Image: Long before Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg spoke before the United States House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on October 23, 2019, the technology conglomerate has enjoyed substantial government support.
Menlo Park, California, and Montgomery County, Texas, January 11 – When Facebook and other social media platforms, such as Twitter, “indefinitely” suspended President Donald Trump, they likely crossed the line into an unlawful prior restraint of Free Political Speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. While Facebook is a private business, the substantial government support, which the California-based company has enjoyed, brings its actions under the “state action” penumbra, which the Constitution clearly prohibits.
In announcing the unprecedented move on Thursday, January 7, 2021, Facebook founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said the risk of allowing President Trump to use the platform is too great following the president’s alleged incitement of a mob on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Zuckerberg said Trump’s account will be locked “for at least the next two weeks” and possibly indefinitely. “The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden,” Zuckerberg wrote.
Meanwhile, Parler, a competing online platform is suspending its social media platform entirely. “We are clearly being singled out,” Chief Policy Officer Amy Peikoff said on “Fox & Friends Weekend” one day after Apple suspended Parler from its App Store even as it surged to the No. 1 spot in the free apps section earlier in the day. Parler will likely go offline for “a while” Sunday evening given Amazon Web Services’ decision to suspend the upstart social media platform after Wednesday’s U.S. Capitol riot, executives said Sunday. “I believe we were treated unfairly,” Peikoff added.
CEO John Matze told “Sunday Morning Futures” that the site will try to “get back online as quickly as possible,” after writing on the platform that the site may be down for up to a week. Google suspended Parler from its app store Friday due to a failure to moderate “egregious content” posted by users related to the violent siege on Capitol Hill last week.
Not only has President Trump suffered Facebook “jail” but also many of his political supporters have as well. For example, locally in Montgomery County, Texas, Texas Patriots PAC Treasurer Cindy Muth Gaskill reported that Facebook locked her out, because she posted on the social media giant some statements supportive of the individuals who protested at the United States Capitol on Wednesday. Similarly, Phill Cady, one of President Trump’s lead rally organizers in Montgomery County, lost his account privileges for supporting the President, as well as conservative Republican political activist Sandi Curtis of Montgomery who merely posted a supportive post with little direct action on her part.
Amy Hedtke, a renowned yet low key conservative activist from Waxahachie has suffered a 30 day sentence in Facebook “jail” as of late last week.
Under the United States Constitution, the government, referred to as “state action,” may not violate the civil rights of individuals which the founding document has guaranteed. Facebook’s relationship with government has become substantial and its actions to lock out President Trump and is supporters seem to have crossed the line into “state action,” even though the company attempts to shield its action as a private business.
Unfortunately for Facebook, the law is not on its side.
In 1961, the Supreme Court of the United States held that a private company, which had substantial ties to the Wilmington (Delaware) Parking Authority, engaged in “state action” with respect to racial discrimination against a Wilmington City Councilman, who could not dine at a restaurant operated by the private business under a lease with the Parking Authority. Tom Clark, a conservative Democrat from Texas, wrote the majority opinion in Burton versus Wilmington Parking Authority.
In Moose Lodge versus Irvis in 1972, the Supreme Court clarified its opinion in Burton and explained that a private business, which receives “substantial” government support, would engage in “state action” if it engaged in civil rights violations.
Facebook’s receipt of government support is far beyond merely “substantial.” Ever since the United States Department of Justice in the Trump administration and Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee threatened to break up Facebook under federal antitrust laws, Facebook has received hundreds of millions of dollars in government support, while the company also worked closely with liberal elected officials to limit political speech on the social media platform.
Since 2015, Facebook has received at least $373,893,630 in state government grants, according to the subsidy tracker at Good Jobs First.org. During that time period, Facebook received over $150 million from the State of Utah and over $148 million from the State of Texas alone. On February 25, 2010, alone, Texas Governor Rick Perry approved an expenditure of over $1.4 million by the State of Texas “enterprise fund” merely to subsidize the opening of Facebook’s sales and operations office in Austin, Texas.
Clearly, the relationship between Facebook and federal, state, and local governments is substantial. Not only does Facebook receive gigantic government subsidies but also the social media company has institutionalized the support of neoliberal thought and censorship of anything contrary as company policy in order to engender a stronger relationship with neoliberals in control of the federal, state, and local governments across the United States.
Soon after Facebook put her in “jail,” Hedtke told this newspaper “The solution is to stop the funding [of Facebook by government] and still defend the right to Free Speech.”