what free speech is. as alex is pointing out, we're almost 11 hours on our screens, i might be at 12 hours, i don't know. what is the internet that a public forum and a public space. if they are deciding what is and is not acceptable, it calls in to question again, who are the arbiters of free speech? the first step would be more transparency. i was just thinking about this the other day with the amazing nne on twitter,sa
libertarian point of view, you get the question of, do these companies have first amendment rights? >> exactly. where do you find the right line? that is something we are starting to struggle with. where do you draw the line? where do certain freedoms start and stop? there is not unlimited freedom to go into a theater and yell fire. at the same time, it goes back, democracies are messy. there has to be something that we say there is not -- there has got to be as much free speech as possible, but no more than not possible. >> right. that makes sense. >> in the spirit of transparency, we have been working on a project of social media practitioners across both sides of the aisle in conjunction with the democracy fund in the university of chicago. we have been trying to come up with principles all of us could agree to. it gets back to the original question of, is there something
we can unambiguously agree to? it also goes back to the spirit of dialogue and making sure we are on the same page having these conversations because it is nuanced. one thing that came up that we ended up all agreeing to, close -- although we are not completely finished with this project, it is ongoing. close to it. we would like there to be a working group with many different parties from various interests to be able to have these conversations and to acknowledge that transparency is an issue. that having an open and honest dialogue and knowing that not every single decision made will be perfect because there will always be dissent, but because -- but that that may be someplace where we can start, continuing and encouraging dialogue. >> it just comes down to transparency. who is doing what and who is paying for what and where they come from.
i would say massive and dramatic transparency. >> yes. i have some of the principles that were unanimously endorsed from the project. it was interesting which ones, there were 22 items unanimously endorsed by everyone and there were a lot more that were not. i think it is interesting which ones people were not comfortable with and which ones they were. it seems on the face of it that citizens should have the right to view personal data and social media practitioners should treat content crated by minors as off-limits. these are all the unanimously adoption. >> the one that was interesting was it was unanimous from right left and taking place in europe. >> that was interesting. i would think people would have a problem with that.
do you have a sense of why that was ok with everyone? >> do you want to explain what that is? >> as best i can. feel free to correct me as i understand this. the fact that who owns the data and whose data, who owns the data, is it individual that the -- individual? is at the various entities the data has been shared on? and the ability and right to be forgotten and have all the data for various platforms removed. that goes back to individual rights. the interesting debate, and i cut it out of my opening comments, how are we viewed by there is companies, how are we viewed online? are we viewed as consumers or human beings and citizens? i think there is a difference of -- difference in how we are viewed and what expectations are depending on how we are viewed and defined by social media and tech companies. i think where europe has come down has been more toward human beings and citizens and where we
are in the united states, we have been viewed more as your consumers. i think that is the debate moving forward of human rights. >> and a lot of european countries have human rights and -- human rights and our constitution and we do not. i think that, the one question i found interesting that did not pass. i wanted to sort of read because was interesting what people supported and what they didn't. there's a cultural shift in how we think about stuff more so than specific regulation. this was the wording of the principal. social media platforms should recognize their role in the pulley from productivity, while for-profit corporations should and knowledge their unique impact on and therefore responsibility to the common good. it goes on in that vein for a couple of more sentences.
half support and half opposition. could you speak to why something like that would be controversial? it seems like something everyone could get behind. >> i think i voted for that. mark would actually know. >> the thing that concerns me a little bit is are people doing what they should do or what they can do? i think there are responsibilities that various entities, companies and organizations have to be responsible corporate citizens. so i actually do agree with that statement. >> i would as well. not giving the other point here trade -- point here. i think it is important to acknowledge context and history that we come from. and also that we are not independent actors as much as we wish we were. there are certain things that wield influence. social pressure being one. being on facebook is a thing. that is where a lot of human interaction takes place. is it fair to say i could just
turn it off completely, a lot of people do. but there are a lot of people that would say that is not 100% an option either. >> i have had the conversation with friends that are just like leave everything. >> i'm a big practitioner of twitter. do some instagram, do some facebook, but twitter is my thing. we have had this debate of just withdraw completely. sizingause you are mr. -- you are ostracizing yourself from a big part of society. everything not taking place online or on the internet, i do not think that is a solution. i look and i go, i think that is the wrong solution to engage in. how can we actually have -- again, democracy being messy, we bump into each other in our disagreements -- how are we going to actually solve these
things off-line and online you do call into question what the future of our democracy is. this is something we have to figure out and what we realize we will have disagreements. among all of us appear, there -- up here, there are probably things we agree on and things that most of us don't. i will respect for disagree with -- respectfully disagree with you and what does that look like off-line and off-line. >> it does not look like i will respectfully disagree with you. >> right. i said that to someone on twitter. >> and then it does seem at some point, the platforms have to step in. i do not want to hog too much time. i had to do with the alt-right -- i'm on the board of the american conservative union. somehow, milo got invited.
