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Snapchat CEO says platform has ‘First Amendment’ right to censor Trump, Zuckerberg weighs in

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The CEOs of two of the world’s biggest social media platforms are attacking President Donald Trump anew as they angle to censor some of his comments and ‘fact-check’ his responses.

Snapchat chief Evan Spiegel is defending his platform’s actions to limit the reach of the president’s content by actually invoking the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee while urging other platforms to do the same.

Spiegel, who heads up Snapchat and Bitmoji, made his remarks during an interview with Bloomberg News that was published Thursday. They come after Twitter started fact-checking President Trump’s tweets last month, referencing cherry-picked articles to support the claim that he’s been dishonest.

“The government is explicitly threatening private platforms about exercising their First Amendment rights,” Spiegel said.

And while he accused the Trump administration of attempting to censor private companies, he, at the same time, supported efforts that amount to a form of censorship for the president.

“I’ve been surprised that other platforms are less willing to exercise their First Amendment rights to decide what’s right and wrong,” he added. “We would be devastated if we felt like our products were being used to do bad things in the world.”

Speech and expression, however vile it may be to some, is generally protected by the First Amendment, with notable exceptions including slander, libel, and so-called “hate speech.”

As for other social media giants, Facebook thus far has refused to ‘fact-check’ posts and political statements and speech, which, Bloomberg News reported, was disconcerting to some staffers.

“The people’s elected representatives should set the rules, and we will follow them,” Facebook said in a statement. “There is an election coming in November and we will protect political speech, even when we strongly disagree with it.”

That said, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, along with his wife Priscilla Chan, blasted President Trump for his alleged “incendiary rhetoric” in response to a “misinformation” complaint from scientists.

As noted by Fox News, a letter that was posted online Thursday written on the letterhead of their Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the two complained about Trump’s “divisive and incendiary rhetoric” which they claim has left them “deeply shaken and disgusted” in uncertain times they say requires “unity” in the country.

The letter is in response to a call from 270 scientists asking that Facebook address “misinformation” posted on its platform.

Not surprisingly, the scientists — many of them funded by Zuckerberg and Chan — blamed the president as being the source of the misinformation.

“Social media platforms, like Facebook, have emerged as primary ways of communicating information,” the scientists wrote to Zuckerberg last week. “While they have allowed dissemination of information across the globe, they also facilitate the spread of misinformation. The spread of news that is not vetted for factual accuracy leads to confusion and a mistrust of experts.”

Later, they noted, “(W)e were disconcerted to see that Facebook has not followed their own policies in regards to President Trump, who has used the Facebook platform to spread both misinformation and incendiary statements. For example, his statement ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts” is a clear statement of inciting violence.”

“(W)e are deeply shaken and disgusted by President Trump’s divisive and incendiary rhetoric at a time when our nation so desperately needs unity,” Zuckerberg and Chan wrote in response. “This is an extraordinarily painful inflection point in our nation’s story, particularly for the Black community and our Black colleagues, who have lived with the impacts of systemic racism for generations.”

The president made the statement on Twitter, which summarily censored it as a ‘violation’ of the company’s violence policies.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1266231100780744704

The phrase comes from the late 1960s when social unrest and violence over civil rights and the Vietnam War were peaking. It was first uttered by Walter Headley, then-chief of the Miami Police Department. It was later referenced by segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace, a Democrat who ran for the party’s nomination on four occasions, the last being in 1976.

He was nearly assassinated on May 15, 1972, as he was campaigning in Laurel, Md., by Arthur Bremmer, who served 35 years of an original 63-year sentence, being released in November 2007. The shooting left Wallace paralyzed from the waist down.

On Thursday, Fox News’ Harris Faulkner, who is black, confronted the president about his ‘looting-shooting’ tweet in which she claimed it “frightened a lot of people.”

Jon Dougherty

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