Could Facebook Abandon Florida and Texas? | Crooked Media
SEE POD SAVE AMERICA, LOVETT OR LEAVE IT & STRICT SCRUTINY LIVE SEE POD SAVE AMERICA, LOVETT OR LEAVE IT & STRICT SCRUTINY LIVE
February 26, 2024
What A Day
Could Facebook Abandon Florida and Texas?

In This Episode

  • The Supreme Court on Monday heard oral arguments on a case that could upend the online world. At issue are laws championed and passed by Republicans in Florida and Texas which would prevent social media companies from banning users based on their viewpoints. Jason Koebler, co-founder of the tech publication 404 Media, believes that tech companies would leave both states if the Supreme Court allowed these laws to stand.
  • Michigan holds its primary elections on Tuesday. From the war in Gaza to the candidates’ ages, voters in Detroit told us what issues are the most important to them as they head to the polls.
  • And in headlines: President Biden says he expects a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas as early as next week, the FTC sues to block a massive grocery store merger, and Trump could get hit with another gag order.

 

Show Notes:

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Tuesday, February 27th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Andersen. And this is What a Day, reminding listeners that if you start watching and rewatching Dune part one now, you will have plenty of time to understand it before part two comes out on Friday. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: There’s no pressure here, you know, nobody has to watch Dune if they don’t want to. I don’t want to. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: You got something against Zendaya or Timothée Chalamet?

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I’m not a sandworm person. [music break] [laughter]

 

Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, Michiganders head to the polls and we hear what issues are driving them. 

 

[clip of Ellen Stachowicz] I am torn. I don’t want to see a Trump presidency, but I don’t want to see this continue to happen in Palestine. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Plus speaking of, President Biden says a cease fire in the Middle East could come by next week. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: But first, let’s look at how yesterday’s Supreme Court hearing on social media content could completely upend the online world. At issue are two laws championed and passed by Republicans, one in Florida and another in Texas. They both handcuffed social media companies from banning users based on their viewpoints, and restrict how they can moderate content in the future. Now, I would say these company’s track record of moderation has been spotty at best. Right. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: But still, when conservatives passed these laws, they were basically arguing that they are targeted more often. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Of course that is what they were saying. They always feel like they targeted more often. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. If these laws were to stand, however, there would be this patchwork between states of how content is moderated. Like if I cross state lines from Georgia where I am now to Florida, Facebook could look totally different. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: And this could kind of transform all kinds of conversations, that could really kind of fracture what is and isn’t allowed. So here’s Paul Clement, the lawyer arguing on behalf of the tech companies. 

 

[clip of Paul Clement] In order to provide anything like the service that we want to while not engaging in viewpoint discrimination, we basically have to eliminate certain areas of speech entirely. So we just couldn’t talk about suicide prevention anymore because we’re not going to talk about suicide promotion. I guess we couldn’t have pro-Semitic speech because we’re not going to have anti-Semitic speech. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: So Tre’vell, I talked earlier with Jason Koebler co-founder of the tech website 404 Media. And I started by asking what he thought social media companies would do if the court ruled against them. 

 

Jason Koebler: I honestly think that some of the big social media companies will pull out of these states entirely. I, that would be a very extreme move, but it’s one that we’ve seen before. There’s actually been this sort of patchwork uh with Pornhub. North Carolina, Montana, Louisiana, Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas have all passed these age verification laws where you sort of have to, like, upload an ID to watch porn. And rather than try to comply with these laws, Pornhub has just blocked itself in these states. And in Canada, Facebook has like you can’t share news in Canada because Canada tried to make Facebook pay for news access. And a similar thing happened in Australia. So it would be an extreme move, but I could see some of these social media platforms pulling out of these states to make a point. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Florida and Texas are huge states though, so how can any tech company afford to just block out whole audiences that are there? 

