Presidential candidate Donald Trump has a widely known, albeit incoherent, stance on libel. Like many of Trump’s policy positions, his views on libel appear to be founded upon an angry shard of truth (newspapers should not allow bias or corporate concerns to pervert their reporting). But as with many of his policy positions, Trump’s views on libel fail to grasp the complexity of the problem, and expose his views as self-serving and hypocritical. Indeed, instead of making American great again, Trump’s views on libel threaten to undermine one of the things that makes America the greatest—our uniquely strong free speech protections.
In response to allegations that Facebook suppresses conservative news items in its “Trending” section, Senator John Thune has launched an inquiry into Facebook’s policies for determining which items Facebook links to as most newsworthy. Senator Thune, Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, is requiring Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg to answer questions such as “how many stories have curators excluded that represented conservative viewpoints or topics of interest to conservatives?” Thune’s legitimate concern that Facebook is misleading the public into thinking that a neutral algorithm selects the “Trending Topics” is now outweighed by the graver First Amendment concern that the government is attempting to manipulate or suppress Facebook’s speech.
My article has been posted on the Columbia Law Review’s website. I am very receptive to all comments and feedback.