Meta has a right under the First Amendment to make editorial decisions about its platform. But giving more weight to one side than the other in a normal political debate calls into question Meta's ability to moderate content...
Robby Soave of Reason looks at how the fact checkers at Meta got involved in a recent political argument. Let's agree that the question of whether or not we're in a recession is complicated, and that reasonable people can argue both for and against it. The First Amendment protects speech on both sides of this issue, so the Biden administration couldn't just stop people from saying what they thought about recessions if they didn't agree with them. It is also possible that Facebook, either on its own or at the request of its fact checkers, could remove all criticism of the way the Biden administration thinks about recessions from its platforms. In the United States, it is legal to shut down speech like this, and the fact that it is legal is part of the legitimacy of content moderation.
But that's not the whole story when it comes to a company's legitimacy, especially one like Meta, which says that voice is its "paramount value." Meta says that the program isn't meant to get in the way of free speech, opinions, debates, clearly satirical or funny content, or business disputes. Individual expression, opinions, and debate seem to include talking about a recession. Why did fact checkers get to say what they thought about this? And why did Meta do what they asked and take down the content? Did it say that someone was going to get hurt soon? Or just hurt the Biden administration politically? Anyone with a brain might wonder.
Meta has a right under the First Amendment to make editorial decisions about its platform. But when this right is taken too far, like when someone seems to step in to help one side of a normal political debate, it calls into question the legitimacy of Meta's content moderation. The company was right the first time: the US does not need a "arbiter of truth" to oversee its political debates. Judge Learned Hand said, "It would be very annoying to be ruled by a bunch of Platonic Guardians, even if I knew how to choose them, which I'm sure I don't."