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We posed as 100 Senators to run ads on Facebook. Facebook approved all of them (vice.com)
970 points by pulisse 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 332 comments

"In announcing new transparency efforts or tools to combat foreign influence, Facebook included a caveat. “These changes will not prevent abuse entirely. We’re up against smart, creative and well-funded adversaries who change their tactics as we spot abuse,” Leathern wrote. But we believe that they will help prevent future interference in elections on Facebook. And it is why they are so important.”

But posing as 100 senators didn’t require being smart, creative, or even particularly well-funded. "


"There was one “Paid for” disclosure that Facebook didn’t approve in our latest test. They denied, just a couple minutes after we submitted it: Mark Zuckerberg."

Double ouch.

and after having the "paid by Zuckerberg" confirmation that this was a malicious account, they didn't revoked approval of the other ads.

Triple ouch.

Tech company doesn't give a f#$% what it's advertising as long as it's getting paid. Film at 11.

I mean props to them for doing this to show it so blatantly, but is anyone really surprised? Nobody cares, and why should they from a business standpoint?

The only way to make something a priority is to make the consequences so harsh that you'll catch the attention of upper management.

> Nobody cares

Obviously, FB thinks someone cares, otherwise they wouldn't be selling a tale about their efforts to improve validation of campaign ads.

I keep getting ads in my feed disguised as CNBC ads. The image they show has a cnbc logo. If you click on them you get to a fake news website disguised as CNBC with some bogus story about criptocurrency. I reported them 3 times to Facebook and I keep seeing them.

I wonder how many times "Zuckerberg" is in the code verbatim

I wouldn't be surprised if it were verboten. The leaked Windows NT source code had plenty of swearing, no references to Bill Gates.

I imagine one time. Then everything else imports the `MZ_CONST` file which then references the `MK` or `ZBERG` variables.

I didn't realize Facebook only hired software engineers from the '80s who are allergic to coming up with good identifiers

Nah, things just refer to him as fbid 4.

Who are 1, 2 and 3?

Test accounts which ended up getting deleted before (presumably) auth worked.

Holy smokes I just had flashbacks to working at a place that tested things in production and ended up with a couple of these production-db IDs in the code. Shudders

Your codebase only has a couple?

You're already hitting a database, you can add a column for whatever information you want. I've heard people are spooked by having too many columns, but more spooked than having essentially untestable production IDs in their code? No thanks.

I remember one place I worked, someone released code which only returned data permissions for the test user (id 5).

fbid 1 is former zuck. fbid 2 is Facebook itself (the software, not the Facebook's own page in FB). fbid 3 is yet another former test account.

dog it’s a PHP shop, nobody re-uses code

PHP's Packagist disagrees with over 1.4m packages and around a half billion package downloads a month. (More than NPM FYI)


> (More than NPM FYI)

I found your claim hard to believe so I went digging but couldn't find any recent resource on the total number of downloads npmjs.org handles per month.

I could have sworn they used to publish aggregate stats prominently on their home page somewhere ... but can't seem to find it.

Anyway, aggregating* the download numbers of just 12 of the top npm packages comes to about ~504.4m, or half a billion package downloads a month.

*: using September 2018 numbers.

1: https://npm-stat.com/charts.html?package=express - 21m/mo

2: https://npm-stat.com/charts.html?package=body-parser - 24.4m/mo

3: https://npm-stat.com/charts.html?package=lodash - 64m/mo

4: https://npm-stat.com/charts.html?package=async - 64.7m/mo

5: https://npm-stat.com/charts.html?package=debug - 87.6m/mo

6: https://npm-stat.com/charts.html?package=request - 50.8m/mo

7: https://npm-stat.com/charts.html?package=chalk - 64m/mo

8: https://npm-stat.com/charts.html?package=commander - 61.8m/mo

9: https://npm-stat.com/charts.html?package=underscore - 21.5m/mo

10: https://npm-stat.com/charts.html?package=babel-core - 17.8m/mo

11: https://npm-stat.com/charts.html?package=webpack - 16m/mo

12: https://npm-stat.com/charts.html?package=react - 10.8m/mo

it cannot be more than npm.

npm is basically 1 line of code = 1 package

Don't forget the dependencies :).

lol, made me chuckle!

I was referring to the number of packages available as being more. It wouldn't be very useful to compare number of downloads since php does need an entire package to do things easily like check if something is an array.

Facebook recently became the principal sponsor of the Python Software Foundation[1]. Although I don't have any concrete numbers to cite, there's a lot of Python code at Facebook. Calling it a PHP shop would be highly inaccurate and myopic.

[1]: https://www.python.org/psf/sponsorship/sponsors/

Disclaimer: I work there on python runtime optimization, which mostly involves writing C (and C++) code. Also, I've never had to write any PHP/Hack code.


That's probably one of the only people they could actually be sure wasn't buying Facebook ads. Whereas a senator buying Facebook ads is, in itself, quite likely. Not really a fair comparison.

So what you're saying is, because a senator could conceivably be running ads, then any ad that claims to be by a senator should be approved without scrutiny?

Besides being preposterous, that same argument applies to literally anybody in the world except, I guess, Mark Zuckerberg.

So it sounds like Facebook's algorithm for detecting abuse is `if submitter == "Mark Zuckerberg" { reject(); }`

> So what you're saying is, because a senator could conceivably be running ads, then any ad that claims to be by a senator should be approved without scrutiny?

That was not said in the message you replied to.

Its not entirely clear what the message was saying, in my opinion

They were using the Cathy Newman method.

Facebook has strict controls against impersonating Zuckerberg in ads for a very good reason. Facebook has had those controls for years and they have nothing to do with politics. This is the reason you can't impersonate Zuckerberg in ads:


Banning ads mentioning Zuckerberg is easy, so it makes sense that system works well. Imagine building a review system to combat fraudulent political advertising on Facebook, how difficult and complex that would be.

More like "abuse is hard, but let's at least get this super easy case right". Also, yeah, don't put words in my mouth.

Getting the super easy case right doesn't justify completely failing at the entire fundamental premise of the feature, which is to inform viewers that an ad was paid for by a particular political entity. When anyone can buy an ad that claims to be paid for by a senator, this alleged feature in fact becomes misinformation, and quite dangerous misinformation at that as it's got Facebook's seal of approval.

If Facebook cannot get this feature right 99.9999% of the time, they shouldn't be doing it. And it seems they're getting it right literally 0% of the time (barring Zuckerberg of course, but he's not on the ballot this election so that's irrelevant). This is so bad it should be a huge scandal; has Facebook gone back and vetted all of their political ads yet to make sure nobody's been taking advantage of this?

Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize.

No. "Iron manning" is stupid, it's just an excuse to dismiss a response because they weren't charitable enough towards your flawed argument.

Strawmanning is bad too of course. But responding to a reasonable interpretation (which is distinct from "iron manning"'s demand of responding to the strongest possible interpretation) is how discourse normally works. If someone's reasonable interpretation of your argument doesn't match what you were trying to convey, then that means you fucked up your argument.

In this particular case, the parent's argument is literally that Facebook is justified in not rejecting the political ads because senators are likely to buy ads. So that's what I responded to.

Yes, and it's also always been more important for a publisher to defend more carefully against any misrepresentation relating to their own endorsement or trademarks on their own medium, while punting to take down processes for misuse of other's trademarks, etc is mostly allowed.

Why? I am sure many other humans are named Mark Zuckerberg as well. Their life is probably very complicated now...

Treating names as unique identifiers? Quadruple ouch.

Maybe they need to flip their process. Rather than default accept, maybe they should have default reject.

Why wouldn't Zuckerberg ever buy Facebook ads? I doubt they'd let him run personal stuff for free, and I doubt they'd be sure he'd never want to run personal stuff.

The simplest way would be for him to say, "hey, I'm never going to buy ads on my own site, so don't let anyone impersonate me." If Zuck wants to tell us something on Facebook, he'll just put a banner at the top of our feed. Or if he does want to run ads as himself, he'll pull some other founder-fiat move. Keep in mind the engineering motto of the company we're talking about. They don't need to stick to the rules.

Corporate boards usually have controls against appropriating company resources for personal use.

Presumably there is a tax implication too? In the UK this would probably be a benefit-in-kind and taxed say it's market value as income.

