September13Report - page 4

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September 2013 CBA REPORT
president’s brief
I
terms of service, has become an arbiter
of free speech. Google “Facebook free
speech” and you’ll get about 582 mil-
lion hits, including reports regarding the
company’s recent apology for the way it
handled “hate speech” against women.
Whether you agree or disagree with its
decision to remove the offensive content
— which looks and feels like censorship,
but legally isn’t because free speech rules
do not apply to private entities — do we
really want Facebook deciding what does
or does not qualify as hate speech?
Third
, and perhaps most person-
ally distressing, is the breakdown of
civil discourse that Facebook seemingly
engenders.
After the Supreme Court struck down
the section of the Defense of Marriage
Act that defined marriage as a union
between a man and a woman, one of my
real-life friends — who is unapologeti-
cally conservative and actively practices
his Catholic faith, but as a photographer
walks on the creative side — politely
expressed his dismay over the Court’s
ruling. In response, his “liberal friends,”
who love to “jump #%$& all over any
post [he] makes about politics or reli-
gion,” attacked with a vehemence that
took my breath away. My friend, who
declined to join in the fray, ended the
ugliness by simply saying that he would
refrain from posting his thoughts in the
I
must confess, I’m a bit of a Facebook
stalker. Not in a creepy, obsessive
way, but rather in the sense that I
tend to observe instead of full-on actively
participate, although I am known to add
a comment or post a photo periodically. I
can take or leave Twitter, Instagram and
Pinterest, but of Facebook — I am a fan.
It all started back in 2009 when, after
spending an evening hanging out with
my nieces and nephews, I thought that it
would be a very good idea to keep an eye
on my favorite
Gen-Y/Millenni-
als, of whom I am
more than a bit
protective. While
they were not in-
clined to “friend”
their parents,
Aunt Jeanne was a different story. Four
years and a hundred thousand or more
posts on my News Feed later (not a few
of which fall into the category of narcis-
sistic, mind-numbing minutiae), I have a
few observations.
First
, Mark Zuckerberg’s IPO let-
ter asserts — that, “Facebook was not
originally created to be a company,”
but, “built to accomplish a social mis-
sion — to make the world more open
and connected,” and that “we don’t
build services to make money; we make
money to build better services.” While
that strikes me as a bit self-serving for a
29-year-old billionaire, there can be no
argument that Facebook is fulfilling its
social mission.
Second
, Facebook, whose “hate
and harassment” team polices its site
for content that is illegal or violates its
By Jean Geoppinger McCoy
future. When George Zimmerman was
acquitted, another friend, who is running
for public office and would probably be
good for his community if he could just
temper his rhetoric, posted that he “just
unfriended 2 people… who were talking
about justice being served in the Zim-
merman trial” because he “just [could]n’t
stomach anyone who thinks it’s okay to
play vigilante.”
As writer Adair Sanders observes,
“This is America where, one hopes, we
can still express an
opinion about almost
anything and anyone.
And because this is
America, a land whose
citizens are a varied,
diverse, and vocal group,
it is to be expected that
not all of us will agree with everyone else.
That’s part of what the First Amendment
is all about — the freedom of expression
without fear of reprisal…When we are
derided, attacked and belittled for stating
our opinions, the eventual result is self-
censorship, a form of reprisal associated
with the exercise of what is supposed to be
our right to free speech. Don’t kid yourself
about what is happening on Facebook
and other social media. A society’s moral
compass is created and shaped by the ac-
tions of its individual members. A society
that refuses to honor its citizens’ rights to
hold and express a different opinion is a
society headed in the wrong direction. It
may look pretty innocent right now, but
it’s a slippery slope.”
Amen!
Geoppinger McCoy is the 2013-2014 president of the
Cincinnati Bar Association.
Confessions of a
Facebook Stalker
Third, and perhaps most personally distressing,
is the breakdown of civil discourse that
Facebook seemingly engenders.
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