i do not think anyone associated ath the alt-right should have platform at cpac. so knowing that george just wrote a book, i think there are certain lines to say alt-right is just another form of white supremacy or whatever you want to call it. understanding that is inflammatory, and you would agree, that that is unacceptable. at the same time, it is being -- is being pro-life that inflammatory? it is one thing where there are certain things where i completely agree that absurd and at the samehings time deserve a platform. there are many that are very strongly pro-life. you see twitter and these guys, it is one thing, where do you draw the line? >> the mechanism, 99% support this and 50% support this.
is that something we are comfortable for how we draw lines? >> it is the majority and then the minority does not have a voice. >> so what is the better answer? >> i would describe myself as a free speech purist when it comes to ideas. i think that certain radical views should not necessarily be banned as long as they do not cross the line into harassment. i think that is an easier thing to manage and certain ideologies are out of bounds. i think that alone would go a long way to stopping things like the alt-right which grew not so much because it was pushing an ideological agenda with the use of things like trolling an
online harassment, which one can easily attack from a platform perspective without raising some of the trickier questions. >> and yet, milo was banned on twitter for harassment but not banned from cpac for harassment. to be clear, that is one of my arguments that the reason he was uninvited was over something that 99.9% of the people found abhorrent. i thought we missed having a real and rigorous debate. we in democracy have to figure out how to have a rigorous debate without having things be silent. i think in some of this debate, we were silent because we didn't have an honest debate about why milo shouldn't be invited. if you looks like a duck, quacks -- duck, it is a
damn duck. i think part of what would be helpful in the whole dialogue, and i think it made the principal list, we have to learn how to self police ourselves inside of movements. i thought this was where the conservative movement could take the stand like we did back in the day. to say i'm sorry, that and right here. >> they tried to do it in 2016 and it did not work. >> that the whole another conversation. -- other conversation. >> there was something i read last week looking at when politicians self police on their own, in terms of comments, and impose some limits in terms of self policing in the language they will or will not allow, they end up having a more productive dialogue.
if i am a politician and i have got my facebook page and the -- and i do a post and people are commenting on it, if someone is harassing someone else, it is stopping it or moderating it. it is self policing it on ourselves but also calling things out when we think they might be wrong or going over the line. i think the trend of our conversation here is showing that like we are not going to be able to draw a clear line and say we are done. it is going to have to be a constant debate. beans.ht bush's baked it is not a political ad, but we are having to -- it is going to take us time to find the right spot where this line is and figuring out what works and what doesn't work. i think a lot of times people want a nice and clear answer right away when it will actually be a debate figure out where it
is to get there. ask, when bush's baked beans came in, do have a -- i do not want to do a gotcha thing because they will -- there will always be mistakes. do you have a guess as to why this has happened? >> yes. the big thing was the name bush. we made a conscious decision for initially rolling this out that we wanted to be more broad in terms of being transparent for people to see things and make decisions on their own if they are political issues in terms of narrowing out. people will disagree on that decision. some people probably would have preferred we stayed very narrow. in terms of transparency, we felt broader was better. >> can you speak to how facebook
or other platforms could empower community moderators to moderate themselves rather than doing it top-down and maybe how that affects practitioners? >> all of these are hard questions. it is an interesting question that we are trying to do research on an figure out. you look at some initial work we did on fake news, it actually ends up causing people to believe it more. this is not as easy as let's just show people the other side and they will all of a sudden have a civil conversation on that. there is a lot of research that we are putting into it, looking at where can you have great and productive conversations between two sides where you can respect one another and find those commonalities. >> do you see it in your work doing online organizing, the
kind of ways that you can either self police or set norms bottom-up? >> you first. >> it is hard when you achieve scale because you get so many trolls. it is just very difficult to be the one responsible -- from the politician's page, for example -- it is hard to be the one responsible for going through the comments because they come in fast and furious. what i would say is, importantly, the polarization we are seeing that is largely responsible for a lot of these comments is not just on social media but with in our neighborhoods. it is not necessarily directly
caused by social media. my argument earlier was perhaps our pulling away from personal interaction is causing us to exercise that empathy and empathic conversation skill less. therefore, would make it onto social media, we say things that -- a little more but as far as social media being the cause of it, yes, the jury is out. as far as other people in the community stepping in as moderators, i don't have a good answer for that. i think people have to want to do that and how do you tell them to want to do that? >> there are tools to be used. reddit has always been decentralized. every sub reddit has been heavily moderated by individuals who volunteer operators.
