Let’s get this out of the way right now: This is not a person’s home journal, or their personal property, that is being used to express their personal feelings.
Of course, those things are, and should be, covered by free-speech laws.
Rather, these are large, third-party companies who are basically saying, “Here is a blank sheet of paper that the world can see; write what you want to.”
On top of that, if you read your terms and conditions language, they are claiming ownership of anything you post on their site.
So, once you’ve posted that picture of your cat in your kitchen cupboard and comment on how it wants to “Has Cheeseburger,” Snowball’s likeness belongs to Zuckerberg and so does your timely cheeseburger reference.
Basically, Facebook wants to be able to take anything you post that they think they can make a buck on, and claim it as theirs.
However, if there is something negative like hate speech, they don’t think they should be held responsible?
If I put a bunch of spray paint in front of my own brick wall, and told everyone, “If you want to paint on this, go for it, but I own all the art!” I am still responsible for what my brick wall has on it.
I can’t say, “Sorry, police, I know I told everyone they could paint on here, and even provided the wall and the paint, but I shouldn’t be in trouble if my wall faces a grade school and someone paints a bunch of dicks all over it, because someone else painted it.”
Contrary to popular belief, companies are not individuals.
They don’t have the same rights as an individual, nor should they.
Individuals are held to a different standard; they have different laws and different responsibilities.
Courts and governments need to be very careful when they give rights to businesses because it can have unforeseen consequences. Facebook, Twitter, or any other publishing format (which essentially is what they are, a publishing format) shouldn’t have the same rules of freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of religion, as those given a person.
When they do, we get companies such as the bakery in California that can discriminate based on sexual orientation, then claim it’s against the “company’s” religious beliefs.
If Facebook doesn’t want to take responsibility for the things that are posted on its site, it needs to make it clear in the terms and conditions that the information and pictures posted are the responsibility and property of the people who’ve posted them.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim ownership and deny culpability – that’s not how things work.
I struggle to find how anyone could be in favor of such a thing as holding Facebook or Twitter accountable for the speech and publications made by their users.
It’s no different than arresting a child’s grandparents because little Timmy was shoplifting. May as well dig up Tesla and Marconi and give them the business whenever Howard Stern gets out of hand, as well. How do supporters of this policy they expect to collect on these fines if they were to accrue? This is the web-based equivalent of AT&T being sued because someone used their phone network to run a cold call phone scam. The last time I checked, neither Facebook or Twitter were located, nor held office space, in Germany. Also, we need to take an honest look at if this process is even feasible.
So, let’s break down the numbers and get started. Facebook has 2 billion active users, Twitter has 328 million. With an average of 1.35 billion statuses, images and comments per day, if even half of 1 percent of posts are reported, that is over 6.7 million posts per day. The company would have to scan through, judge and double-check with free speech laws just over 78 posts per second.
If Facebook technicians failed to find these posts at even the same rate, that could make the possible fine (at up to €50 million per offense) €1.69 trillion, per day or over seven times the entire world’s GDP. Seems legit.
And let’s consider that maybe Germany decides to soften its stance and make the fine a reasonable amount, or a blanket fine. Why should a company that was founded in and operates in the United States be held responsible in Germany for an offense, that isn’t an offense where it is based?
Another point to consider in our ever-changing world, where people seemingly go out of their way to take offense at everything being said, displayed or sold: Who is to say the German government won’t attempt to expand the definition of ‘hate speech,’ adding short, fat, mentally challenged, skinny, and others to their list. After all of the progress we have made with human rights and making the world a better place, going out of our way to tether ourselves to technology in order to give ourselves more freedom, we may end up in a world so totalitarian, with so much oversight, George Orwell probably would have considered the world of 1984 to be a utopia in comparison.
Freedom of speech is an aspect that helps shape us as Americans, and one I believe should be shared by everyone. All of that being said, this threat seems to be a somewhat moot point as well, as Facebook has had a “report” feature in place for several years, and even has facial recognition software it utilizes. Facebook, more than most, has tried to be in the forefront of stopping hate speech and offensive content on its site.