Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Facebook controls as much as 80% of social media traffic. That means that it has the power to erase conversations, shift narratives, and control how people speak to one another.
With 190 million users in the United States, the social network monopoly has more control over what people see than all of the media giants combined do. And now Facebook is putting some very troubling political activists in charge of its Oversight Board who will decide how it censors.
“You can imagine some sort of structure, almost like a Supreme Court, that is made up of independent folks who don’t work for Facebook, who ultimately make the final judgment call on what should be acceptable speech in a community that reflects the social norms and values of people all around the world,” Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg had described the Board.
What does Facebook’s Supreme Court of Censorship look like when you zoom in?
Only a quarter of the Oversight Board originates from the United States. That means three quarters of the censorship court comes from countries with no First Amendment. While people from outside the United States may believe in certain kinds of free speech, political speech in this country will be determined by a majority Third World board of left-leaning political activists.
And even there the balance is curiously tilted.
3 members of the 20 member board are Muslim or come from Muslim countries. Only one board member is Hindu. Considering that there are approximately 1.1 billion Hindus and 1.8 billion Muslims, the Facebook Oversight Board favors Muslim countries at the expense of Hindus.
Considering the pressure by Islamists and their allies to censor India’s Hindu political movements and civil rights organizations combating Islamic violence, this is troubling.
The Oversight Board also has only one Asian member for around 1.8 billion people.
Of the 3 Muslim nationals, Kyle Shideler of the Center for Security Policy has noted that Tawakkol Karman was a top leader in a Muslim Brotherhood linked group with ties to Al Qaeda.
“The Brotherhood is a movement fighting for freedom,” Karman wrote of the organization whose leaders have called for the murder of Jews and whose history includes Nazi collaboration.
“Because it is an integral part of this region, the Brotherhood is the one who will rule Riyadh and Abu Dhabi,” she even predicted.
Facebook has added an Islamist who believes that a theocracy will rule the region, and put her in charge of determining content moderation policies for the entire planet. A member aligned with a violently bigoted organization will help Facebook police “hate speech”.
What will happen to ex-Muslims and secular activists in Muslim countries under this setup?
These numbers make it clear that the Board is not proportional by population, and despite its international makeup, reflects the political agendas of Facebook’s left-leaning leadership.
The first member, in alphabetical order, is a program manager at the Open Society Initiative, a part of the George Soros global political empire of NGOs. There is no indication that the Soros employee will be stepping down from her role so that, despite previous clashes with the radical billionaire, George Soros will effectively control a seat on Facebook’s Oversight Board.
Andras Sajo has held positions in Open Society organizations, including on the Board of Directors of the Open Society Justice Initiative and is allegedly an old friend of Soros.
Helle Thorning-Schmidt sits on the Board of Trustees of Soros’ International Crisis Group along with the extremist billionaire and his son.
Maina Kiai sits on the Advisory Board for the Human Rights Initiative of Soros’ Open Society Foundations.
Sudhir Krishnaswamy also appears to have benefited from an Open Society grant. This is not unusual considering that the Oversight Board is weighed heavily toward NGOs with members from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Even dismissing members who have only appeared at Soros events or made use of grants from Soros organizations, four Oversight Board members are deeply involved in Soros organizations. And Soros has made his hostility to free speech, and his conviction that conservatives must be censored, abundantly clear.
Soros has demanded that Facebook “should be held accountable for the content that appears on its site” and complained that the company “fails to adequately punish those who spread false information.” Will Oversight Board members who work for Soros or sit on the boards of his organizations protect free speech or support the billionaire’s crusade to censor the opposition?
If the Oversight Board is going to be the final determinative body for Facebook censorship, why stack it with so many professional human rights activists who are not lawyers or professors? Courts don’t invite in activists to issue rulings. That’s because activists come with agendas. And their agendas may involve empowerment, but usually for a small and narrowly defined group.
They are also rarely independent, but often funded by billionaires with their own agendas.
But even the Oversight Board’s academic members can be as repressive as a Soros.
