Intermediating between the powerful and the people was once mainly the job of publishers and journalists—hence the term “media.”
This role was understood to be so critical to democracy that the Constitution enshrined it in the First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of the press.
With that freedom came public responsibility, to be a bulwark against powerful lies. The media haven’t always lived up to it. We had yellow journalism in the 19th century and today endure shock radio, the National Enquirer and Fox News.
But most publishers and journalists have recognized that duty. Think of the Pentagon Papers, Watergate and, just weeks ago, the exposure of Trump’s withholding $400 million in security aid to Ukraine until it investigated his major political rival, Joe Biden.
Zuckerberg and Dorsey insist they aren’t publishers or journalists. They say Facebook and Twitter are just “platforms” that convey everything and anything—facts, lies, conspiracies, vendettas—with none of the public responsibilities that come with being part of the press.