Free Speech – When You Pray For Rain, You Have To Deal With The Mud Too

The debate on free speech between tech companies, specifically Facebook and Twitter, and politicians such as Elizabeth Warren is heating up and getting hotter than ever. Facebook refused to take down political ads from the right wing that the left consider fake news. Politicians led by Elizabeth Warren vehemently criticized the decision by Facebook arguing that it is helping the President win an election again.

Coming from the background that I have, I appreciate the freedom of speech in America which is enshrined in the Constitution. There is nothing better to ensure that everybody is free to voice his or her own opinion. The right in and of itself is great and good. The problem; however, lies in how people execute the right and how it is perceived by others.

When a right-winged party runs a political ads with controversial information, the party is within its right to do so. Facebook, as it claims to preserve the right to expression on its platform, chooses to honor it. There is nothing inherently wrong with that.

The problem is that when you exercise your right to free speech and spread out false information on others, you rob others of the right to be perceived truthfully. In that sense, is it still acceptable? Also, it then falls onto Facebook to be the guardian of truth, the entity that decides whether a piece of information is right or false. And it’s not an easy task. Whatever Facebook does will please one part of the population and piss off the rest. Whatever is truth to one party of an ideology will be considered fake news by the opposing party.

I fear that there is no definitive answers to this debate. The Internet and Facebook enable friction-less communication of information and, as a consequence, false information around the globe. That’s the byproduct of it. I don’t see how Facebook can do one without harming the other aspect of their operation. And as explained above, I don’t see how it can please anybody in its endeavor to preserve the First Amendment, but also to police the content.

When we pray for rain, we have to deal with the mud too. That’s my mentality in a lot of issues. In this case, I think we pray hard for the rain, but we are not ready to deal with the mud

Senator Sanders vs Amazon

In addition to the President vs Tech Companies feud, there is another going on between Senator Sanders and Amazon. The Senator voiced his criticism of the company here while you can find Amazon’s response on this page. Here’s my thought on it.

I believe that Amazon brings value to the society. It gives consumers what we need: a variety of goods at reasonable prices in a short amount of time and especially a lot of convenience. The marketplace also helps small businesses as well. I believe that the company has earned its standing today in the society and should be credited for it.

Amazon is criticized for low pays and keeping temporary workers on “temp” status for a long time to avoid higher costs. According to this study, the median wage at Amazon’s fulfillment center is $12.32 an hour, 9% less than the industry’s comparable work. On the other hand, Amazon’s response claimed that “the average hourly wage for a full-time associate in our fulfillment centers, including cash, stock, and incentive bonuses, is over $15/hour before overtime”. I am not sure how much stock and incentive bonuses make up of that hourly wage of $15. Nonetheless, I don’t pay much attention to it. I don’t know which side is correct. Both may have a point, but it would be very difficult to have a definite answer.

What I think is missing in the conversation is that apparently, none of what Amazon has done is illegal. Sure, some people are upset about Amazon doing what it can to maximize revenue and profit. But, who wouldn’t? I certainly would myself if I were managing Amazon. Put yourself in the shoes of people running the company. If what you are doing is perfectly legal, would you change? Companies are in business to make money, not to please EVERYONE. They can tell beautiful stories about vision and mission, but at the end of the day, revenue and profits matter.

Instead of criticizing Amazon, I think politicians and the public should look at themselves first. When it announced the intention of having a second headquarter, states went an extra mile to get the love from the Seattle-based behemoth. One state proposed to give them a $7 billion tax cut. In May, Seattle unanimously passed a law that required companies in the city to pay an amount of tax for every employee to fund affordable housing and services for the homeless. A month later, the city government reversed the decision under pressure from corporation-led opposition. Last but not least, there was the tax cut last year aimed to help big corporations.

The point is that Amazon plays by the rules and they do it better than most. To change the situation, the government has to change the rules. If every state requires a minimum wage of $16-17/hour without any caveat, what else could Amazon do but comply? They may use more automation or innovate to find cost savings somewhere, but it’s another topic. They would have no choice but to pay workers more.

But it would drive the goods’ prices up?

Well, we are partly to blame for it. We as consumers want goods at low price fast and conveniently, but at what expense and who is paying for that expense? The workers may be the ones paying for it now. If we as consumers want to criticize the company or its peers, we first may have to look at our part. I personally want cheap goods. But if the minimum wage increases and so does the price for everything, then so be it. What choice would I have? On the flip side, my wage as an office employee would increase as well.