Dollar continues decline; Twitter and Facebook CEOs testify before US Senate today …

As of  8:22 am AST, 17 November 2020:

How to read the chart:

CAD/USD: If you come to the United States with one Canadian dollar (CAD)and wish to sell it for a US dollar (USD), the market price is .76351 USD.

USD/CAD: If you take a US dollar (USD) to Canada and wish to sell it for a Canadian dollar (CAD), the market price is 1.30956 CAD

CAD/USD=0.76351   USD/CAD=1.30956

CNH/USD= 0.15204   USD/CNH=6.57601

EUR/USD= 1.18446   USD/EUR=0.84417

DKK/USD =0.15903     USD/DKK=6.28648

NGN/USD= 0.00261    USD/NGN=379.042

JPY/USD=0.00956      USD/JPY=104.59

INR/USD=0.01343       USD/INR=74.3520

JMD/USD=0.00672     USD/JMD=145.669

GYD/USD=0.00469       USD/GYD= 204.735

GHS/USD=0.17092     USD/GHS= 5.81221

XCD/USD=0.37037        USD/XCD= 2.70

KES/USD = 0.00909       USD/KES= 108.384

Source: OANDA

Major political/legal event in the United States

President Trump nominates Joseph Barloon to the US Court of International Trade

Yesterday, President Donald Trump sent the name Joseph L. Barloon to the United States Senate as a nominee for a seat on the United States Court of International Trade.  Mr Barloon currently serves as general counsel to the United States Trade Representative and serves as the acting deputy USTR for China Affairs.

Source: Executive Office of the President

Facebook, Twitter CEOS to testify before Senate sub-committee

Today, Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief executive officer Jack Dorsey will testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary.  The leaders and founders of the two social media giants will be asked questions about censorship during the 2020 general election.

Source: United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Longer term yields tick up; Twitter’s Dorsey, Facebook’s Zuckerberg to testify before Senate.

As of 7:55 am 17 November 2020, U.S. Treasury rates and Federal Funds rates are as follows:

3-month: .08%

6-month: .08%

12-month: .11%

2-year: .18%

10-year: .88%

30-year: 1.64%

Fed Funds Rate: 0.08%

Federal Reserve Target: 0.25%

Prime Rate: 3.25%

Source: Bloomberg

Major political/legal event in the United States

President Trump nominates Joseph Barloon to the US Court of International Trade

Yesterday, President Donald Trump sent the name Joseph L. Barloon to the United States Senate as a nominee for a seat on the United States Court of International Trade.  Mr Barloon currently serves as general counsel to the United States Trade Representative and serves as the acting deputy USTR for China Affairs.

Source: Executive Office of the President

Facebook, Twitter CEOS to testify before Senate sub-committee

Today, Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief executive officer Jack Dorsey will testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary.  The leaders and founders of the two social media giants will be asked questions about censorship during the 2020 general election.

Source: United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Facebook, Google, and Twitter have never been tech companies …

Today, the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will convene a hearing to discuss whether firms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter can maintain immunity from civil penalties under Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 as amended by the Communications Decency Act of 1998. Specifically, under 47 USC 230(c), we read the following:

(c)Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material

(1)Treatment of publisher or speaker

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

(2) Civil liability

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—

(A)any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or

(B)any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1).

How the chief executive officers from Google, Facebook, and Twitter answer today’s questions as to whether and how their companies edit content posted on their platforms should provide fodder for any future litigation or regulation under the Communications Decency Act of 1998. There is still the likelihood, based on chatter in the press, that Section 230 itself could be repealed. The push back against repeal may come from smaller platforms such as Parler, an online platform that touts itself as a place where people can “Speak freely and express yourself openly, without fear of being “deplatformed” for your views. Engage with real people, not bots. Parler is people and privacy-focused, and gives you the tools you need to curate your Parler experience.”

If people can speak without inhibition (or likely facts) on a platform like Parler, smaller entrants into the information platform markets will want protection from posts that are seen as indecent and protection when they take actions to combat indecent speech.

Politically, the issue of whether online companies lose their liability protections under the Communications Decency Act of 1998 will become less of an issue after 20 January 2021 under a Joe Biden administration. The political Right have been raising the most hell regarding Section 230 given their concerns that conservative voices have been squelched by Twitter and Facebook. The political Left have been more concerned about online privacy issues, that these companies have abused the data they collect from their platform’s subscribers.

Compared to Donald Trump who has been leading the charge against what he sees as liberal bias by these platforms, Joe Biden himself has been relatively quiet on the issue, although he reportedly, along with the President, endorses repealing Section 230 in its entirety. The chairman of the senate commerce committee, Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, is against a total repeal.

On first blush, based on their behavior, these companies lost the protection afforded them under the Communications Decency Act of 1998. They have been able to hide behind the moniker of “tech company” for so long that they have been given a pass when they use algorithms rather than human editors to modify or divert content. Acting like a newspaper opens them up to libel laws and would require a digital attorney saying yay or nay on millions of posts made every day. This would near destroy their current business model and cause them to transform, I believe, to a hybrid paid, unpaid system for subscribers or compensate content providers.