 

Jason Koebler: Think about how they make their money. They make their money with advertising, and they are trying to create a space that Disney and Kelloggs and Procter and Gamble and all these massive companies feel very safe advertising into. Look at what happened on X, when people were able to take screenshots of Nazi and far right tweets next to Disney ads. Disney pulled their money. We’re talking about millions and millions and millions of dollars at stake. And we’re also talking about platforms that have billions of users all around the world. So Florida and Texas are big states, but these are global companies. And if they are sort of forced to have this piecemeal moderation system, we could see either a really patchwork-y social media where, like you said, Facebook looks way different in Georgia than it looks in Florida. Or we could see these social media companies at least threaten to leave these states hoping to sort of negotiate something better. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: So what would that mean for social media usage? I know we have a love hate relationship with social media, but it does obviously have some good. It’s a way for people to organize their community and share pictures of their family members, etc. so what would it mean for social media users? 

 

Jason Koebler: The companies would be severely limited in the types of content moderation that they can do. And because these laws are so broad, would Facebook be allowed to delete spam? Would it be allowed to delete porn? Would it be allowed to delete Nazi content? Which is obviously political in nature. And that’s the way that these laws are written, that they sort of can’t act or are severely limited in the ways that they can act on political content. And so we might see a system where people in Texas and Florida are essentially like put into Facebook jail, where their feeds look way different and sort of way, I guess gnarlier than people’s feeds in other states, because Facebook is limited on, you know, what sorts of content it can act on. And I say Facebook but another thing is, it’s not clear what companies these laws even apply to. The laws are so broadly written that it could apply to Uber. It could apply to Etsy. It could apply to Gmail. And so I think that complying with this law is going to be very hard. And that’s why I think that we might just see them say Florida, you can’t use Facebook anymore. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: So obviously the Supreme Court heard arguments in this case yesterday. Did you get any sense from the justices of where they were following? Did they seem to be more amenable to the states in this case, or the companies or neither? 

 

Jason Koebler: It seems like they are going to try to avoid issuing a sweeping decision. They were all sort of saying like, we understand that our ruling here can fundamentally change how social media and the internet works. And so they seem sort of inclined to either throw it back down to a lower court or to narrowly tailor their decision. It’s kind of interesting because Justice Alito said that he was really worried about sort of like the dystopian nature of Facebook deciding its rules. And then you had Brett Kavanaugh say, well, I think it’s dystopian that the states want to make these rules. And so you kind of have people on both sides saying like, this is about free speech for users, and then you have people saying, well, this is about free speech for these corporations who should be able to make their own rules. And there’s no heroes here, really. It’s like the content moderation is a mess. Social media is a mess. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Absolutely. Yeah. As someone who spends too much time on X, I would agree. So we have some months before the Supreme Court makes a ruling here, but can you give us some perspective on like the fundamental question here because conservatives say that these sites have been moderating them unfairly, which is why they passed these laws. What has your reporting and tracking of these companies really show? 

 

Jason Koebler: So [laugh] this is a little simplistic, but this kind of arises out of Ted Cruz being very mad that Facebook once deleted a Chick-Fil-A appreciation page many years ago, and that was an accident. But it became this sort of like rallying cry that conservatives were being silenced, shadow banned, deleted off of social media, and that their content was overtly being moderated against, or that the algorithm was not allowing conservative viewpoints to spread. But the data shows it’s like if you go to Facebook and look at the top posts, the overwhelming majority of the top posts are right leaning news sites and sometimes like outright disinformation. So this sort of cry of social media censorship has been a rallying cry for the right for a long time, and these laws are a response to that. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: And Tre’vell, that’s my interview with Jason Koebler, co-founder of the independent tech website 404 Media, talking about what would happen to social media if the Supreme Court upholds these Florida and Texas laws that restrict how companies can moderate content. We will have a link to his site in our show notes. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Thanks so much for that, Josie. Now on to Michigan, with presidential primaries happening today. Despite it being somewhat of a foregone conclusion that Trump and Biden will face off for the presidency again, today’s election and its results will continue to help us learn more about voters and the issues they care about most. Reporter Briana Rice talked to young voters in Detroit about what they are thinking about as they head to the polls. And top of mind for many people, the war in Gaza. 