Yes. Same in the US. Things like private jet use are applied as income. However, I'm not sure you would have to do so at retail rates. For example, you would have to pay taxes on the cost of the private jet use. The marginal cost of something like running your personal ads on the favebook platform is so low as to probably not be considered "material" by the tax man.

Considering he controls 60% of the company, such controls are meaningless.

The controls would be something agreee to as part of taking the company public or some stage of auditing.

Owning a controlling stake doesn’t mean you can fiddle around with every corporate asset at your whim.

> VICE News did not buy any Facebook ads as part of the test; rather, we received approval to include "Paid for by" disclosures for potential ads.

Playing devil’s advocate here, but maybe Facebook doesn’t waste time on people who don’t actually buy ads? Would be a much more compelling argument if the were actually able to purchase and run ads, and would be curious to see if the actual act of payment triggered a real review from Facebook.

This kind of feels like me as a software developer saying my code works in production! Disclaimer: I never actually deployed it, I only got approval to deploy it.

The fact that the Zuckerberg ad was rejected seems to indicate that they really were being put through a vetting process. It's possible they are vetted again after payment is received but that seems unlikely.

No it only proves they reject ads from the founder of the company. That’s the only proof you can establish based on the facts. There is no evidence they are vetting anything, and in fact it’s more likely they just filter out zuck.* than the implication that a larger system is at work (Occams razor).

"An attempt to place an ad posing as Hillary Clinton was denied."

Hahaha my god dude. First, he said it seems to indicate, not prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Second, you think it’s more likely that they filter every single request specifically for Zuckerberg, but do all of the other filtering later on in the pipeline? It’s much more likely that all the filtering happens at the one time, especially at a place like Facebook where most engineers seem to focus on optimising something for performance gains.

Occam’s Razor - it’s knocking on your door, asking to not be quoted when you’re not actually using it.

"but do all of the other filtering later on in the pipeline?"

I believe the parent comment was claiming there is no general filter and/or vetting for others - only for Zuck.

Agreed. This investigation was incomplete without actually running an ad. Just because Ninja Turtle's PAC was approved to use the "Paid for by" byline doesn't mean they could actually get their ad all the way through Facebook's approval process

Maybe Vice didn't do it because it would expose them to criminal impersonation charges? And maybe that's also why Facebook feels their current process is good enough.

It seems they did buy ads attributed to Mike Pence and ISIS previously (linked to from this article):


I buy political ads as a big part of our business.

This cycle, FB is FAR easier to work with than Google.

I get the sense that FB simply wants to pass off the liability to ad buyer (who signed an affidavit to run those paid for ads... and Vice broke that contract but also probably the law). Whereas Google is giving huge problems for basically all our clients because they seem to be doing manual DD.

Not focusing on whether or not FB should take on this DD, as an ad buyer FB's approach and process is at least 10x smoother - at least for us. I'm not joking. can only think of one odd compliance issue we had with mismatched IG and FB profile names.

Google on the other hand... problems every time. Problems in the approval process to get personally approved (ux and process is horrid) and then they constantly reject ads we submit as unapproved for politics, despite going through this process many many times.

>>> I get the sense that FB simply wants to pass off the liability to ad buyer

Totally. It is Russia's responsibility not to accidentally or knowingly meddle with an election, not Facebook's. I guess there is one last question, what was Zuckerberg doing in a congressional hearing?

I'm assuming this is sarcasm but I can kind of see the case that Facebook is making here.

For example, if a drunk person behind the wheel of a Ford does a tremendous amount of damaage, no one goes after Ford for not preventing it.

Facebook is a tool. Is it Facebook's responsibility to make sure that everyone uses it ethically? I can understand putting in measures to make sure that everyone is using it legally and have a mechanism to help authorities stop bad actors but deciding what a "bad actor" is shouldn't Facebook's responsibility.

However, if a newspaper prints a story saying senator X said Y, and that claim was false, then the newspaper can be sued, regardless of where they got that information or which employee wrote the story.

Given your analogy, the question is, is Facebook more like a car manufacturer or a newspaper?

If a newspaper runs an advertisement that turns out to be false (say, a fake claim about a thing for sale), is it the newspaper or the advertiser who's at fault?

The advertiser. But if someone sues the advertiser and it turns out that the person listed by the newspaper as the advertiser isn't actually the advertiser, it's the newspaper's fault for not verifying their customers.

So it is the newspaper's fault that their customer lied to them?

There are certain industries that have requirements for vetting customers, and if those requirements are not met then responsibility falls on the company and not the customer.

If a car manufacturer distributes a car that did not go through any inspections and it turns out the brake lines were hooked up incorrectly and consequently causes damage or hurts the customer then it's neither the customer or the dealership who are at fault, but the manufacturer for failing to properly inspect the product that they are making.

In the same sense, if a bar sells beer to someone without asking for their ID and they turn out to be underage, or a gun store sells a weapon to a convicted felon without performing a background check, liability falls on the company and not the customer.

I am not sure if this should apply to newspapers in respect to their advertising, but there are examples where this line of thinking does apply and this might be one of them.

That is a wrong analogy. FB does recommendations prominently luring in you to things that you didn't knew existed. It also filters and sorts to decide for you what information you get to see.

The correct analogy is having a secretory that reads all your emails and only selectively lets you know what you got as well as inserting recommendations based on her belief system. So if this secretory tells you that your brother only sends you bad emails and here's the great model of gun you should buy if you are going to meet him - then your secretory is not merely a tool to manage your emails.

Horrible analogy. If Ford had to approve every ignition/engine start request and they had a breathalyzer installed in every vehicle that would send the blood alcohol level to Ford's API and required a signed response before the engine would start, maybe you're getting close...

Facebook put in a "vetting" process and requires everyone to go through it to publish ads. On the other hand, anyone with enough cash can buy a Ford (even second hand from a 3rd party), get drunk, and drive through a few neighborhoods causing death and destruction.

Okay, maybe a better analogy would be with seatbelts. It doesn't seem like it would a huge engineering feat to prevent a car from starting if the driver isn't wearing a seatbelt. If someone dies in a car crash because they weren't wearing a seatbelt, is the car manufacturer at fault?

One thing I'd point out is that a drunk driver, dangerous as he is for individuals in his path, can't really affect anything beyond his immediate vicinity. Facebook has national and world-wide influence.

Drunk people do not install presidents.

Neither do ads on the internet. Donald Trump's presidency did not mesh well with a large population of the US's perception of reality. It is much easier to say "the boogey man caused this to happen" vs "my understanding of the world around me was inaccurate."

I'm not saying that there weren't campaigns that intentionally mislead people or that those campaigns aren't a bad thing. I do think that blaming the Trump Presidency on the Russians is overly simplistic and is an easy way to ignore a real divide in our country.

It's interesting to hear your thoughts as a person whose work requires to interface with the political-ad-vetting process of web giants.

If you were a representative of the public (with interests in safeguarding the authenticity of information promoted to individuals of the public), would you endorse a difficult google like vetting process or a superficial, lenient vetting process adopted by Facebook?

I can understand the public interest.

I wouldn't mind a vetting process that works; google's just doesn't at least for us. The time not up with ads === censoring political speech IMHO and to me political speech is sacrosanct. The tradeoff isn't worth it.

But also I have probably an extreme view out of the norm for most here. I view politics as almost capitalistic (not just in that I make money doing it) but that it's a competition of ideas, attention, advertising etc. So despite being pretty strong D I value an 'open arena' even if open to abuse. I feel the same for non-paid content. Attempts to 'vet' or label content as factual or biased seem to all have problems or are game-able and for me personally I don't think it's worth the trade off. Though in my 'theory' of political competition I acknowledge it's very hard to fight back against 'fake' and nation-state opponents. Again, I'm probably extreme here but I do understand the public interest argument.

>> Though in my 'theory' of political competition I acknowledge it's very hard to fight back against 'fake' and nation-state opponents.

So what's your solution then? Even less moderation?

I'm not offering a solution. Though I do think that role should be left to police, government, and regulators. Now that FB and Google are collecting affidavits and scans of IDs, it is much easier for the actual rule keepers to hold law breakers accountable.

'organic' content is much harder and I don't have solution, just that I take a more 'stopping the few bad actors, != not worth affecting the mostly good' view (than it seems the vast majority) when weighing the potential effect on actual political speech any solution has

Thanks for this perspective, I think it's a shame you were down-voted for providing it.