-- moderators. give ai tools to moderators to say, these are the things that can be elevated, that you are not manually combing through it. do we think that, you know, i want to talk about shutdowns that is something happening not but in papua new guinea. they just announced they will shut down facebook for a month entirely. some people cheered and said yes, let's try shutting down facebook because it is inflaming .ensions the other hand, it appears it might be just an attempt by the government to crack down. do we have anything to say about shutdowns? can we imagine a situation in which a shut down, you know,
let's put it on hold until we figure out what is going on. can we imagine a thing like that productive? >> i would certainly hope not. i thought alex made an interesting point. we had this debate going back and forth and we even had this debate on the panel in is social november. media ruining democracy? is it the cause of this polarized -- no. i think over the last however many decades, are we losing a commonality among who we are as a people and i think what social media has allowed us to do is everyone gets a little microphone to announce to the world what they believe and feel which was not the case in the past. it goes back to the whole thing about when people are talking about stepping completely away from facebook and twitter, that is the wrong response and the shutdown is the wrong response. i think we're in a time period where there will be a messy figuring things out but i have a hard time accepting when he -- you completely shut down
things that that is the right approach. >> interesting tension as you mentioned in your opening remarks the government and other , governments. the interesting tension is they are the ones that have the power to shut us down. where do we make decisions where we want to make sure we are giving more voice but where do we also want to make sure the government isn't trying to use it to stifle other oppositions andpotential he getting us threatening us with shutdowns if we do not take that action? it is a very interesting tension. for us, commercial things aside, we want to stay up because we more peopleill give an opportunity to have that voice and participate. so you have got to find the balance with the government that is asking you to do something otherwise they will shut you down. >> yes. and then is it truly freedom of speech? >> yes. not every government treats facebook with the freedom the u.s. government does.
? we will move to a q&a portion. i will read these things and we will get going. please wait to be called on. please wait for the microphone so everyone in the audience and online can hear the question. announce your name and affiliation, however you want to interpret the word. that is pretty much it. we have a question here, if we could get a microphone. right down here. good. as instructed. >> good afternoon. carl with net choice. the wall street journal announced today there is a new website which, is only for pets. if you act like a human, you get kicked off. that is content moderation at its forefront. i've actually written two opposites in the daily caller over this issue in the past week. looking at it from a libertarian point of view, and we are in the
heart of cato and robert leedy had a great article in 2016 about libertarianism and the right to discriminate. how do we balance our libertarian views and policies and not get into the politics by advocating the private businesses must do or not do something that they may not feel is best for their consumers, users or their business? >> i think a lot of people could take that. the question is -- do you mean the government or as a society? >> libertarian advocates. >> libertarian advocates. ok. i do think there is a distinction between what the government compels companies to do and what advocates request that the companies do. >> to get the ball rolling, it does not seem to me there is a first amendment concern with a
site that once people to mimic their pets. that seems a weird thing the a company can be allowed to do. whatever floats your boat. >> i think you could take this a lot of different ways. even on facebook, we require real names on profiles. i cannot be mickey mouse. on a profile. but i can do it on a page. i can have that. i think one of the interesting areas there potentially is the scale question. if you want to do that and pretend to be a pet, there are a lot of other websites to do that in. if you want other types of interactions. i think the big question comes when other companies like ours and others get to a scale where you have a lot of people and and there are different norms that people are wanting.