 

[clip of Jocelyn Rodriguez] The war that’s going on um between Israel and Palestine and also Russia and Ukraine are probably like the two main topics that are in mind. 

 

[clip of Jacob Boxley] How we deal with um foreign affairs. So, of course, that situation over there with the Palestinians. 

 

[clip of Hadi Yassine] Definitely the Palestinian-Israel conflict. 

 

[clip of Ellen Stachowicz] I am torn, I don’t want to see a Trump presidency, but I don’t want to see this continue to happen in Palestine. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: That was Jocelyn Rodriguez, Jacob Boxley, Hadi Yassine, and Ellen Stachowicz.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So yesterday’s show, we featured an interview our co-host by Juanita did with the Listen to Michigan campaign that’s organizing folks to vote uncommitted in today’s election. They say it’s a sign of protest against President Biden’s policy position on this issue. So especially given what we just heard, we will definitely watch out for that uncommitted percentage after this election. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And other issues that voters noted as high on their list were gun control. Here’s voter Kelly Collins. 

 

[clip of Kelly Collins] Uh. Number one would be gun control. I’m not a single issue voter, but I’m pretty close to being one. That one’s really important to me. Just for public safety. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: As well as Biden and Trump’s age. This is Ellen Stachowicz again. 

 

[clip of Ellen Stachowicz] I do know that people have their concerns over if they are mentally fit enough for the position, and I have those concerns as well. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And then there are a number of folks we talked to who aren’t paying a ton of attention, at least not yet. 

 

[clip of Briana Rice] How are you judging candidates? Like, do you hear about them in your life? 

 

[clip of Angel Purifoy] No. Not really. I really do not follow politics. [laugh]

 

[clip of Briana Rice] And do you plan to vote? 

 

[clip of Angel Purifoy] No. 

 

[clip of Briana Rice] Not in the primary or the general? 

 

[clip of Angel Purifoy] No. 

 

[clip of Luka Savageau-Lamb] I have to vote for somebody. But I don’t know who to vote for. Um. But I’m leaning more towards Donald Trump. 

 

[clip of Hadi Yassine] I go a lot with what my mom has, like, kind of talked to me about, um her and I tend to be on pretty much the same page of just like we we’re not super excited about the upcoming election, but overall, we’re leaning more Democratic. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: That was Angel Purifoy. Hadi Yassine again and Luka Savageau-Lamb.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s a reminder. A lot of people try to live their life away from politics. And when you talk about this stuff all the time, it can feel like it must be the center of everybody’s life. But it is certainly not. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It certainly is not. Other people brought up the student debt crisis and the cost of education. So that’s, you know, still a major issue for folks. And of course, this all is just a taste of what Michigan voters are thinking about this election. We will continue to bring your voices out there into our coverage throughout this election season. So if you have any reflections you’d like to share, hit us up on discord. If you’re a friend of the pod, and if you’re not yet, head to Crooked.com/friends. That’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s get to some headlines. 

 

[sung] Headlines. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Here’s the latest news coming out of Gaza and Israel. First, President Biden told reporters yesterday that a cease fire could be coming soon. 

 