I am appalled at how bad Facebook did here but buried at the very end of the article Vice does indicate that they needed to provide a valid traceable drivers license and last four of a (maybe?) matching SSN. This means that had they intended to actually publish the ads they would have put some real person on the hook (assuming the submitted data is actually checked against something). Still too easy but for the first 90% of the article I thought there was absolutely zero verification

Seeing as Experian leaked every single SSN in America to hackers, I'd say a SSN is a very small hurdle. Even if it had to match, which I'm sure it does not have to match the disclosure name - just the name of the payor.


Don't you mean Equifax? Or have I missed something. Google doesn't show anything interesting...

Yes, Equifax. I would correct it, but it appears the edit time period has elapsed.

Yeah, there seems to be nothing about Experian having a dataleak, but Equifax definitely comes up.

Odds are they've been hacked. Too big a target. We just don't know it yet.

>In order to run a “Paid for by” disclosure on Facebook, you must first submit the name to the company for approval, along with an image of a valid driver’s license and the last four digits of your Social Security number.

Paragraph in question.

Are the driver's licences they used not the ones of the Senators? Or maybe they photoshopped them, or something along those lines?

I'm a bit unhappy at the lack of elaboration on the methodology they used to test this out.

Yes, it's difficult to follow exactly what they did. This:

> We used 10 fake Facebook pages with no content, and changed the “paid for” disclosure after each senator was approved.

Makes it sound to me like they got approval using a real identity and then changed the now-approved account to use a different name.

Methodology aside, though, Facebook shouldn't be showing that they verified the identity if they did not verify the identity. Unless the methodology was "we stole the identities of some senators" or "we cracked their passwords", this is a failure a another breach of trust on Facebook's part.

Based on other's comments in the thread about having their advertisements not approved by FB, it sounds like Facebook does have an approval process that is greater than just "literally not Mark Zuckerberg".

However, Vice got around this by getting an ad approved and then editing (changing entirely?) the name and other properties of the ad. Maybe Facebook should re-approve ads when certain properties change? It's definitely impersonation... I'm not sure what officially constitutes stealing an identity.

I'd be curious how this experiment of impersonating a senator and buying advertising would go across print/billboards/reddit/other platforms. Maybe Vice will try some more experiments.

That they say a valid driver's license makes it sound like it doesn't have to be the senator in question's.

Hi, my name is John Validdriver and I work for senator Schmuck's office!

In any case, senators aren't actually running ads, their staff are. So it requires a real background check

Weird how Vice would run such an intentionally misleading article, isn't it?

Is that legal? I didn’t think you were allowed to ask... or require a ssn. This doesn’t seem like one of the exceptions.

No, nothing prevents them asking. Businesses are allowed to ask, you're allowed to refuse, and they're allowed to refuse to transact with you, on the basis of your refusal. It's pretty stupid.

I'd like to see more of this type of 'stress testing' of adtech networks, conducted by third parties, with the methodology and results made available to the public.

Programmatic advertising is a black box as far as ad buyers and ad viewers are concerned. And it is exactly for this reason that companies can claim to have "machine learning based fraud detection systems" or whatever and have those claims go unchallenged.

Or maybe you know, identity verification might be a good feature if you want to keep your ad platform.

People need to think very carefully about the consequences of any policy they propose to curb this sort of behavior. Do we really want Facebook making judgment calls about the content of political ads? Do they need to do thorough real-life identity verification of people buying any ads, or any ads that may be construed as political? Then the real kicker: does every ad provider need to do this, or just the ones that are too big to fail? Requiring that level of effort would quash small ad providers in the same way that onerous copyright verification laws would quash small content hosts. Not doing so has its own obvious problems.

I see no good solutions.

How much better would life be if there had to be an in-person verification for advertisers... along the lines of an EV cert. Man, how much crappy advertisements, scam, malware ads would just disappear if this were a requirement all around.

Hmm. Maybe small players could outsource verification to specialists with economies of scale. It would let some crap through, but it might be worth it overall.

> Then the real kicker: does every ad provider need to do this, or just the ones that are too big to fail? Requiring that level of effort would quash small ad providers in the same way that onerous copyright verification laws would quash small content hosts.

It comes down to what you think is more important. Lessening false advertising that manipulates the democratic process (and of course the big question is to what extent this can be lessened by such policies) or having an environment conducive to small advertising companies.

> or having an environment conducive to small advertising companies.

Should change to "or having an environment conducive to businesses that might want to advertise." A big difference in terms of scope of the affected.

You're talking about secondary consequences, and if you want to keep the comparison fair then you also need to talk about the secondary consequences of the manipulation of the democratic process.

I was talking about the primary consequence if you want put a banner after being given money, you don't necessarily have to be an advertising company. I think you are assuming everyone uses advertising companies to advertise, but that's not true even though this is how we'd get there.

What I said applies to that. I said "It comes down to what you think is more important. Lessening false advertising that manipulates the democratic process (and of course the big question is to what extent this can be lessened by such policies) or having an environment conducive to small advertising companies." Change 'companies' to 'provider' (or whatever word you want to use) and that choice still applies.

People need to think very carefully

So let me stop you right there...

Yeah, well, I didn't say I was making a prediction. sigh

Or stopped to think carefully... badaboom! Try the veal.

The best solution, and currently in effect as law in many European countries, would be to stop political ads altogether on Facebook and the Web.

No more "hey who is paying for that anti-XXX political ad?", they just wouldn't exist anymore. Plus, less money raised and spent by political campaigns.

Also, this article comes just one week after that one: "Facebook’s political ad tool let us buy ads “paid for” by Mike Pence and ISIS" [0]

[0] https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/wj9mny/facebooks-politic...

For varying definitions of best.

We have the first amendment in America. It says the government can't make laws that limit a private citizen's ability to express themselves (among other things). That includes their political advertising. This is a really dangerous / slippery precedent to set, and the whole "we should change longstanding laws to deal with a problem that feels like a local maximum" is something that many people throughout history have warned us not to do.

I think (and I don't think this is an uncommon position in America) that some political ads on facebook is way less of an evil than letting our government dictate what is allowed to be said by whom and when. No thanks.

>...political advertising...

This is a euphemism for quid pro quo bribery. The Europeans and other democracies recognize it as such.

It is clear that the Western Democracies have at least as much freedom of speech as the US. For example, they do not have leaders who get sport figures professionally banned for what is conspicuously an instance of unpaid political speech.

Absolutely not. Advertising is not bribery and the European region is nowhere near the freedom of speech principles of the US. It may feel the same, either because you have never said anything or have never been heard by anyone who cares, but there are countless examples of prosecution that would be summarily dismissed here in the States.

Professionally "banned" is not a free speech issue in the slightest. Athletes can do whatever they want, however they are still employees and if they want to enjoy their multi-million dollar salaries then they will need to follow the rules of their employer and the sports leagues. You will not be punished by the government for what you say, but you are not entitled to a job without consequences either.

> Professionally "banned" is not a free speech issue in the slightest.

This line of reasoning never made sense to me. Free speech is both a legal and a cultural issue. A modern society cannot credibly claim to be free on legal grounds alone. Yeah, the government won't put me in prison or fine me, but if I get fired for being a staunch liberal (or conservative) then I'm not really free, am I? This doesn't just apply to rich athletes -- in most organizations in SF I would not feel particularly safe expressing what seem to me fairly moderate views.

Depriving people of their livelihood for expressing political views is absolutely a free speech issue. Perhaps not in a legal/constitutional sense, but a cultural sense for sure. There were plenty of stretches in the Soviet Union where they wouldn't imprison you, but would fire you for a poorly timed political joke. Starting down that cultural slope is a really bad idea.

Depending on the state you're in it is, in fact, illegal to fire someone for their political views and is a protected class of sorts. (To varying degrees)

The US Constitution also codifies freedom of association so you can have free speech but you can’t force me to associate with you. In the US companies have freedom of association as long as they don’t violate a protected class ( race, religion, sex, age, national origin, etc...). Since you the government can’t force a company to associate with someone they disagree with, you can be fired for things you say.

GP explicitly called out that there is not just a legal issue of free speech, but also a cultural one. Your response, "but it's legal!" in short, does not address that at all.

Lots of things are legal but maybe not what we want. I'd say a working culture where having the wrong political opinion can get you fired is definitely one of them.

