Former Google consultant Joe Toscano feels the government has a role to play in the battle against misinformation but the Biden administration’s “nanny state” rhetoric isn’t helping matters.
“I think we need to continue to fight as citizens for that free speech and the ability to not be censored,” Toscano told Fox News.
Toscano is a key figure in the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” which details the negative impact Big Tech can have on people. Social media platforms are constantly being scrutinized for their ability to spread false information, and the Biden administration has been under fire since admitting it’s working with Facebook to combat “misinformation” on coronavirus vaccines.
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“I do think we need some guardrails that are set up by the government,” Toscano said, noting that instead of flagging misinformation itself, the government should ensure nonpartisan moderators are properly doing their job.
As it currently stands, he feels Facebook doesn’t employ enough people to monitor nearly three billion users. Toscano often compares social media moderation to emergency responders in large cities.
“In New York City there’s somewhere around nine to 10 million people and the city has about 15 to 20 thousand emergency responders … to this day, those people are incapable of serving every single emergency that happens in the city. That’s because there’s a limit to time and space. We are human. There’s only so much we can do, right? But they still do a pretty decent job,” Toscano said. “Facebook is having 60,000 people [monitor misinformation] … but they’re serving two billion people.”
Toscano simply doesn’t think it’s feasible for Facebook to crack down on misinformation with so few monitors, and that, according to Toscano, is where the government should step in.
“I believe that these platforms, whether it’s Facebook, whether it’s Twitter, whether it’s YouTube or whatever, I believe they should legally be required to have X number of moderators per set amount of users,” he said. “I think that’s a simple way the government could get involved.”
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In a perfect world, the moderators would be nonpartisan observers who are only concerned with filtering out false information. Toscano is aware that it would be an imperfect science, but feels a larger pool of moderators would ensure a more democratically representative group.
“They’re going to have more people, so by default, have more on both sides,” he said.
Toscano is concerned that a heavy-handed approach by the government could result in politicians labeling anything they don’t agree with as misinformation.
“That’s my exact fear, that we get to a point where the government is controlling these platforms and they do have that control lever to where they can censor things,” he said. “We already know censorship is happening. We already know that it’s getting worse over time. There’s no reason to give it over to the government at this point.”
The former Google consultant acknowledged there are gatekeepers across society, even in journalism, who play a critical role in curating information and helping people understand complex issues. But at the same time, he feels it’s important that Americans are allowed to think for themselves and make a decision after gathering available information.
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“We don’t want to get to a nanny state situation,” he said. “None of us want that and I don’t think the American people are going to have it, if that’s what it comes to.”
The relationship between Facebook and the White House has been front and center since President Joe Biden and press secretary Jen Psaki made a series of controversial comments about the Big Tech giant this month. Toscano feels Biden’s initial claim that Facebook was “killing people” took things too far when he was searching for quotable soundbites.
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“I think it was overly dramatic saying that Facebook is killing people. It’s just not. And then very rightfully so, pulled back,” Toscano said. “I do think that Facebook is causing a lot of problems in society, absolutely, but I absolutely agree with Facebook that it is overdramatic to go to the point where you say Facebook is killing people.”
Indeed, Biden walked back his comment and declared that it was a handful of Facebook users who are “killing people” by spreading misinformation.
Psaki said that once users are banned from one social media platform for spreading coronavirus “misinformation,” they should be expelled from all others as well, and Toscano didn’t appreciate that comment, either.
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“That statement by itself lends itself to authoritarian decisions. I don’t think that’s a good look for the administration to have someone talk like that,” he said. “At the end of the day, these are private, separate organizations, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, they’re all separate companies. And they should have a right to make the decisions as they see best for their business.”
Fox Business’ Emma Colton contributed to this report.