A balanced Section 230 review means creating rules that protect capital and free speech …

News, Analysis, and Opinion

On 15 October 2020, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, released the following statement:

“Members of all three branches of the federal government have expressed serious concerns about
the prevailing interpretation of the immunity set forth in Section 230 of the Communications Act.
There is bipartisan support in Congress to reform the law. The U.S. Department of Commerce
has petitioned the Commission to ‘clarify ambiguities in section 230.’ And earlier this week,
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas pointed out that courts have relied upon ‘policy and
purpose arguments to grant sweeping protections to Internet platforms’ that appear to go far
beyond the actual text of the provision.

“As elected officials consider whether to change the law, the question remains: What does
Section 230 currently mean? Many advance an overly broad interpretation that in some cases
shields social media companies from consumer protection laws in a way that has no basis in the
text of Section 230. The Commission’s General Counsel has informed me that the FCC has the
legal authority to interpret Section 230. Consistent with this advice, I intend to move forward
with a rulemaking to clarify its meaning.

“Throughout my tenure at the Federal Communications Commission, I have favored regulatory
parity, transparency, and free expression. Social media companies have a First Amendment right
to free speech. But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to
other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters.”

Twitter has recently been called out for apparently prohibiting its subscribers from sharing or “retweeting” an article in The New York Post that alleges that Robert Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden, attempted to engage in transactions from which his family would benefit including arranging a meeting in 2014 between then Vice-President Biden and an executive with a Ukrainian energy firm. Twitter, after an accumulation of press attention to their policy limiting redistribution of the article, decided to reverse its blocking action regarding tweets based on “hacked information.”

Twitter, and other internet companies that publish content posted by its subscribers have enjoyed protection from civil liability pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 230(c)(1) and (c)(2). The provisions read as follows:

(c)Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material

(1)Treatment of publisher or speaker

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

(2)Civil liabilityNo provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—

(A)any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or

(B)any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1).

The intent of Section 230 was to incentivize the development of the internet by encouraging the development of free speech on this advanced communications medium. Young internet companies might have been discouraged to harbor public speech on their platforms if they were to be held liable for untoward speech.

If they were to enjoy the protection from civil liability offered in return for their maintaining the internet as a public forum, they in turn could not, to steal a phrase from Mark Zuckerberg, act as the arbiter of speech. Restricting access to information on their platforms would call for a demonstration that the action was taken to restrict dissemination of information falling in the boxes created in 47 U.S.C. 230(c)(2).

Our general thesis is that where government chooses a capitalist model for management of a political economy, it promotes income growth by encouraging capital flow which it expects to lead to increased tax revenues and returns on and to capital. Government helps facilitate the energy in the political economy that investors draw from. If a Section 230 review reduces Twitter’s ability to attract, manage, and provide returns on capital to investors, then either Twitter’s business model is failing, government policy is failing, or Twitter business judgment combined with government action has led to failure.

If the stock market is any indication, equity investors may be wary of any actions taken against Twitter’s social media model. When the stock market opened on 14 October 2020, Twitter’s share price was $47.49. As news of Twitter’s actions regarding The New York Post article surfaced and spread, the market price fell, closing at $45.97.

By 11:00 am 15 October, Twitter’s share price had fallen to $44.53, but had climbed to $46.04 by close of the cash trade. Chairman Pai’s balanced tone in announcing a FCC review may have helped calm fears about Twitter.

Twitter’s actions may have given cannon fodder to the Trump administration’s position that Twitter and other social media companies are biased against conservative speech. Last July, the Administration filed, via the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a petition seeking a rulemaking by the FCC clarifying how Section 230 is to be applied to social media companies like Twitter. The FCC will have to balance America’s “School House Rock” narrative on free speech, a narrative promoted on the premise that such freedoms encourage a more harmonious union among citizens, with the probability of extinguishing or severely a private company that follows an equally important although overlooked narrative that government promotes the generation of income, profit, and taxes by private actors who leverage private investor capital.

Only a balanced set of rules will bring proper reconciliation to the issue.

Social media: Democracy takes a back seat to the need to control political messaging …

Narrative is a public resource and it should be expected that political factions will try to exercise control over a narrative in order to validate their authority to administer other public resources and implement policies for society.  Arguably China is among the most stringent in controlling expression of thought while pursuing a path of collective prosperity for its citizens.

The American model for expression places an emphasis on the individual and places the onus to pursue prosperity on the individual with certain safety nets in place to take care of the individual should she fail to capitalize on the opportunities provided by a predominantly capitalist and democratic society.  But is the promotion of individual expression and pursuit of prosperity more façade than reality in American society?  I think the attack on social media is peeling the onion on that façade with a suspect business model providing the knife for a brutish peeling of this tear causing bulb.

President Donald Trump and conservatives have made no bones about their perceptions of treatment by social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.  They believe that Twitter and Facebook have used their algorithms to divert or silence conservative messages exchanged on their platforms.  Conservatives have been building the narrative that these platforms silence free speech and the narrative has fed the idea among the conservative rank and file that their free speech rights are being violated.