Think that through then - what do you want the government do to in that situation? Start to police culture? How would that go? Are you sure that won't end in unintended consequences?

Who says I (or @coffeemug) is arguing for government action?

Do you have another way to police and enforce culture? What are you actually arguing then, since you claim the comments don't address your issue?

How else does it get done?

As it should be.

There is no shield in the first Amendment.

Just because it is legal to say does not mean it should be said.

Before you write that off, consider speech with built in impunity.

The shield is not there because there needs to be checks and balances on speech. While we do see unfortunate outcomes, review them. All those people had options.

People often cite the Mozilla event. It is not so often mentioned how a lot of people were going to leave.

Being a leader, in that example, carries with it some implications. People do not blindly follow in enough numbers to be a concern.

These are human dynamics. Legislating them, and or expecting people to deal en mass with others to the degree needed here is impractical.

There are risks and rewards in all aspects of life, very few sure things. We are nowhere near a state of society where it is possible to consider otherwise.

> Depriving people of their livelihood for expressing political views is absolutely a free speech issue.

I don't think free speech is the issue here. There's a difference between expressing your views on your own time and involving the company that you work for to adopt those views. We've all seen the disclaimers that people put on their twitter profiles and blogs distancing their personal views from the companies they work for. Such a disclaimer was not issued here. Colin involved the 49ers Franchise and the NFL in his political views. He used their broadcasts to send out his message. Not all the owners necessarily sympathized with his views, especially when it started bringing negative attention to their business. In that regard, I don't think it's all that surprising that it cost him his job.

Note also that there are plenty of current NFL players who express the same sentiments as Colin on social media and in interviews, and they still have their jobs.

Yes free speech means the government can't limit what you say (with some specific exceptions). It doesn't mean you won't face consequences or backlash or insults or derision from those in the civilian world who disagree with you.

The government does not define or police culture.

People are people, and they're free to act however they want, including not liking you for what you say. As long as they are not harming you or infringing your rights, then they are within their rights to do so. This is the price for the freedom you have to also not associate with people you don't like.

We already have anti-discrimination laws and protections but what you seem to be asking for is government to limit other rights and freedoms to protect you "culturally"? Do you not see how that is dangerous and far worse?

It's a very simple concept:

You are allowed to say things. You are assuming responsibility for, i.e. accepting the consequences of, your right to say things.]

Society is then free to cast you out if you say hateful things. You say this society is not free. This is meaningless to this society, it has chosen to operate on assumptions which are fundamentally incompatible with your behaviour.

Indeed. The EU and other Western democracies are far, far ahead of the US in many aspects, like health care, but free speech is absolutely not one of them. This just happened: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/calling-muhammad-paedo.... You'd be laughed out of court in the US for something like this, if you manage to find a lawyer to represent you.

> the European region is nowhere near the freedom of speech principles of the US. It may feel the same, either because you have never said anything or have never been heard by anyone who cares, but there are countless examples of prosecution that would be summarily dismissed here in the States.

In the other hand I think in most of Europe gag orders are much more restricted in scope and application than they are in the US.

First amendment seems to be interpreted broadly there, but not nearly as much as national security.

If campaign contributions never amount to bribery, then why do companies frequently donate to candidates from both parties? If it were for both some policy and it's opposite, those donations would cancel each other out.

The only reasonable explanation is to have the politician be indebted no mater who it happens to be.

And the Kaepernick issue can't be a mere employee-employer issue if the president claims to have gotten him fired by threatening the NFL with brand destruction[1].

And if the same group then calls the press the "enemy of the people" but defends receiving enormous donations as devotion to free speech seems, it seems disingenuous.

If, instead of you home country, say Saudi Arabia were doing these things, we would say they making great steps towards freedom.


Not sure about other EU member states or the EU itself, but in Germany free speech is intentionally not a right, because of the German right to live free of abuse by others. Speech can obviously be used as a form of abuse.

Herewith article 5 of the Basic Law of Germany stating the right to freedom of expression, one of the several fundamental rights enshrined in the Basic Law right up front, before anything else.

* https://www.bundestag.de/parlament/aufgaben/rechtsgrundlagen...


Thank you, I enjoyed it greatly. Freedom of expression (one's right to express one's beliefs) is not freedom of speech.

You might want to go back and enjoy what "Wort, Schrift und Bild" means a bit more.

> there are countless examples of prosecution that would be summarily dismissed here in the States.

Care to provide let's say 2 such examples ?

From the first article you linked...just...wow. Soo many U.S. progressives would suffer under that law.

> In 2015, France’s highest court upheld the criminal conviction of 12 pro-Palestinian activists for violating restrictions against hate speech. Their crime? Wearing T-shirts that advocated a boycott of Israel — “Long live Palestine, boycott Israel,”

>It is clear that the Western Democracies have at least as much freedom of speech as the US.

This is a laughable claim once one considers blasphemy laws that still exist in many western democracies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_law

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39830447 - Stephen Fry faces blasphemy probe after God comments [2017]

Not the greatest example, to be honest, since:

a) the very article you linked states "...no publicised cases of blasphemy have been brought before the courts since the law was introduced in 2009 and a source said it was "highly unlikely" that a prosecution against Fry would take place." - and indeed, the case was dropped after an investigation found, effectively, that not enough people were offended to be worth proceeding...

and b) earlier this week "voters overwhelming[ly] supported a referendum to remove [blasphemy] as an offence in Irish law." [0]

[0] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46010077

There are plenty of anti free speech laws and precedent in the US as well, you just have to look for them. Only if you accept the exact American definition of free speech, then of course other countries look bad by that standard.

And there's starving/malnourished kids in the US too. That doesn't mean the US is on par with some parts of Africa in that regard.

Generally speaking anti free speech laws in the US get struck down as soon as they start getting used to prosecute people.

>It is clear that the Western Democracies have at least as much freedom of speech as the US.

In practical applications, EU countries do not place FoS to the same position of unalienable right as it is in the US. So, not "as much".

> It is clear that the Western Democracies have at least as much freedom of speech as the US.

In light of this recent EU case, I would tend to disagree: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/its-not-fr...

The ECtHr is not the EU, and this only means that the supranational court did not override national law, as the states are given a wide margin of appreciation:

> [Freedom of expression] may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary

If you want to run for office, how else do you tell the voters what you want to do, and why they should vote for you?

Institute a special tax. Election Tax. 0.001% of all corporate/personal income. No exceptions, no write-offs.

Once every X years, a web-site, a tv station, and a radio station come online.

The money collection from the tax is then used to give 25, not more than 2 per registered political party, enough air-time to express their views. Money is distributed evenly and the entire process is overseen by 25 randomly-chosen people of which at least 13 have no party affiliation.

A federal 3-day holiday is in effect during which you, as a citizen, have no other job but to vote for a candidate after learning about their positions on various policies.

The whole circus ends after 3 days and we go back to living our lives.

there is a difference between advertising and communication, and precedent has been set for bans on certain topics/products for certain types of advertising, tobacco and alcohol being the notable examples

Debates, press interviews and conferences, town halls, canvassing...

The flaw is that someone has to decide what speech is “political” or not. That person can prioritize their sides speech above competitors, by denying others a comparable platform.

Most of the press will not even care about you if you are not in the big 3 or 4 parties. So no, does not work.

That criticism is equally applicable to advertising - if you're not in the big 3 or 4 parties, you likely don't have any advertising budget either.

Is this a serious comment? How do we communicate without advertisements?

This is depressing.

Why is political speech a different category than other forms of speech?

Think of the plausible scenario of a certain Presidents FEC deciding friendly speech isn’t “political” (it’s “patriotic”!) But critical speech is clearly political and should be regulated.

Thanks. Your above says advertisement, you said speech. Thats a big difference. Advertisement can be regulated which is the focus of this thread. No one is saying to regulate some speech in a rally but is said speech is reshape as some advertisment then they should be regulated.

For the purposes of American law, "speech" is defined very broadly. It can apply to burning an American flag[0], plans for 3-D printed guns[1], and even bombmaking instructions[2].

Our Supreme Court has decided that corporations spending money[3], even in politics[4], is speech as well.

