The Supreme Court is set to hear a case this term that could dramatically change the internet forever. Then, regulators in Ireland fined Facebook HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of dollars for violating the privacy rights of children. Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss more.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             The Supreme Court is set here a case this term that could dramatically change the internet forever. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins joins me now to talk about what’s happening. Case is long overdue, man. I mean, this is, there has to be you, you have a division, obviously. You’ve got conservatives that say, well, anything goes. And then you’ve got liberals that say, if we disagree with what you say, we’re not going to, we’re gonna censor it and we’re not gonna show it. Those are the kind of, the polarized avenues here. Supreme Court has to decide though, what happens when the social media understands that people are being harmed, murdered, raped, kidnapped by the things that they post. And they clearly know with that, take the algorithms out, they clearly know that what they’re posting is causing all that. What’s your take?

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah. This particular case is absolutely horrendous. You have a young woman that was murdered by terrorists, and in the social media feed of the individual that did the killing, there were always recommended videos put out there by Isis. So it seems pretty clear you’ve got people being radicalized because there’s no regulation over what is allowed and what is not. And you actually have both Democrats and Republicans, like you said, they do have two totally different positions.

Mike Papantonio:             Mm-hmm.

Farron Cousins:                  But they’re both in agreement that we gotta do something about Section 230, which is Section 230 in case anybody doesn’t know, say you are not liable as a platform for what goes out on your platform.

Mike Papantonio:             Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Farron Cousins:                  And when you look at the details of this case, obviously it’s hard to say that, no, we should let people post whatever. But repealing Section 230, in my opinion, also could lead to just broad censorship across the board. And that, that’s what scares me a little bit about this.

Mike Papantonio:             Here, I’m, I’m looking at it as a lawyer would see it. Okay. First of all, the numbers of cases that we’re finding with human trafficking that are completely related to the conduct of, of the internet, social media, the numbers of cases where we’re seeing people bullied to the point that they’re committing suicide, completely related to the conduct of social media. Now, here’s the point. If you’re gonna make a profit, that’s okay. Make all the profits you want, but don’t come to court when I have them in court and I’m saying, you posted this, you, it was foreseeable that what you posted was gonna cause this child to go out and commit suicide. That you knew that. Anybody with a brain should know that. So don’t come to court and say, hey, we have a sophisticated, sophisticated algorithm system. Don’t tell me that. Put human beings involved in that process. And if it’s too expensive, then by, you’re gonna have to make less profit.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             Right?

Farron Cousins:                  And the thing that worries me about removing Section 230 altogether is that if that happens, you will have social media companies that overreact, and that’s where the exiguous censorship would come into play. They would look at anything, you know, even political content saying, well, you’re a little extreme here. We have to ban you from our platform. Oh, this, we can’t really go after. We’re gonna ban you from our platform. And so that’s the slope that we have to avoid, but we have to do something about, about the problem too.

Mike Papantonio:             Right. Well, it’s, it’s a tangible problem. I mean, you know, as you know, you know what, what I do and what this law firm does, we are in the middle of these cases all the time, and we always have some cat saying, well, we got an algorithm system. It seems to work for. You know, that’s ridiculous. They’re in the, this is, these are companies that make a profit. Okay. Big, big profit.

Farron Cousins:                  Billions.

Mike Papantonio:             Billions in profit. So if you say to them, I’m sorry, you’re gonna have to change what you’re doing, and you know what, It might cost you some money. You might make less profit. But if human life is at risk, I mean, what 130 people were attacked.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             In, in this story that we led with.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             130 people attacked by, by Muslim jihadists, you know, that just said that, and they, and the social media promoted what these folks were talking to each other about.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             They made a special little section.

Farron Cousins:                  That’s, that’s how the algorithm actually works.

Mike Papantonio:             Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. I gotta tell you, 230 is a, it’s, it’s a kind of a nightmare and there’s gotta be an in between.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             There’s gotta be an in between position, because right now, to give them a free ride just because they’re social media and they don’t wanna spend the money bringing in human beings to make decisions like this, rather than computers, I don’t buy that and it’s not gonna work in court.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             I, I, I can’t wait for that closing argument where they said, well, we got algorithms, we got this down to a science. No, you don’t have it down to a science.

Mike Papantonio:             Regulators in Ireland fined Facebook hundreds of millions of dollars for violating the privacy rights of children. By God, it’s about time, right?

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah. Seriously.

Mike Papantonio:             And not only this, this is whole, just so you know, this is all developing into a whole new area of litigation. A matter of fact, we’re handling it. Talk, talk about this case a little bit though.

Farron Cousins:                  Well, what, what I love about this story is the fact that obviously here in the US, we should be doing the same thing, but we’re not. So it takes the regulators over in Ireland to actually take action. And what Facebook or Meta, as they’re called, has been doing is when you’re 13 to 17, you sign up for social media, Instagram, most popular, they hide your data because you’re underage. Well, the regulators in Ireland determined you aren’t doing that. You’re allowing the data of these minors to be accessed by predators, by people with bad intentions, by, by just regular old people out there.

Mike Papantonio:             There are dozens and dozens of cases that are emerging, where they go to the data. They, just a whole, the catfish system, you name it. It’s a whole, it’s a whole industry. And then these children end up in traffick, being trafficked. And so we’re seeing those cases because we’re handling the trafficking problems best we can in the US, we’re handling some of the biggest cases in America on trafficking. But this is now emerging as part of that problem. And, and it’s not, it’s not that the, it’s not that the social media folks don’t know about it. They’ve known about it a long time. It is that and it’s, it’s, it’s clear that it’s gonna take a multi multibillion dollar hit before they get it. And my goal is to do exactly that. We have cases coming in right now where exactly that data that, that Meta said they were hiding, but it was actually accessible to anybody was used to lure kids into being trafficked.

Farron Cousins:                  And, and again, we have this same information here in the United States. Our regulators, all law, our lawmakers are asleep at the wheel, letting this company do this because they understand, and this is why they let it happen.

Mike Papantonio:             Mm-hmm.

Farron Cousins:                  Oh, if we limit the 13 to 17 year olds, they’re not gonna have the content they want. They’re gonna leave the app.

Mike Papantonio:             That’s right.

Farron Cousins:                  So we have to keep them because it’ll cost us money if we don’t.

Mike Papantonio:             Even though we’re putting ’em at risk.

Farron Cousins:                  Right. And we think as a company we’ll make more money keeping them here and exposing their data then we’ll ever have to pay in fines.

Mike Papantonio:             What I do when I start a project like this, whether it’s tobacco or opioids or whatever, we, you know, we usually organize those projects. The lawyers that are coming into this see the same thing I see and it, the problem is remarkably vast and the industry, I think when we start discovery, we’re gonna find documents that show that they knew or suspected that this was going on. And then on the other side, they did an evaluation, a monetary evaluation and said that it’s worth the risk. It’s a cost of doing business. We might get hit on one or two lawsuits where kids are trafficked, but we’re making so much money doing it the way we’re doing it, that it’s a business decision. We’re gonna do it anyway. We see it with, we see it with industry all the time. In some rate, so for some reason we’ve gotten in this idea in the US that social media’s different. There’s something warm and fuzzy about social media. That they’re progressive and they’re more like us. They’re nothing like the average American, nothing. This is a good story that explains. I’m glad the Irish had enough courage to do this.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.