On this point the conservative rank and file should take a quick read of the United States Constitution and stay consistent in their support of the private sector.  Facebook and Twitter are not the government.  They are not state agencies.  The right to free speech is a restriction on government behavior and private sector agencies such as Facebook and Twitter are free to associate with and facilitate the inclusion on their platform of the type of subscriber of their choosing pursuant to the behavior they prescribe in their subscriber agreements.

Sections 230(c)(1) and (2) of the Communications Decency Act provide Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms additional protections by holding them harmless for any indecent or libelous content produced on their platforms by their subscribers.  This code was birthed by a policy to encourage commercial growth on and use of the internet as a communications medium.

As a medium for exchanging political messages, it should really be no surprise that political factions would target the applications that run on internet infrastructure and enable the exchange of information to a global public.  If political messaging is managed properly, the most potent narratives could be created that shift political power from one faction to the next.  Conservatives, who already perceive social media platform owners as liberals, are wary that stifling conservative messages as policy serves to weaken their ability to acquire, expand, and maintain political power.

What Americans should be mindful of is that the end game of a political faction in the United States is no different than the end game of a political faction in China, The Gambia, Ghana, or Italy.  The end game is to control the matrix of narratives that validate a political faction’s authority over public resources and speech is one of those resources.  Democracy introduces inefficiencies in the end game strategy, but these inefficiencies are the costs incurred from maintaining a social policy of freedom of expression.

What the politician must constantly be mindful of is maintaining the strategic position of controlling the narrative and ensuring that position via tactics that disclose a preference for squelching public opinion.  I have heard this concern expressed by administrators and regulators behind closed doors.  This is the reality of democracy and its relationship to free speech and media.  It’s a front and the best politician paints the best narrative to maintain this front.

Unfortunately for social media, it has unwittingly become the target for the front …

Will regulating social media benefit content providers in the African Diaspora?

Late last May, President Donald Trump stepped up his battle with social media by issuing an executive order intended to prevent the censure of political speech expressed on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.  Mr Trump allegedly saw the last straw when Twitter showed the nerve to fact check the President by attaching a number of links to some of Mr Trump’s tweets.  He didn’t like that.

Mr Trump is not alone in his frustration with social media.  Other Republicans and conservatives have complained in recent years about what they deem as bias against conservative political viewpoints and alleged liberal political positions taken up by executives at the social media companies.

To combat the alleged bias, Mr Trump issued an executive order that would call for the Federal Communications Commission to issue rules that clarify portions of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (47 USC 230).  The Act excludes Twitter, Facebook, and other interactive computer services from civil liability where they exercise good faith in removing and otherwise not accepting certain harmful content.  Taking censorship action beyond the scope of the “Good Samaritan” exceptions would paint them as publishers and cost them their protection from civil liability claims.

Specifically the Act reads as follows:

(c)Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material

(1)Treatment of publisher or speaker

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

(2)Civil liability. No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—

(A)
any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or

(B)

any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1).[1]

Mr Trump would like rules that clarify the interaction between section (c)(1), exemption from treatment as a publisher, and section (c)(2), exemption from liability of a publisher, of the Communications Decency Act.  My issue is whether Mr Trump’s proposed path of action in any way hinders the ability of the African Diaspora community to exchange ideas and content for commercial purposes?

Maya Dollarhide defines social media as a:

” …. computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through the building of virtual networks and communities. By design, social media is internet-based and gives users quick electronic communication of content. Content includes personal information, documents, videos, and photos. Users engage with social media via computer, tablet or smartphone via web-based software or web application, often utilizing it for messaging.”

A high percentage of adults within the African Diaspora use social media.  According to Pew Research, 69% of African American adults use at least one social media site compared to 73% of whites.  Whites and blacks appear on par when it comes to social media usage.

When it comes to commercial reasons for using social media, 29% of consumers use social media platforms to research or buy products and services.  Although the “social” or lately the “political” component of social media gets a lot of attention these days, there is a marketing component to social media where these networks allow for businesses to engage with their customers.  Social media provides a relatively lower cost alternative to traditional media marketing mechanisms.  A well done social media campaign can have information go “viral” about goods or services, and send this information instantaneously around the globe.

We have to be mindful that the drafting and implementation of rules to be used to keep social media companies in compliance with the Communications Decency Act may not come to pass depending on the outcome of this fall’s election.  Should Mr Trump lose in November, the Democratic victor will likely put in place a Democratic chairman and along with his or her Democratic colleagues squash the idea of going forward with any rules that give the impression that the Commission has entered the business as social media speech police.

Even if Mr Trump wins and a Republican majority remains in place at the Commission, I believe the Commission will craft very narrow rules in order to prevent any First Amendment violations.  More importantly, rules that keep social media companies from acting as editors benefit the global exchange of commercial information between members of the African Diaspora.

While I doubt that it is ever in the best interest of Facebook to edit or alter purely commercial communications, advertisements, etc. between an African American wholesaler in Atlanta, Georgia and potential retail distributors and/or end users in Accra,  Ghana, added protections that keep communications unimpeded cannot hurt.

The narrower the rules, the better it is for our self-interests.