The O'Brien test[5] is generally used to tell whether a law encroaches on 1A rights.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_v._Johnson [1]: http://joshblackman.com/blog/2018/07/10/doj-second-amendment... [2]: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/raisethefist/archive/abi.htm [3]: https://www.freedomforuminstitute.org/first-amendment-center... [4]: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/citizens-united-v... [5]: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/obrient...

You need even more money to organize rallies, get anyone to report on them and to get any airtime for yourself. Advertising is much cheaper and easier way to get people to look at your ideas.

Banning political advertising is just a play to strengthen incumbents and hurt new comers. I also think it's morally wrong. It's "you should not try to influence others by yourself - only government approved channels are ok and maybe you will get a minute a day if you're already visible in the polls" kind of law. It's censorship reminding me of Soviet days. Europe is terrible when it comes to freedom of expression. Blasphemy laws are another example of prosecuting speech some groups don't like.

That doesn’t change the fundamental problem. Regulating advertising for political content is a slippery slope that lets some people decide what is “political” and what is not.

This is orthogonal to my point. I'm just surprised (disappointed?) at how some people think it's so inconceivable to communicate without advertisements.

It's politics. How do you convince millions of people to look at your ideas and yourself without ads? You need to be a billionaire to organize rallies in major cities and that will still be less effective than ads. You're only getting airtime if you're an incumbent or already popular. Internet made it possible to get attention of millions of people relatively cheaply. No wonder it's in the interest of ruling elite to ban doing that.

Why is insider trading a different category than other forms of speech?

Why is paying someone to murder someone a different category than other forms of speech?

Why are intentionally deceptive drug advertisements a different category than other forms of speech?

Why is pointing a gun at someone and telling them to do something a different category than other types of speech?

I'm going to claim that it's because these forms of speech enable types of coordination and coercion that corrupt processes and structures that we deem essential for the operation of society. So, pragmatic reasons.

Placing limits on the payments, direct or indirect (a dollar I spend is a dollar a candidate doesn't have to spend), that can be made to aid people in gaining a position that places them in charge of allocating public resources, that's something that very few people seriously argue against. What they argue about is what those limits should be.

You can make an argument that payments to candidates and government officials should be allowed, but making absolutist arguments that something is speech and therefore must be permitted isn't serious. Payments to a television station to run an ad that you financed the production of is surely less worthy of being called speech than calling in a bomb threat is - at least the bomb threat is using your mouth to say a thing. Speech, instead, is what we define to be speech. If it's to encompass all expression, you might as well call selling cigarettes without a tax stamp speech.

> Why is insider trading a different category than other forms of speech?

The speech isn't illegal - the act of trading based on insider information is. This works in a similar manner to bomb-making plans being legal to disseminate, but making a bomb being very illegal.

> Why is paying someone to murder someone a different category than other forms of speech?

This is solicitation to commit a crime, which is a specific exception to the 1A.

> Why are intentionally deceptive drug advertisements a different category than other forms of speech?

This is a false statement of fact, which is a specific exception to the 1A.

> Why is pointing a gun at someone and telling them to do something a different category than other types of speech?

Pointing a gun isn't speech, it's coercion.

> The speech isn't illegal - the act of trading based on insider information is.

The act of paying for something. That's not a very helpful distinction to make when the proposal is not being able to pay for certain ads.

> This is a false statement of fact, which is a specific exception to the 1A.

Political ads are deceptive all the time.

And what does "specific exception" mean? Specified by what?

Herewith the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, wherein one will find no specific exceptions actually made.

* https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights-transc...


That's not how this works. The constitution and amendments are the foundation. There are centuries of supreme court rulings and further legal precedent that determine the modern framework.

Free speech does have certain restrictions, which you can easily read about here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_free_speech_exce...

Actually, it is how it works. You are confusing case law with what k_sh actually claimed, which was specific exceptions. There do exist U.S. constitutional provisions with specific exceptions, such as the 5th Amendment. The 1st Amendment is not one of them. Indeed, it is famous for being neither specific nor having clear exceptions.

Contrast with the Basic Law of Germany article 5, that has already come up in this discussion, which outlines specific exceptions in paragraph 2. (For another example, see article 8.)

Incorrect. What is being discussed are the applicable rules to citizens today, and the cumulative legislation states that there are exceptions. We do not follow only the constitution and bill of rights, otherwise what do you think the thousands of other laws are doing exactly?

Real exceptions exist, regardless of whether they are written in the original amendment text or in rulings afterward.

The exceptions are 'real', but they're fuzzy, they change over time, and they're not in the constitution itself. They're the opposite of 'specific'.

The amendments themselves are not in the constitution itself, so do they not apply?

Amendments were added to the body of laws after the constitution, and congress and the supreme court have since added more to the body of laws after the amendments. The cumulative result is what governs citizens today.

Those laws are in fact very specific about their exceptions, as shown very clearly in the wikipedia link. What exactly do you find fuzzy or confusing about them?

The amendments are part of the constitution.

Case law, as you linked, is not. It also keeps changing without the underlying documents changing. I don't know how you can look at all those dates marking times high courts had to get involved and still say it's clear.

I don't understand -- getting a message out is advertising by definition.

Not everyone attends a rally and not every rally is (or needs to be) covered in the news.

Also: in the US parties are less powerful (and not even mentioned in the constitution) so each candidate is presented individually and it's up to that candidate to bring up whichever issues (local or national) that they consider relevant. There is nothing like the party list system. So the structure of elections are quite different from the ones in, say, France or Germany.

No, getting your message out is marketing, advertising is a subset of paid marketing. Press releases that get picked up by news agency’s is a great example of the difference.

How do you communicate to millions of people then? What is your strategy? Visit every single person's home?

Do you not recognize the irony of asking this question on Hacker News? And for an additional layer of irony, Hacker News doesn't advertise either (that I'm aware of).

HN regularly ban/kill political topics. Good or bad some topics don't belong here even if popular among users. Things like: "I want to be a governorn of Y region or representative of X country, here is my program" either won't get any traction or be killed. Buying ads is the cheapest and most effective way of getting eyes to your ideas. It's great it became more accessible. No wonder ruling elites in Europe want it banned tough.

Actually HN does advertise. Just yesterday I saw an add in the Google search bar for "news.ycombinator.com" on Firefox focus while searching "hacker news".

No. Irony implies expectation.

Do you expect people are all going to come online, visit HN or other forums, and then discuss politics willingly with potential candidates?

Do what that progressive in New York did to challenge the #4 Democrat in the house and win. (Osario-Cortez)

She did exactly that.

Campaign was as follows:

Identify policy platform and benefit to winning majority of voters.

Identify win numbers.

Two of hers were Medicare for All and Living Wages.

Organize volunteers to canvass. Break it down and insure coverage.

Canvass, hold events, town hall, rallies, etc...

Continue, until win numbers plausibly met.


Win election, which she did.

The beauty of that campaign is the strategy I put here was announced and implemented. All well ahead of the election. Was nearly a two year effort.

No big money, no big media, no extensive marketing campaign.

The single most important thing that team did was actually ask people for their votes.

A ton of campaigns do not actually do that. They imply and or talk about how bad it can be if you do not vote.

Big difference. And it takes much more of a spend to do too.

This works at any scale.

Sanders showed it in 2016. Same overall approach.

Won 22 States and 45 percent of Delegates doing mostly that.

On a national level, some AD spends are needed, but are not the core of the campaign.

People to people politics work, but that is a clear vote for politicking, not the usual vote against we see most of the time.

On FOR type issues, very large numbers of people will invest FOR, because they see a clear return potential.

Without that, yes more ADS and such are needed, because the ask for vote part is not as prominent, often implied.

My point here is we totally have ways of politicking that work and do not require massive political contributions and or ADS.

I perfer them and would gladly regulate political ADS.

Do the same for perscription drugs, just because doing that makes about as much sense.

All those things are very expensive and someone without significant backing won't be able to afford them. Ads are cheaper and more effective, especially when you're just starting and don't know if you should invest more of your time and money.

Buying votes is way more expensive than asking for them is. About 30 people are in these mid term general elections doing exactly what I put there. None of them have significant means. Most of them beat the people doing it "the very expensive way."

You are not wrong, buying an office is not cheap. People lacking significant backing, or personal means cannot afford to do that.

That is not the only way to do politicking.

I am not wrong either.