it is a very hard one to balance. >> and yes. just to throw it into the mix, there are times when 99.9% of people would appreciate a crackdown on some. -- question message of what is right at the time. right there. >> american legal news. my question is why is mainstream media not basically talking about our judges in the corruption in our courts and our judges police themselves, we cannot get a fair trial to purchase buy breakfast, lunch, or dinner in a weekend getaway. when you try to reach out to a reporter in order to tell the story everyone is petrified to , admit what is really going on in our courts and our jails and report on it. >> i guess i will take that one. i'm the only one from the media. i do not know why everyone is
afraid to talk about what is really going on. i do not take that to be the case. question right here. >> thank you for the question. mina goes into this as well. i have been working for a decade on violence against women as human rights violations. we are having a horrible problem in the courts. domestic violence victims, sexually and physically abused children are being handed over to abusers at a rate of 70%. i have been trying to get the news media in europe, i work globally and we have 7 million americans living abroad. people are coming to me with the -- this problem all over the world. we cannot get the media to do it. there are all sorts of moms going on to facebook. they have facebook pages and campaigns. i am up on capital hill at the state department at the white
house. all of the experts know about me and my research. it really gets into the american democracy going back to the puritan movement. >> i think we have a way to address this with regards to social media. you are talking about violence against women and trafficking and stuff. there was recently the act that essentially, in order to prevent sex trafficking online, it basically forced back page and a lot of these sites to shut down. that is the closest i think we have come to a frontier of first amendment adjacent regulation that we have seen, that congress passed a law that said if you are posting this kind of thing on your site, you have to shutdown. craigslist took a big hit. do we on this panel have libertarian concerns about that or is sex trafficking the kind of thing where you say this is a grave enough risk that is worth taking the hit?
>> i do not think there is a debate on that. >> there is. >> i'm saying if there are really sites that are pushing -- >> the issue is not that the site excelled as advocating for sex trafficking. >> it is being used for that. proved, i think you have grounds to be able to shut that down. >> facebook has been used for all kinds of horrible things. >> yes. at some point, you have to decide. >> does it meet community standards? there is a wide spectrum of what that applies to, but i think we can -- >> i think that is one of the things we are constantly trying to get better at is how do we find these things quickly to be able to take action on them at the scale that we are operating on and making sure you are taking action in the right way. >> i think most people can agree that is better for the
platform to do it than the government to do it for them in most cases. on the aisle there, in the blue tie. >> my name is justin. from the government of quebec. i like to think outside of our borders. it is nice to see a young panel and i hope when legislators attack this issue that they do work more with young people. that would change a lot of the debate. seeing outside of the united states, you have more languages than facebook ever monitor. -- facebook can monitor. how do you expect where his speech could be banned but it is not banned under the first amendment, holocaust denial would be. how do you juggle this being service in the united states, having users around the world? -- geoblockindeal
g. one way in germany, if somebody puts a test if it is seen outside of the country, that is one way we have been looking at it. it is difficult and it is something we trying to figure out. what is acceptable in brazil is different from what is in the middle east versus canada or the philippines. the other interesting thing trying to tackle this is there are differences for people -- what the people inside the country and what they feel is ok and acceptable versus other countries and other societies and what they might deem is ok or acceptable. which one should we be listening to and which one should we be, how should we be fighting that balance? there are definite pros and cons to each approach. and it is just not an easy answer. >> in the middle.
