Policing Politics: Facebook and a Politician's Right to Free Speech
Facebook, the world's largest social media company, boasted a worldwide reach with over 140 million companies using the Facebook app, 100 billion messages shared every day, and 70 international offices. With such reach and efficient ability to communicate to people instantly, the company had the potential to be used to sabotage the validity of information consumed daily and even threaten American democracy. This case is about the challenging business decisions that Facebook experienced in response to government and organizations' pressure for more regulations. Government pressure to regulate Facebook's political ads grew prevalent after it became public knowledge that foreign governments (particularly Russia's) manipulated social media to influence the 2016 elections. Russian political actors used a comprehensive set of tools to infiltrate public debates, hack confidential emails of campaign staff, and systematically manipulate Facebook and Twitter to spread misinformation to specific demographics of voters. While Russian operatives strategically targeted their false messages, Facebook and Twitter did not have sufficient mechanisms to prevent the impact of fake news. Students will explore the role of social media companies in regulating political speech and the potential for the spread of misinformation.