It's not about buying the office. It's about getting your message to be seen without investing huge resources. No one with a job can afford organizing rallies and laying significant groundwork unless they are already rich, backed by major party or otherwise having most of their time free to do political activity. Ads are cheap way to try to get people to look at your message. It challenges monopoly of the media and gives platform to new players.

I am not sure why you talk about buying votes. Getting people to look at your message is not buying votes. Making crazy promises like free cash for everyone or flats for everyone as human right is.


Again, there are people in general elections who did exactly what I put here.

There are mutiple ways of politicking out there.

Oddly, no. It is not a euphemism. It is a form of free speech, period.

While well-intentioned, Germany certainly does not.

Though it may occasionally seem so, the NFL is not a government organization.

That makes it more of a free speech issue for the government to be meddling in its employer/employee interactions, not less.

The government doesn't meddle in the NFL. The NFL issued the bans

That's plainly false.

"NFL execs admit pressure from Trump a factor on anthem policy": https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2018/05/24/nfl-execs-a...

"Trump says U.S. should change tax law to punish NFL": http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/20978787/president-donald...

"The report found the Department of Defense had spent $6.8 million on what they called 'paid patriotism' between 2012 and 2015. This money was spread out among 50 pro teams from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR, MLS and others.": https://www.cnn.com/2017/09/25/us/nfl-national-anthem-trump-...

Thanks for the correction, you are right. I did not read the OP clearly enough, and thought they were arguing the government issued the ban.

Interesting, although I can't say I care much about the fate of these organizations that accepted money from the DoD. Accepting payments for allowing these patriotic displays is, IMO, a sort of deal with the devil (I don't actually think the U.S. is the devil). This sounds even less of an issue of government abridging free speech and more like the NFL breaching contract.

The landscape has swung heavily to smaller donors dominating fundraising.

The $5 I gave Beto doesn’t mean he’s going to let me dictate anything he does in his political career.

Holocaust denying is a crime in many countries:


Kaepernick is banned from the NFL in the same sense I am - no team wants him because he isn't good enough for the price he wants.

False. 50% of the current starting QB's are trash. Kaepernick has proven success.

First, I said that he wasn't good enough for what he wanted, not that he just isn't good enough. Second, it isn't like Kaepernick is a hotshot quarterback. He is thoroughly middling. Kaepernick had a standout couple of games in the playoffs, but otherwise he was looking at qb ratings of high 70s to low 90s. Not horrible but really just run of the mill.

Europeans have bureaucrats in Brussels who are not elected by anyone. Thats way worse than allowing some dose of political advertising, as a whole.

As for Freedom of Speech, several European countries have actually very specific limitations on what one can say, while such restrictions are way lower in the US. Plus, the US has a strong constitution on that matter, while in Europe depending on the country it is certainly not as clearly written down.

The "bureaucrats in Brussels" are nominated by EU Parliament members, who in turn are elected every five years directly by citizens in European elections. They are there not because the EU is anti-democratic, but because you cannot realistically expect elected representatives to deal with every single detail. Otherwise, you would be in a direct democracy.

Doesn't the same thing happen in the US? Federal and state agencies are full of non-elected employees that take impactful decisions on a daily basis, but I don't see many Americans complaining about a lack of democracy in the USA because of this.

There are many positions in the US that are not elected positions. When's the last time you voted for a supreme court justice?

Bureaucrats make laws in Europe. The Supreme court does not. Big difference.

Actually, the U.S. follows the Common Law system in contrast with the majority of other countries (most of E.U. follows Civil Law). In that system the justice system participates in the shaping of law as it acts as an interpreter of the law and establishes precedent (you might have heard the term case law also [0]). Thus, as you are well aware, law is developed by their decisions and interpretations of the Supreme Court, and other lower courts. For instance, Arizona v. Gant, Roe v. Wade. [0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Case_law

What you describe is "legal precedents", not laws per se. Sure, that is also a power to make decisions, but it's quite different from enacting new laws altogether.

Legal precedents exist, because laws are interpreted / combined, deduced. Sure, it is not regulatory or statutory law (executive and legislative branches). Yet, courts (and police etc) are bound by the rule of stare decisis. Namely, a court has to abide and be consistent with rulings of higher courts. For instance, if a court says abortion is legal, lower courts, police, and the affected governments (e.g. states, municipalities) have to abide to that ruling/case law.

In other systems, if a law leads to contradiction, or is lacking clarity, the court applies specific 'procedures' to solve the issue (e.g. a law can be ruled unconstitutional or void). Here, the court decides on the details to produce a "reasonable" law.

Edit: But yes, you are right: unlike the legislative branch a court may not propose an arbitrary law (they can advise/make suggestions to the legislative branch).

Are you trying to argue that the Supreme court is just an irrelevant fluff job? Probably also the same argument could be made for general officers and diplomats?

If Facebook is to be the public square, then it needs all the protections and consequences that come with it. You can’t say you’re a senator on a TV ad - that’s impersonating an elected official which is a plenty reasonable curb on free speech - just as you can’t walk around with a police officers uniform. There is SOME limit to speech in terms of fraud.

That's fine, but it depends on the value of you in "You can't say you're a senator." Is Vice liable for fraud here? Facebook?

And don't forget, the OP is responding to GP proposing simply banning political ads on Facebook altogether, not simply fraudulent ones.

Fraud is already a crime. And in most cases, prosecution comes after a crime is committed. Forcing independent organizations to pre-police is generally a bad idea. It's a good idea for them to do it, it's a bad idea to use threat of force (government) to do.

In the end, I do know several third party candidates that had a lot of trouble posting genuine ads... so there's a bit of a problem all around.

> Forcing independent organizations to pre-police is generally a bad idea.

It's worked pretty well for discriminatory housing ads.

Because you can tell from the ad choice that it is discrinatory, and you cannot abet a crime knowingly.

With political ads? What is the crime being committed? If it is fraud, then we make it illegal to place an ad without rendering your ID, like with a bank account.

How so? Is craigslist required to pre-screen housing ads? I don't think so. The ads themselves are illegal, but there's no legal requirement to pre-screen that I'm aware of.

Online outlets have a specific exemption for user-created content (https://www.eff.org/issues/cda230/legal); print outlets do, indeed, have to pre-screen ads and that's worked very well.

Even for tech companies, that exemption is limited; Craigslist got an exemption, but Roommates.com didn't because of the level to which its platform actively encouraged discriminating on prohibited categories.

Facebook is even now being pursued by HUD over its own tools allowing housing ads to be targeted by race, gender, ZIP code, or disability. https://www.npr.org/2018/08/19/640002304/hud-hits-facebook-f...

>Forcing independent organizations to pre-police is generally a bad idea. It's a good idea for them to do it, it's a bad idea to use threat of force (government) to do.

The financial industry as well as many others say hi.

That you need to ask the question sort of implies that there is 0 value to Facebook in catching that they were defrauded - if thats right, then there's nothing wrong with regulation. If Facebook doesn't have the ability to determine who is running ads, then I agree with the GP that political ads should be banned on Facebook altogether.

I'm sorry, we make people show ID to buy cigarettes and beer - mass political advertising needs SOME sort of regulation.

The ads never ran. There was no fraud, since was no intent to earn money from Facebook.

Lying, in and of itself, is not illegal. While that may be unfortunate, that is also true. So to speak :)

The freedom Facebook enjoys is not really the freedom of speech. It is the freedom of the press, the freedom to publish. Same amendment, different purpose.

What is less clear is: to what extent is Facebook the press? The press, in 1789, could not send you push notifications. It was not gamified with the intent of increasing user engagement. It was not interwoven with a person's private communications with their friends. It did not encourage users to build "profile pages" on which they hang their reputations and opinions. Someone might have seen you reading The Federalist Papers, but everything else was up to you.

Any of these provides a legal avenue to regulate Facebook without cheapening the broad freedoms prescribed to actual publishers. James Madison never dreamed that a Senator would send messages to his constituents that make their phones buzz when they aren't being looked at. In my unvarnished opinion, that's not freedom of the press, it's something else.

You don't consider delivering a paper to my door to be a form of "push delivery"? At least with facebook I installed the app. These local newspapers/flyer delivery vehicles don't have any business relationship with me at all.

This is actually perfectly legal and is already practiced by government agencies that have advertising: https://nypost.com/2016/03/03/mtas-ban-anti-muslim-ads-on-su...

A Supreme Court case saying that advertising is not a public forum: https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/418/298/#tab-opi...