>> hi, i am hannah, and in turn intern here. my question was going back to the earlier discussion on how facebook and other social media companies suppress conservatives, new stories during the 2016 election. how do you think we should hold social media companies accountable and decent there should be consequences for the companies for example the government getting involved? >> i think it has gotten to the point where listening to some conversations taking place, i point you to a clip of kevin speaking last week, about real belief that conservative voices aren't social media, it is not a random member of congress. he is well-positioned as -- if the republicans keep the
house to be speaker. at some point, representatives almost likek, it is they have given enough time for social media companies to figure it out. i believe they have strong questions about it and like i said earlier, they will take an aggressive approach after the first of the year. basically saying if you cannot police yourself, there will have to be. it comes back to all society and human nature, if you can't police yourself, you're going to get police by somebody else. i'm not saying it is easy. i think there certain things we have to have that debate about. who really does control the internet? who are the defenders and guardians of free speech? there is enough time for people to figure that out. if they cannot, i do think you will see some of that take place. to what level, i do not know, to be clear. >> to bring this to a social
science perspective, i would note that before we want to get the government involved in these sorts of things, we should reasonably consider how much this matters from a real world perspective. that is, were there people who would have voted for trump had they seen one more conservative ad in the facebook feed? >> whatever the number is, it is almost assuredly to marginal to matter. which care about questions of fairness but do we want to have the government go down the rabbit hole two things that ultimately, in my view are inconsequential in the big picture. i think we should try to put these things in perspective as well. >> my concern is this. engine -- i think the
market shares are continuing to increase. i had this thought when i went to google's political innovation summit in 2013. it was fascinating actually. the thought occurred to me back then. these companies like google will have the ability in many ways in the future to manipulate elections based on what people see and don't see in how they make decisions. that to me is a concern. while i think george has a valid point because i think some of about-face gets overblown, i'm concerned about the future and how things tend to accelerate. are we going down a path where we have to have the conversation now or 20 years from now, we should have a conversation about who is conjoined the internet and freedom of speech, free expression in a public forum, which is the internet. >> as a republican at facebook
and has been for a while, just a couple of things because we could have a whole panel on this topic. i think there are a couple of different things to be unpacking in terms of where people might be seeing potential buyers. one is community standards and what we're allowing and the platform which has been a big part of the debate here. some of the decisions we've made as a platform of what we want and will allow and do not allow, some people disagree with it. they are decisions on the algorithms in terms of types of headlines and content of what is getting a breach or not. in a decision we made earlier this year around showing more content from friends and family, versus pages. just the pure amount of content that has appeared on facebook in the last couple of years has skyrocketed. i could make you sit here all
day every day and you would not be able to see all the content you are eligible for yourself in your feed. that is a conversation to be having. people initially think, you self correct what you see in your feed but what you see from that, everyone has different preferences in terms of what they want to see and what they do not want to see in that is a valid debate. there is no other company out there i would rather be at as a or as a republican. i've been in numerous conversations with mark and there were numerous times when we could have pulled out and not gone to the public convention when there is pressure to not go there when president trump was the nominee. it is controversial. it is something that mark feel strongly about making sure that we are a platform for all voices. he is very committed of making the rooms were decisions
are being made, that there are different ideological backgrounds and racial backgrounds and gender backgrounds on all of this. i know this is my own personal opinion, and we have a long way to go, do it is something that we are taking very seriously. i personally feel it as a republican at the company. >> one more thing, i was laughing actually. my director started -- decided to stop by. hey, mike. we were laughing the other day about, wouldn't it be funny for silicon valley, have them interacting. dealing with people who are not in the same mentality or same , especially to get a different worldview and a different perspective. i think that would be extremely healthy. >> that is upmarket laster, he moved to different states. >> i am talking about moving companies out. different worldviews, different ways. it is funny to me.
interacting with people really -- who really haven't been outside of the silicon corridor. there are different people out there and feel strongly about these views, but you never interact with them. >> anything that leads toward assumption that social media is where all of our lives have to happen, i just want to say, let's not do that. as far as information dissemination, i totally get it. that is where it happens a lot nowadays. my fiance is a pastor. one of his favorite books is called tech wise. he pulled this one quote out of it that says something to the effect of, we do not all have to amish, but we do amish thenmore
we think we should be. falling into, it is always a healthy practice. >> i will put this on the points. a lot of other companies, a lot of this suggests there is not -- and that there might be as much if not more bias on the other side. there are a lot of different that there might just be a lot -- there are a lot of different ways to look at the data. and then i would, there is a debate about the fact that this stuff does not matter. i think there is a lot of data to suggest that it does. advertising matters. all that stuff. buts a whole other panel, just to point out that there is a social scientist debate and that stuff.
it's interesting. >> stuff changes people's minds. >> sorry. richard, and i am an independent consultant. it occurred to me as you were speaking and other similar comments. i think perhaps there is an assumption that facebook and others have sort of a chokehold on market share and ability to speak. you look back and at one point, newspapers or the three broadcast networks or aol and time warner, even google tried to compete with google plus, which was a failure. i do not think there is an inevitability that facebook will necessarily have been a mortal -- an immortal lifetime.
