“I think this is probably what a lot of people who go to law school want to do. And I ended up doing it by accident.”
— Dave Willner, head of content policy at Facebook, and one of a select few being called “the Deciders” of speech on the Internet. Legal guru Jeffrey Rosen writes for the New Republic that the Deciders at companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook are “young people [who have] more power over who gets heard around the globe than any politician or bureaucrat — more power, in fact, than any president or judge.” Willner, who according to his LinkedIn profile has a B.A. in anthropology at Bowdoin College, leads the Facebook team that has had to grapple with issues ranging from photos of breastfeeding mothers to gay marriage to Holocaust denials. Rosen reminds us that Facebook last year made the same decision as Google-owned YouTube originally did about the video trailer for “Innocence of Muslims,” which was blamed for sparking deadly riots in the Arab world because of its ridiculing of the Prophet Muhammad: It kept the video up. As we wrote in the fall, YouTube restricted access in certain countries but did not delete the video in the rest of the world. We also wrote about the questions of whether Google, Twitter and Facebook have too little or too much power. Those are the questions Rosen writes are being answered now, especially in Europe, where the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not apply and where new laws under consideration would require the Internet companies to remove offensive content about individuals, groups or religions.
Photo of Dave Willner at Facebook in 2009 from Mercury News archives