The first amendment doesn’t require Facebook to publish candidate ads or Russian propaganda.

> We have the first amendment in America. It says the government can't make laws that limit a private citizen's ability to express themselves (among other things).

No, it doesn't, and the U.S. isn't the only country that understands freedom of speech. God, this is so tiring.

The government can limit speech if they have a compelling reason (the governments reasoning outweighs the persons freedom of speech, think yelling fire in a crowded theater). If the government has a compelling reason they can only limit the speech in the most narrowly tailored way to accomplish their goal and still allow the most freedom of speech possible.

Ah, "yelling fire in a crowded theater". I wonder how many people who use that phrase are aware of the original context in which it was introduced.


TL;DR: during WW1, Socialist Party members protested against the war, and particularly against the draft. As part of those protests, they handed out leaflets that encouraged those eligible to resist the draft. The government cracked down on it, and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government, likening the action to "shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic".

Thankfully, the present standard is "imminent lawless action" instead, which is a far higher bar for the government to meet if it wants to regulate speech.


I hear what you're saying. And I think there's plenty of room on this planet for many nations with different lines drawn in the sand on free speech.

On one hand, I think there are many nations that are subjectively better places to live than the U.S., whose citizens have ceded more of their freedom of speech for scores of years and it's worked out pretty well so far.

On the other hand, I think the manifestation of a nation is derived as much from the side effects of its laws as the primary effects. By this I mean it's likely impossible to answer, "would what makes America tick still tick if we changed freedom of speech?" Who can really predict what side effects would come out of trying to make the U.S. more like Europe, Canada, Australia, etc.

> ... there are many nations that are subjectively better places to live than the U.S., whose citizens have ceded more of their freedom of speech ... it's worked out pretty well so far.

As someone not in the US, I agree there are many places that are subjectively "better", but this is /definitely/ not because of free speech restrictions, but because of universal healthcare/welfare/education.

Freedom of speech is incredibly important, and countries who restrict it (in the philosophical sense) walk a dangerous path.

E.g. Australia making it illegal for people to comment on living conditions within refugee camps, or making it illegal to take photos inside factory farms.

You’re right to point out that many nations have better standards of living than the US. But I do think that standard of living has been mostly due to the relatively peaceful period of human history that we find ourselves in. It really wasn’t that long ago when most of Europe lived under some form of totalitarianism. Much of European history is filled with persecution of people for their beliefs, religion, etc... And so I think your statement shows how much you are taking your freedom for granted.

Maybe I am taking it for granted. I wish I knew the trick to be sure I wasn't but I think it's just kind of the condition of growing up in health and prosperity with parents who grew up in the same and grandparents who were a bit too young for the war. Canadian history has been fairly peaceful.

This "papers written by people 300 years ago and their interpretations are infallible" thing is a really common POV in America. People make mistakes. It's ok to correct them.

As brilliant as the Founding Fathers are, they did not, and could not, foresee a future where corporations have more money than entire governments, where they've been given personhood, and given carte blanche to just "buy" legislation. All in the name of free speech? How far does free speech actually extend - because we might as well cut the red tape and just auction Senators off the to highest bidder on an open market at this point.

I bet you $50 that if you were to resurrect the Founding Fathers and showed them the present situation and were ask "so - is this what you had in mind?" - they'd be absolutely horrified.

>This is a really dangerous / slippery precedent to set,

Except for all the other countries in the world that have mostly free speech with a few sensible restrictions, and it mostly work pretty well.

I think the problem comes when you define it as ‘some’ political ads.

This is unfortunately never the case. It’s either none, or floods of them.

I too love idealism, but I have to wonder just how broken things have to get before people begin to accept that a thing that sounds good in theory just doesn't work right in the real world?

In theory, unregulated free markets are always self-correcting. In theory, socialism works great. In theory, uninhibited free speech is one of the pillars of a free society.

So if we start seeing torrential downpour of misleading ads with a "paid for" line that's a total lie, making it harder still for people to figure out what positions actually do belong to a candidate, will that be broken enough then?

I mean, we've already got pharmaceutical advertising, massive media conglomerates muddying the waters, and a huge rise in hate speech that's dehumanizing people to the extent that they're being mass-murdered.

We already accept a number of reasonable limits on speech. Society hasn't imploded yet, at least not for that reason, anyway. I think you've gotta do better here than "it's a slippery slope".

In practice, meanwhile, FS works well enough.

The question is, what do those limits on speech really add?

For example, Germany has extremely stringent limits on hate speech. In fact, it goes beyond that, and gives courts the authority to outright ban political parties, and even informal associations, that promote certain political ideas (e.g. any form of government that is not a democracy), even if such promotion doesn't involve hate speech per se: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streitbare_Demokratie. They have a robust enforcement regimen, too.

And? They still have neo-Nazis marching in the streets (and, I must add, in far greater numbers than anything that happened in US to date). And they have AfD, which continues to grow in popular support, and to gain seats on both federal and regional level.

I would argue that in that regard, Europe and US inadvertently did a useful experiment: one side went all-in for free speech, another side decided to enshrine "intolerance of intolerance" in law. Looking at Europe today, I would dare say that the result of that experiment is that political censorship is a failure. It's not that you can't do it - clearly, there are many countries that do it quite successfully, even today. The problem is, all those countries are very heavy-handed about it - they don't wince at punishing people for being suspected subversives, for example. And so we call those countries dictatorships and tyrannies. But the amount of censorship that Europe decided it can afford while still retaining free society is fairly trivial to work around, and therefore ineffective. It's basically just security theater. It lets politicians point at all those laws and say, "See, we did something about the neo-Nazis! You're safe!" to their voters, even as said neo-Nazis openly march in the streets.

> a huge rise in hate speech

Interestingly, this has come after a huge rise in PC speech codes. There's been a grand experiment in trying to regulate peoples' thoughts by regulating speech, it appears to have the opposite effect.

Though political speech is already significantly limited by U.S. "campaign reform" laws.

Money isn't speech.

What's being proposed is a ban on certain business transactions, not a ban on a particular issue of speech.

This is a tiresome argument. The first amendment guarantees freedom of the press (ie, the printing press). The clear aim is to guarantee not just the right to speech, but also the right to _distribute_ that speech. In fact, without that the right to freedom of speech is of limited value.

This doesn't mean Facebook couldn't ban political ads, but it does mean it would be unreasonable for the government to do so.

One could just as easily the aim is to protect political graffiti. Especially given the actions of the founders during the revolution.

The choice of protecting money is a strategic one, not one of judicial sobriety. And as we expect from that kind of ruling, it falls exactly along the political lines of the appointing president.

It is an extrapolation to suppose the founders intended allowing every avenue of distribution regardless of outcome. It's just as (un)clear the founders would be appalled at the current tight feedback from campaign finance which in many cases is indistinguishable from bribery.

And yet we regulate swear words and nude imagery on broadcast television because the airwaves are a limited public resource.

First ammendment absolutism in the face of rapidly changing technology is way more tiresome.

>And yet we regulate swear words and nude imagery on broadcast television

Maybe the reasonable answer is that you shouldn't, especially in the face of rapidly changing technology, which nowadays gives us huge choice of what to look at. The example of outdated censorship doesn't make a valid argument for more restrictions.

“Tv is ran by money; how am I supposed to be?” - Lil B

> Money isn't speech.

there are several supreme court cases that have ruled differently: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckley_v._Valeo

For better or worse, it legally is in the USA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._FEC) for what we're talking about.

To say that it's controversial would be an understatement.

money isn't speech but the courts that ultimately decide this in the USA are directly appointed by someone who got elected using money instead of speech.

There are many elections in the US, including the last Presidential one, where the winner spent nowhere near as much as the loser.


Clinton spent nearly double what Trump did.

> The best solution, and currently in effect as law in many European countries, would be to stop political ads altogether on Facebook and the Web.

I disagree. Not only is that against the first amendment and it is discriminatory. Why should political ads be allowed on other platforms, but not on social media or the web? And why should non-political ads allowed on social media or the web?

Maybe tightening up ad selection, but banning ads or speech isn't the answer.

+1. i know government TV channels have scary connotations, but i’d rather see a website or tv channel or radio set up where each candidate gets a bunch, but equal number, of campaign ads. play them on repeat all day for free. and remove paid political ads from all other sources

Who decides who gets to be a candidate?

