This essay closely examines the effect on free-expression rights when platforms such as Facebook or YouTube silence their users’ speech. The first part describes the often messy blend of government and private power behind many content removals, and discusses how the combination undermines users’ rights to challenge state action. The second part explores the legal minefield for users—or potentially, legislators—claiming a right to speak on major platforms. The essay contends that questions of state and private power are deeply intertwined. To understand and protect internet users’ rights, we must understand and engage with both.
A senior Facebook executive has privately admitted Mark Zuckerberg “doesn’t care” about publishers and warned that if they did not work with the social media giant, “I’ll be holding your hands with your dying business like in a hospice”.
In extraordinary comments, Campbell Brown, Facebook’s global head of news partnerships, indicated to publishers and broadcasters in a four-hour meeting last week that despite Mr Zuckerberg’s view, she would help publishers build sustainable business models through Facebook.