well, thenk about, question of algorithms, anspapers had what was effective our them. it was an editorial perspective as to the broadcast networks as did aol. so i wonder if some perspective that you articulated, it assumes that there is some inevitability to the permanence of some of these platforms. >> my response back would be i do not think there will be if everybody played by the same roles and there was actual real competition. in how we are approaching this. i think there is an argument to be made. back at the situation where at&t controlled all of the telephone lines and then western electric filed all of that equipment. it was a complete vertical and
when we are allowing companies to buy various entities, whether it is youtube and all of that, we have to have the conversation of have we allotted the point where there is not really where these come and go? if we create a level-playing field, and if there is true competition that allows it to -- allows upstarts to be able to come on and be able to compete, great, hopefully. all for it. i would say right now, i do not think we have the dynamic based on what i am seeing in the rules and the regulations and everything in place. i would argue we do not have free market competition and we have to examine that. >> one thing to tip the question to the three of you, the comparison to the newspapers and the tv networks of old, as you say, that was editorial discretion. their algorithmic approach to should be practice or not does not mean our standard is good.
that is not a standard social networks have used or wanted to use in the past. and yet, we have seen a little bit more over the past few months of people coming out and saying we are putting our values , first and acting more like a publisher. because the question to you guys is are we ok with moving a , little bit more in the direction of the social networks acting a bit more like publishers in the sense of editorial discretion? >> i was going to say if we are going to redefine them from moving from platforms to publishers, we go back to what i talked about earlier. a publisher of content, tv and radio or whatever, a telecommunication company, the world has changed. that was an argument in my opening statement. social media giants have become that. we have to re-examine how we
define them in the rules by which they play because they are not playing by the same rules as everyone else. >> think the big thing is that we may not want to use old definitions with networks today, regulation is going to have to look different. you can look at it in a couple of different ways. instance, then, in his column, he talks more about how it should be data affordability. --t is how you can portability. if you can import your social network into a new platform or a new startup, that is different regulation. >> do they have the ability to come out and compete to do that? i'm just saying is the environment online, on the internet, because google is controlling 75%, is it really
the ability to compete? that is my other question. i'm not seeing it. >> 2015, meerkat was like the greatest thing since sliced bread. part of the reason it was going too fast as you could use twitter and import your twitter context into that. and it grew like crazy and then twitter was like no and they shut that off. it would have been interesting to see what if twitter had shut -- couldn't shut that off? what would have happened because they are getting way off the curve because of the live streaming on that. i think that it's a great example of thinking about like, how can you be thinking about this to allow startups and what is the right type of regulation. >> yes. question right here. >> my name is jeff.
i am with memory, the middle east media research institute. my question is in regards to industry standards. there is discussion about that. specifically, there is a forum, the global counterterrorism forum where tech companies meet on the west coast once in a while and it is not quite a good job over the last couple of years of adjusting the issue in setting up standard spirit of -- standard. was wondering if you rank any of those successes could he -- be applied to the issue of speech more broadly or the issue of terrorism. is that just he on the pale, clearly removable, or our lessons from that that could be applied? >> lessons can be learned and i think you are starting to see some efforts pop up. i know for sure the intellectual integrity space, there are organizations popping up. i think the difficulty we are all seeing is having the move at speed inove at the which we are moving and trying to have conversations as we are
the conversations trying to make decisions in real time. the elections are not stopping and there is always an election happening somewhere. and trying to bridge the gap between people who have been around for a long time who are very smart and may not understand tech issues in the way the technology is being used. there is going to be a bit of time in terms of bridging that cap -- gap in order for us to have the common understanding to help us solve some of these issues. >> move fast with stable -- i will always say. i think that is all the time we have got. thanks, everyone, for the insightful questions. there will be a lunch upstairs. everybody is invited. there is a such thing as a free lunch. restrooms are on the way on the second floor. lunch is on the second floor. see you up there. thanks. [applause]
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at 4:00 p.m. eastern on c-span three. the brookings in washington inhosted a symposium washington dc. next, a conversation with professors from several schools. george washington university political science professor john moderated the hour-long talk. >> thank you all for being here. gratified to have three excellent scholars talk to us today and think