Banning political ads is not some neutral rule. It primarily favors incumbents and the status quo.

I think it should go further - ban all political ads, period. They do more harm than good, are mostly designed to confuse and obscure the topics and/or candidate(s).

Instead of ads have the politicians debate on live TV to express their political views. Post the debates online for everyone to watch at their leisure.

Leave the measures/proposals to us to research; in Colorado we get an excellent voter guide that clearly explains the measures, including pros/cons. That's all I use.

I believe, but cannot prove, that we (society) could largely achieve the same ends without violating the First Amendment:

1) Switch from winner-takes-all to approval voting.

Largely eliminates negative campaigning. Counteracts drive to partisanship.

2) Restore Fairness Doctrine


3) Publicly financed campaigns

Greatly reduce effectiveness of pay to play strategy.

There's no way to restore the fairness doctrine in any meaningful way. It only ever applied to broadcast licenses.

The way it was justified was that there's a natural limitation on the amount of spectrum, so the government has an interest in ensuring that not all channels on that spectrum are Fox News.

The spectrum gets more irrelevant by the day as more TV moves to cable/Internet, and people in general get their news from the likes of Facebook instead of TV. There's no natural limitation on the number of channels on cable or Internet, so the government trying to police speech there would be ruled unconstitutional.

Your #1 suggestion is doable, but would require something just short of a successful revolution to pull off. #3 likewise, you'd need a constitutional amendment due to Citizens United.

#1 There's a variety of goofy primary systems. One could argue that approval voting is the logical conclusion of top-two or jungle primaries.

#3 Public financing reforms have thus far been a bottom-up effort.

As for #2, we'll see. The backlash to social media is pretty intense. There's an opportunity in there some where.

and how do you plan to advocate your proposal?

I have a better idea -- every should contain (at least in metadata) public information about the organization who bought it. For political ads, there additionally should be the price paid for the ad.

The former of your suggestions is already required for most political advertising: https://transition.fec.gov/pages/brochures/spec_notice_broch...

I'm pretty sure there is an even better idea -- don't expect Facebook news and ads to be legitimate. News from a social media site is false at the worst and unreliable at the best.

Should we do the same with TV and billboards?

>Plus, less money raised and spent by political campaigns.

That's how it's done in my country, France: candidates can't pay for political ads. They have equally-sized and free-to-use billboards in front of public buildings [0] and a free one-minute-and-a-half-per-day ad space on public television [1]. That's it.

[0] http://dspagnou.celeonet.fr/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/degra...

[1] For fun, the 2017 ads: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n__Il8Z7lrg

How much campaigning happens on Facebook, or through Facebook groups I wonder?

As ads or promoted posts, zero. Through Facebook pages, well, quite much, with varying degrees of success. Extreme presidential candidates last year (Mélenchon for the far-left and Le Pen for the far-right) had I think the best participation numbers online, and a pretty good YouTube strategy (almost daily explanatory videos). Fringe candidates (Asselineau, Dupont-Aignan) are also quite good online. Our current president, Macron (liberal in the non-American sense of the term), also had a good online strategy, but the other candidates were forgettable at best.

You're not limited on what you can do on a political Facebook page, as long as you don't pay for promotion, respect expression rules (no defamation or hate speech), and stop campaigning two days before election day.

edit: replaced discrimination by defamation; still not sure about the translation but I think it fits more

They can wheatpaste their damned posters on every possible surface of a town though.

Can they pay for their own website? What about a website about their ideas? What about linking to that website? Limiting speech like that sounds dystopian. It's sure great for established players though as they are already known and get a lot of air time anyway while the competition can't even pay to try to convince others to their ideas.

> Limiting speech like that sounds dystopian.

This oft repeated refrain r.e. more restrictive speech laws is something that I don't really understand. You can look at Europe or Canada and see that they are no dystopias, compared to the United States. There are ways they are better and ways they are worse, but there is no consensus that either is a significantly worse place to live than the USA.

> It's sure great for established players though as they are already known and get a lot of air time anyway while the competition can't even pay to try to convince others to their ideas.

Odd that you'd make this point on a comment about France. Perhaps read up on Macron some time.

They can have their own website, but only promoted through organic means.

> Limiting speech like that sounds dystopian

Europe, with its vastly different past, has a very different view on free speech compared to the US. We don't allow unlimited free speech, but we don't view that as censorship. Nazi symbols are banned in Germany. Hate speech is condemned through most of Europe (one of our far-right politicians in France has been condemned, and I think rightly so, for dismissing Holocaust as a 'detail of history').

You see that as a dystopia. I see that as a better political and social environment.

>We don't allow unlimited free speech, but we don't view that as censorship.

Speak for yourself. I certainly think blasphemy laws are certainly way past their due date, and more extreme restrictions (e.g. like in Germany, but notably not everywhere in Europe) definitely at least borderline on the dystopian side.

And as to what an average citizen might think: perhaps an average Chinese considers their “free speech” laws, or their closest equivalent, quite reasonable after having been taught so all their life. Europe could certainly do with freer speech.

It's still censorship, by definition. You have just decided that it's worth it, but let's be clear about what it is.

Funny thing is, for all your hate speech laws, far right parties don't seem to be much frustrated by them, and are quite successful at competing for votes lately. All they have to do is wink and nudge without spelling things out bluntly - everybody still knows what they mean and what they stand for.

> You see that as a dystopia. I see that as a better political and social environment.

The question then is...should YOU be the one to decide what is "better"? Who should be given that kind of power?

In an ideal world, a benevolent philosopher king would have that power. In the real world, maybe it's best no one has it.

Maybe it's better to cast the ring into the fire.

This sort of argument is the ultimate dead end. Shall we have no legislation on anything which isn't universally considered beneficial?

Besides which, choosing no legislation is a choice in itself. Having no law on speech isn't a middle-ground, it's an extreme. It's an understandable extreme, and though I disagree with it in limited fashion I don't think it's an unreasonable case to make. But it is nevertheless not the balanced middle-ground choice you're presenting it as.

This sort of argument is not a dead end but the very essence of government. Asking how much power should be given to a government is vitally important to the citizens and is certainly not a dead end.

I'm not disagreeing with the idea that speech legislation should be debated. I'm disagreeing with the conclusion that, since there is no consensus, it's best that there is no legislation at all.

Well now you've raised a very deep point. We need some laws and regulation, but not too much. How do we decide? We have a Constitution and a political system, including judiciary where we can all fight it out.

Conservatives are more on the side of limited government power. Progressives think the government should do more. And on and on it goes...

- won't work as a free speech violation. - how would you define political?

In the end, I think that those companies that finance advertising as a non-profit or political organization should be required to have open books on who donated to that org. At least more openness can curb some of it. As it stands, nobody knows a lot of the time.

The best solution is to pass an amendment to the constitution to adjust free speech exceptions?

If thats the best solution, I don't think i want to know what the worse one is...

yeah! because changing a document that was written hundreds of years ago to suit the highly changing landscape that is human society is a terrible idea........

It's 2018 and somehow we all believe that humans have changed over a few hundred years but the idea that groups of humans that lived oceans apart for thousands of years had 0 divergence from each other.

Amazing how we can change so much but still be the same.

Aren't there already laws against false advertising? That's the real issue here...

what's a political ad? Is an ad for a Michael Moore movie a poltical ad given his movies are poltical?

Wouldn't they be classified as documentaries?

if it's lobbying for one idea over another how is it not political? Moore is known to be left leaning and his movies are known to strongly push for leftist policies directly or indirectly for candidates. If he releases his "documentary" a month before an election it's pretty clear he means to influence the voters so how is that not really a political ad for the candidates for his favored party?

Which puts a severe damper on grassroots campaigns that don't have huge budgets to meet the minimum needed for print, radio, and TV. Glad it works for you in Europe... or does it?

America has a 1st amendment which protects free speech. Implicit in that covenant is the responsibility on the recipient, not the transmitter, to determine truthfulness. If you care whether Mike Pence actually paid for that ad, go research it -- and if you can't, don't rely on it being true.

This covenant is based on an outdated and incorrect model of how the brain works. You are largely not in control of your responses. You do things because you want to do them but why do you want what you want?

Advertising works. Propaganda works. If they cause social ills, it's valid to discuss how to avoid those ills.


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