Twitter vs Trump: Zuckerberg rejects the role of referee

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has spoken out against it that social media platforms should correct misleading information. “Facebook shouldn’t be the truth judge over everything people say online,” Zuckerberg said on Wednesday night on Fox News.

He disagreed with Twitter boss Jack Dorsey after a tweet from US President Donald Trump was provided by Twitter with information about the context.

Trump had warned in Tuesday of one of his numerous tweets about possible manipulations in postal elections and described them as “essentially fraudulent”. Twitter then provided this and another tweet from the President with a note (“Get the facts about postal elections”) and a link to further information. Trump sees this as an impermissible interference in the election campaign and threatens the social media platforms with countermeasures.

Facebook has always held the position that a platform should not subject its users to an internal quality check. “Private companies, and platforms in particular, shouldn’t play that role,” Zuckerberg said. “I think we have a different policy from Twitter in this case.” The CEO had once again defended the measures. “We will continue to report incorrect or controversial information about elections worldwide,” said Dorsey. “It doesn’t make us an ‘arbiter of the truth’.”

Zuckerberg’s understanding of the role of social media platforms is based on US legislation. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter enjoy a liability privilege: They are not responsible for the information published by their users from the outset, but only have to take action when they become aware of violations. This privilege is an essential livelihood of the platform economy. With the large number of daily postings on these platforms, it is unlikely that effective pre-checking will be easy for money printing machines such as Facebook.

Trump has reacted sharply to Twitter’s intervention and announced countermeasures. The president accuses the platform operators of not being politically neutral and biased against conservative opinions. “Big Tech is doing everything possible to exercise CENSORSHIP prior to the 2020 election,” Trump tweeted on Thursday. The US President now wants to regulate the social media by decree and announced an “Executive Order”, which he wants to sign on Thursday.

Because the US President is on constitutionally relevant terrain and therefore thin ice, his scope for a decree is not too great. According to US media who have seen a draft Executive Order, the paper has so far been rather vague. The White House argues that social media is a public space in which the fundamental right to freedom of expression is protected by constitutional law and providers cannot use it to their liking.

However, Trump also sets a needle-stitch: he wants to instruct the national telecommunications authority NTIA to initiate a review of the legal liability privilege with the regulatory authority FCC. Zuckerberg – who knows that the platform privilege that is essential for his company is increasingly being questioned – stops on Fox News: “A government that censors a platform because it is concerned about censorship – that doesn’t seem the right reaction to me now.”


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