Nicolas Suzor had written that “neutrality” on social media platforms is “causing problems” and that “neutral tools that do not actively take inequality into account will almost inevitably contribute to the ampliﬁcation of inequality.” He even suggested that dissent from the Left’s global warming positions could also be viewed as dangerous. “Racism, misogyny, and bigotry, anti-vaccination content, misinformation, self-harm, and climate change denial — all require difficult judgments about when one person’s speech is harmful to others.”
In a Twitter exchange, a prof argued that, “many of the most controversial content moderation decisions are about leave-ups. Think: Pelosi video, hate speech in Myanmar, Alex Jones… not having this in scope for the Board from the start is a huge… Oversight.” Suzor replied that, “totally agree that expanding the scope as soon as we can is really important.”
That should worry anyone whose speech might one day fall afoul of the Soroses and Suzors.
Dubious claims that some form of speech is dangerous have been used to justify crackdowns by social media giants on everything from pro-life views to support for conservative candidates. The current wave of censorship has been justified by insisting that conservative speech is either a product of foreign disinformation (the Russia hoax), that it’s medically dangerous (suppression of political protests, dissent on coronavirus policy, or opposition to abortion), or that any speech offensive to an identity politics group causes inequality and psychological harm.
Combine the three together and they add up to censoring any political speech the Left opposes.
And, as Michael Moore’s censorship by environmentalists shows, not even career leftists are immune from the Orwellian political orthodoxy that brands some views anathema overnight.
(That is why leftists might want to reconsider their abandonment of liberalism before it’s too late. History shows that the ideology most likely to purge lefties for ideological dissent is the Left.)
Facebook set up the Oversight Board to outsource its censorship while evading responsibility for its repression. The dot com giant wants to be a monopoly that has a stranglehold on the marketplace of ideas, but it doesn’t want to be open to the marketplace’s diversity of ideas.
That is the totalitarian fallacy of most of the Big Tech giants who want users on their terms.
Stacking the board with Soros cronies and assorted human rights activists, digital experts, and the other sorts of people who spend all their time appearing on panels and giving TED talks, is how Big Tech companies have their censorship cake and eat it too. After this, when conservatives complain about Facebook censorship, it won’t be Mark Zuckerberg’s fault.
But it will be.
The Oversight Board, like most Facebook initiatives, is rigged from the ground up. It contains a few token libertarians, but is tilted toward lefties. It contains an Islamist, but hardly anyone likely to advocate for the values of traditional Christians and Jews. Behind the facade of international diversity, the Supreme Court of Censorship has very little intellectual or religious diversity.
Two libertarian/conservative establishment figures don’t balance out eight lefties just as bringing in an Israeli leftist does not balance out a Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood figure. Giving Soros four seats and Koch one is not only rigging the game, but failing to address the real issues at stake.
The social media giant is responding to pressure to censor conservative views, especially in the US, the UK, Israel, Latin America, Myanmar, and India, yet has no representatives of the sorts of people who are likely to be censored. Instead it stacked the deck with those likely to censor.
Where are the Trump supporters, the Modi backers, the Bolsonaro fans, the Zionists, the Buddhist monks of Myanmar, or any group that dissents from the Left on any major issue?
Of the groups likely to be censored, only the Islamists get their own representative at Facebook.
The Supreme Court of Censorship is rigged in favor of the censors and against the censored.
Facebook has assembled a grab bag of globalist personalities that wouldn’t be out of place at a UN conference (and a number have worked at or for the UN in some capacity) and put them in charge of determining what can be said by billions of people around the world.
And by countless millions in the United States of America.
The United States is tasked with protecting the essential freedoms of its citizens from interference by its government, by foreign governments, or by any force so powerful that it can singly blot out any of the Bill of Rights. The Big Tech monopolies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook pose a unique threat to the unalienable rights among which are, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”, for whose protection, “Governments are instituted among Men.”
This is the role that Jefferson envisioned for government in the Declaration of Independence.
Governments wield power by the “consent of the governed” who can vote and remove any government. Facebook would like us to think that its powers to censor will derive from a bunch of globalist NGO activists and lefty law professors. No individual or group has the power to stop Facebook’s monopoly over social media. It has become too rich and powerful.
Only our government can fulfill its role by restoring our freedom to speak and be heard.
Otherwise all political speech that is not of the Left will be erased from the public square. If there were any doubt about that, Facebook’s Supreme Court of Censorship has settled it.