AOC vs Zuck

In an ideal democracy, the four pillars of democracy, i.e. legislative, executive, justice system and informed electorate, are supposed to function in their own domain and not encroach. The recent hearing, where Mark Zuckerberg appeared before a committee to seek approval for his crypto-currency project, libra, has been the talk of the town. Not because the CEO got what he wanted, but because of the way he was questioned by the congresswoman Alexandria Oscar-Cortez. Most democrats I know has been cheering AOC from the fences.

I have been a big fan of AOC. She is smart and articulate. But in hindsight, isn't politics all about the right optics? While AOC has been in the forefront on various human rights issues, one of the major reasons she is in congress is the wind created by Bernie Sanders. Bernie is a politician with a lot of political capital. For the past forty years, he has consistently been on the right side of history. Let me acknowledge first that AOC was smart enough to seize that opportunity while not to take anything away from her accomplishments. She might one day become the president, but today is not about that. Today, not be known to her, it is about the attack she made on American democracy. The first amendment explicitly state, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.". Before holding Zuckerberg personally responsible for lack of oversight, AOC first needs to define social media. In the light of first amendment, what social media provides are two things, i.e. "the right to freedom of speech" and "the right of the people peaceably to assemble." As long as no laws are being broken, social media platforms, including Facebook, should be alright. This very thing lands congress in a very tricky situation i.e. Can social media really be regulated without circumventing first amendment?

The way AOC handled the conversation i.e. the constantly moving goal post for Zuckerberg, she tried to shift legislative responsibility of the congress to regulate social media while protecting what was guaranteed in the first amendment, to private businessmen.

What AOC need to realise is, Facebook is one of the biggest corporations in United States. She is asking Facebook to be the judge, jury and executioner in this particular context. If Facebook is to do that, i.e. regulate on how people choose to voice their opinions, what kind of precedent will it set? Will it pave the way to suppress dissent and the instrument being private business men?

I like AOC. She is smart and very articulate but she missed the trick here. She cannot hold Zuckerberg responsible for what is effectively her duty as a congresswoman. The congress should take up how they want to address this epidemic rather than outsourcing it private businessmen. The solution might come from defining social media first.

Yousuf Jawwad

Yousuf Jawwad