[clip of President Joe Biden] My national security adviser tells me that we’re close. We’re close. Not done yet. My hope is by next Monday, we’ll have a cease fire. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: That deal would follow negotiations currently being held in Qatar. Israel does still maintain a public posture that it will not end the war until Hamas is, quote, “wiped off the face of the Earth.” As Economy and Industry Minister Nir Barkat put it. And senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters yesterday that any ceasefire agreement would require, quote, “securing an end to the aggression, the withdrawal of the occupation, the returning of the displaced, the entry of aid, shelter, equipment and rebuilding.” Also, the United States has been pressuring Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to make personnel changes in the Palestinian Authority, which governs the occupied West Bank. As all parties look toward the postwar future of the occupied Palestinian territories. Against that political backdrop, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced the resignation of his government yesterday. He framed the move as one that would allow for the creation of a new consensus government quote, “based on Palestinian unity and the extension of unity of authority over the Land of Palestine.” And lastly, authorities confirmed the identity of the person who set himself on fire in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., this Sunday. In what he described in a live stream video as a, quote, “extreme act of protest of U.S. support for Israel’s actions in Gaza.” Aaron Bushnell was an active duty member of the U.S. Air Force. He shouted free Palestine as he burned and later died of his injuries. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: The Federal Trade Commission has sued to block the merger of grocery store giants Kroger and Albertsons, citing antitrust concerns. At $25 billion dollars, this would be the biggest supermarket deal in history, but its future is now uncertain after the FTC pointed out that a merger of the country’s first and second largest supermarket operators might not be good for consumers. That’s especially significant when you consider that Americans are now spending more of their income on food than they have in three decades, according to the Wall Street Journal. Around 700,000 people are employed by the companies represented in the merger, and the FTC’s lawsuit argued that many of them stand to lose as well. Since the rise of a new grocery mega corporation could imperil their ability to fight for higher wages and better working conditions. Seems like the only people who’d benefit from this deal are people who are nostalgic for that period last year, when high prices turned eggs into a status symbol. I know you all remember that. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: That was a dark time. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Tragic, tragic time. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And of course, Kroger, Albertsons shareholders and executives who I’m sure are in it for the money because why not? For their part, an Albertsons spokesperson said the deal would actually increase competition by helping the combined companies go up against Amazon, Costco and Walmart. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: After seven years of grand old partying, Ronna McDaniel is stepping down as chairwoman of the Republican National Committee on Super Tuesday. She announced her decision in a statement yesterday, and this comes weeks after she told soon to be Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump she’d depart after the South Carolina primary, according to CNN. Trump has said that the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, Michael Whatley, is his pick to replace McDaniel and that he wants his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to be co-chair. The former president used to support McDaniel back in 2017. He chose her for this position, but he has turned on her more recently, partly because of financial troubles the party has run into under her leadership, and partly, according to the New York Times, because she refused to cancel this year’s primary debates and the Republican primary itself. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And speaking of Trump, which is no one’s favorite thing to do, he could be the target of a new gag order when his first criminal trial kicks off next month. Just to help you keep all of Trump’s trials straight, this one brought by Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg, pertains to the hush money Trump paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Manhattan prosecutors requested the gag order yesterday, and it would prevent the former president from disparaging witnesses, jurors and others involved with the case. Prosecutors also asked the judge to prevent the release of jurors names and addresses. As the attorneys pointed out in their requests, there’s a good reason for taking these precautionary steps. Specifically, Trump’s history of, quote, “violent rhetoric and public attacks” on people involved in legal proceedings against him. We’ve witnessed it all. We know it’s bad. This is probably for the best here. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: No. He has great self-control. [laughter] He’ll be fine. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, even with the gag order, we’ve seen him have gag orders before. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: He don’t care. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And violate them. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: This man lost a defamation lawsuit, went out and defamed more. Nevertheless he persisted is the truly the story here.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] And those are the headlines. 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Josie Duffy Rice: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Flaunt your eggs and tell your friends to listen. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading and not just Trump gag orders like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/Subscribe! I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 

 

[spoken together] And start studying Dune. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: By the time you finish watching it, it’ll be Friday because it’s so long, so–

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I heard it’s very good, but I can’t do long. My movie’s got to be an hour and 20 minutes. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Oh, not even 90 minutes anymore? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Mm mmm. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: You’ve cut it down?

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I’ve cut it down. Because you know what? All of those 90 minute movies, they could take ten minutes off. They could do it. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Cut it out. Cut it out, Josie.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I believe it. [music break]

 

Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz.. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers with production support from Jon Millstein. Our showrunner is Leo Duran and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. 

 

[AD BREAK]