On Friday I wrote about Facebook blocking people and groups from sharing the URL codeisfreespeech.com, a site sponsored by four California-based Second Amendment advocacy groups. I promised to update the story if I heard back from Facebook, but as of close of business Tuesday I haven’t heard anything from [email protected], or in response to my telephone inquiry to Facebook’s media relations office.
The four Second Amendment advocacy groups involved in sponsoring the site haven’t heard anything from Facebook either, despite the fact that all four groups have been verified nonprofit advocacy groups with Facebook for years, regularly spend thousands of dollars advertising on Facebook’s platform, and whose administrators have all gone through Facebook’s new verification program for political speech.
On Saturday, Firearms Policy Foundation supporter Sarah Cade reported that the fundraiser she created on Facebook to benefit FPF was shut down “because it goes against our standards.” Sarah did not have a link to codeisfreespeech.com anywhere in her fundraiser – and she didn’t even mention the name of the website.
Sarah wrote, in part:
If I get banned before this fundraiser ends, I’ll chip in an extra $100.
Facebook has launched a kneejerk crusade to restrict the flow of information across their platform. They have blocked all links to a website about free speech and 3D printed firearms. They seem to think that by censoring users’ speech, they can somehow stop the spread of knowledge and ideas. (Lolz. And these are people who supposedly understand how the internet works.)
While they’re within their rights to censor whatever they want, this kind of reactionary oppression takes a giant s*** on the fundamental liberties many of us hold dear. 3d printing is simply another facet of home manufacturing. Home manufacturing of firearms is not only a perfectly legal pastime, but also a grand cultural tradition that predates the founding of the country.
Code is speech. This code, especially, is political speech.
Facebook’s message back to her is patronizing:
We understand that you may not have known about these standards, so we’d encourage you to learn more about what type of sharing is allowed on Facebook.
They’re leaving it to Sarah to understand what part of her raising funds for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on preservation of one of the liberties enshrined in our Bill of Rights, a foundation that has been recognized by Facebook as such for at least three years and for which Facebook allows its users to raise funds, goes against their community standards.
Also over the weekend Firearms Policy Coalition set up a petition on their site to ask Facebook to unblock codeisfreespeech.com. Tuesday morning tweeted that they were unable to post the URL unblockcodeisfreespeech.com. That URL does NOT lead to the 3D printer gun plans; it simply leads to the petition page that’s hosted on FPC’s website. They were also unable to post the URL firearmspolicy.org/unblock-codeisfreespeech.
Many have expressed the sentiment that since Facebook is a private entity they can regulate whatever they want on their site.
The problem is that Facebook and other social media platforms have taken the position in lawsuits that they aren’t liable for harmful, libelous, or slanderous things people post on their website because they’re tech platforms, not publishers. If they’re curating or censoring content, picking and choosing what they believe is publishable and okay for others to see, then they are publishers, not a tech platform. As a publisher, they’re no longer protected from being sued for slander or libel because of things users post on their site. If that’s the way they want it, great! Bring on the slander and libel suits.
Another issue is that the four groups behind the codeisfreespeech.com site are Facebook advertisers and recognized nonprofits. They should be required to contact the nonprofits and communicate about what the problem is, and what they could do to be in compliance with community standards if that’s their objection. FPC President Brandon Combs confirmed to RedState Tuesday afternoon that Facebook has had “zero, zilch, nada” communication with them, and that they’ve never been told what the specific objection is to the URL’s Facebook has blocked.
Again, if Facebook ever decides to communicate on this issue I will update the story.