THOMAS L. KNAPP: Internet censorship is the real threat of the monopoly | Chroniclers
“Yes [Donald] Trump and [Bernie] Sanders takes the same position on Big Tech censorship, “writes David Catron in The American Spectator,” the issue deserves serious attention. “
He’s right, but roughly the opposite of what he intended. When the mainstream “right” and “left” agree on anything, it’s almost always a neon light sign warning us that our freedoms are under threat.
Catron (as well as Trump and Sanders) want the U.S. government to take control of social media platforms and dictate which users those platforms should accept and what kind of content those platforms should allow posting. They don’t say it so bluntly, of course, but who would? Their cause is implicit in their criticism of “Big Tech” as a “monopoly,” which requires government regulation to promote competition in the “ideas market.”
Social media platforms are not monopolies. If you don’t like Facebook or Twitter, you can go to Minds, MeWe, Diaspora, Mastodon, Gab, Discord, et al.
The US government, however, is a monopoly. Everyone is obligated to “do business” with it, and in many areas it prohibits or forcibly limits competition with its own offers.
Arguments for government regulation of social media platforms are not arguments against monopolies. These are arguments in favor of extending the reach of the government monopoly to new markets.
In this case, the markets are constitutionally protected by the First Amendment and the codification of that amendment in the Internet Vis-à-vis law, section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
Decisions to ban and moderate content from social media platforms are not “censorship”.
Censorship is “you can’t say that”.
“You can’t use our platform” to say it’s not censorship.
If you tell me I can’t sing my favorite Irish ballad and if I do you’ll get me arrested (assuming you have the power), that’s censorship.
If you tell me I can’t sing “Foggy Dew” on your porch at midnight, that’s not censorship. I’m free to sing it on my own porch, or on the sidewalk, or at a karaoke party at the local bar.
By way of argument, some of my friends point out that politicians intimidate major internet platforms into “proxy censorship.” The popular example is Representative Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Who successfully relied on Amazon Prime Video to suppress “anti-vaccine” documentaries.
My friends are right. It is a problem. Politicians who try to coerce platforms into hosting speeches they don’t want to host are the flip side of the same problem, not a different problem.
Whatever solution to this problem may be, the repeal of the First Amendment or the “reform” of Section 230 is not part of it.
Ideally, bad actors like Schiff, Trump, and Sanders would be dismissed and removed from office, or charged with conspiracy against rights (18 US Code § 241), or both.
Unless that happens, we should be working to ensure that these wrongdoers lose in Congress, in the courts and at the ballot box. We must not sacrifice Internet freedom, or freedom of speech and of the press in general, to politicians and their schemes.