Digital Free Speech for All, (As Long as You Agree With Us)

Minor Fines Ensure Repeat Offenses

“Pay them. In the scheme of things, it’s a speeding ticket.” In the 2010 movie The Social Network, that line is said by Rashida Jones’ character to Jess Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg. In the scene, Jones’ character is recommending that “Zuckerberg” pay to settle the lawsuit over the creation of Facebook. I don’t know what is true or what isn’t true in the movie.

I haven’t read the Facebook lawsuits or the depositions. To quote an earlier line by Jones in the same scene “…whenever there is emotional testimony, I assume 85% of it is exaggeration. (And the other 15%?) Perjury.” Be that as it may, “paying the speeding ticket” seems to be the business ethics and mantra of Facebook. Triggered by the election of President Trump in 2016, the Left has argued that Russian meddling using Google and Facebook ads had won the election for President Trump.

In Washington State, Hillary Clinton carried all 12 electoral votes by winning 54.3% of the state votes and 72.32% of King County, which contains Seattle. In Seattle itself, President Trump carried an overwhelming 8% of the vote. Clearly Facebook and Google ads were the cause of President Trump’s “victory” in Washington state and Seattle. Seattle’s activist Left smear machine (masquerading as a newspaper called The Stranger) took up this narrative.

Citing Washington State Law RCW.42.17A.345, it claimed “that both Facebook and Google were failing to provide the public with details they’re required to disclose…” Those details concerned the precise funding/reach of local political messaging. Bob Ferguson, Attorney General for Washington State, has sued the Trump Administration over 50 times as of October 2019. According to the Los Angeles Times, Ferguson “remains one of the nation’s most activist Democratic state attorneys general.”

The Stranger claims that as a result of their article regarding the social media ads, “Ferguson filed lawsuits against both companies in June, alleging that Facebook and Google had ignored state disclosure requirements while selling millions of dollars in political ads aimed at Washington voters.” In December 2018 a settlement was reached. Facebook and Google paid the state $238,500, and $217,000 respectively, and claimed that they were no longer selling ads in Washington State. Not a bad deal, even with the fines.

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My Own Experiences as a Candidate

In January of 2019, I noticed that Facebook was still selling political ads, so I bought them for my campaign for Seattle City Council. My rationale was that the onus was on Facebook to follow the law, and as long as Facebook was selling ads, I would be buying them. Other candidates noticed as well and did the same thing. Facebook ads are a double-edged sword, however.

When I began running the ads, I gained a lot of supporters for the campaign. I also attracted many critics. I tried to have conversations with everyone, and find common ground. Some threads led to very productive conversations, others became personal attacks.

Some of the people that became aware of me have not stopped attacking me. Even though the campaign has ended, the harassment continues. It truly was a lesson on Freedom of Speech. With the welcome comes the unwelcome.

Soon after my ads began running, I was contacted by Eli Sanders, a writer at The Stranger. Mr. Sanders seems to have made it his mission to enforce the ban on Facebook’s political ads. Only for candidates that don’t align with the Stranger’s extremist Left political ideology, of course. Sanders and The Stranger even went so far as to file a complaint with election agencies in Washington over the ads.

In his articles, Sanders specifically targeted my campaign ads but ignored ads being run by my opponents. Opponents that The Stranger endorsed in their election issue and Political Action Committees (PACS). I have also not seen any mention in their articles about the Google ads run by candidates that they have endorsed. One result of this series of negative articles, is that it linked search results of my name and others to the smear articles written by The Stranger and the PACS.

In response to the Sanders complaint and the pieces in The Stranger, Facebook put a block on my campaign ad account. I was no longer able to run ads. Meanwhile, my opponents were able to continue doing so. Thousands of dollars were spent by PACS and campaigns on Facebook ads during the 2019 Seattle campaigns.

The 2019 race has broken records on PAC spending in Seattle races, and Facebook ads by those PACs continuously appeared on news feeds during the election.  Facebook appears to be content to continue making money selling ads, and when they get called out — shutting down a specific ad or two. In the scheme of things, it’s effectively a speeding ticket to them.

I believe that running the Facebook ads for my campaign was a net positive, and that the Washington ban on Facebook ads is really a Freedom of Speech issue. The Facebook ad ban itself has been weaponized by the politicians, by the PACS, by the newspapers, and anyone with a special interest to target ads they don’t agree with. When I was a teen in the early days of the internet, we were cautioned, “don’t believe everything you read online.” Apparently now, not only are we to believe everything we read online. We are to be shielded from it, because we are not smart enough to read the disclaimers at the top and bottom of posts identifying them as ads.  

Author Profile

Ari Hoffman
Ari Hoffman
Ari Hoffman is a writer for NRN. He's the president of Lion Logistics, a commercial/residential construction and property management company. Hoffman is also the proud owner of the Event Rental Company Amusements On Demand specializing in inflatables such as bounce houses, slides, and mechanical rides. He's been featured on Fox News, Fox and Friends, CNN, Glen Beck, Dr. Drew, Kiro 7, Q13, King5, NRA TV, Komo News, Seattle is Dying, 770 KTTH, and 570 KVI.