Well, you can mess with me, but just don't ever mess with the New York Post. It's my first read every morning for a variety of different sections, and really captures the pulse of this great city. So, yesterday's decisions by both Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) to reduce distribution of a New York Post cover story on Hunter Biden horrified me.
Facebook and Twitter are clearly publishers not platforms. I think most of us knew that already, but these two social media companies' decision to censor content from a publication that well predates them (the New York Post was founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1801) is quite simply horrifying.
What possible justification could there be? Some horrible apparatchik at Facebook posted a statement yesterday (on Twitter, of course) stating that distribution of the story was being reduced while Facebook's "third-party fact checkers" were reviewing it. How in the name of Ray Bradbury do they expect to get away with these Fahrenheit 451 tactics?
Twitter's censorship was even more blatant, with links to the NYP article redirecting to a page that warned that the link "may be unsafe". Huh? Twitter then attempted to restrict access to the story using its Hacked Media Policy, although Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey later in the evening referred to the company's handling of the matter as "unacceptable". Any policy on hacked media clearly would not apply in this case because the laptop and its associated hard drive that were the source of the information in the NYP story were left at a computer repair shop in Delaware -- possibly by Hunter Biden, although the store owner could not confirm this to NYP -- for more than the 90 days stated in the repair contract and thus became property of the shop. Nothing was hacked.
The inevitable conclusion here is: Facebook and Twitter have now taken sides.
Yesterday's actions were clearly intended to deflect attention away from a well-researched story that casts Vice President Biden and his son in a negative light and throws the Ukraine scandal -- the impetus for President Trump's impeachment trial -- back on the front burner, but with the other party under scrutiny.
That's what the media does. Scrutinize. I am sure Vice President Biden was no happier with the NYP article than President Nixon was about the Washington Post's coverage of the Watergate scandal in the early 70's. Good reporting is often painful for those being reported on. It's supposed to be.
So, the theoretical debate about whether Facebook and Twitter should be classified as platform companies or publishers under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is no longer theoretical. That line is crossed many times a day, but willful blindness is a popular thing in DC. That will happen no longer as Facebook and Twitter have now clearly placed themselves in a pro-Biden -- which means anti-Trump unless there are third-party candidates of whom I am not aware -- position.
This will not be forgotten post-November 3rd.
If Trump somehow once again defies the odds, and Silicon Valley, and wins reelection, the takeaways are clear.
Facebook will be broken up. I see zero chance that the Facebook trio of "Big Blue," Instagram and WhatsApp will survive in current combined form under a second Trump administration. Facebook is horrible, anyway, as I noted in this RM article, so this would not be a blow to the culture.
Twitter, on the other hand, is a veritable cesspool of misinformation, and much more. It's awful, and if you are using it to "research" your portfolio, you should find other, more reputable sources immediately.
I only use it to post my articles about stocks. On the few occasions I have ever been drawn to view a Twitter thread that is non-stock related, I have been instantly horrified. That is also my reaction every time I have heard Jack Dorsey speak. I find his attempts to justify the cesspool he created to be repulsive, and I would never own Twitter stock for that reason.
There's nothing there to "break up," but I could certainly see a second Trump Administration bringing the FCC down hard on Dorsey. Also the President himself could shift to a more conservative-friendly micro-publishing site like Parler. That would be a double whammy for TWTR.
But that's just me. Real Money is a big tent, and there are many different opinions. I am sure people have written positive columns on FB and TWTR, and in a free society that is certainly their right. We all gain from being exposed to differing opinions. It is only when those opinions are hidden that we all lose.
Turn off your phone and open your mind. Big Tech is controlling information, but they aren't controlling you. I don't read comments made on Twitter. Seriously, the "discussion" that occurs on Twitter on my articles, from this platform and others is so stupid and juvenile that I gave up reading it years ago.
Don't waste my time. I won't waste yours, Just remember that ALL content publishers are under intense government scrutiny at all times. That will not change regardless of the outcome on November 3rd.