For as long as social media has been used to discuss politics, it has become very, very obvious that, far from being platforms — that is, common carriers, who facilitate communication and don’t get involved unless actual laws are broken — the Google, Facebook, and Twitter and the properties owned by them have devolved into a cesspool of far-left ideology and a system to protect the advocates of that cesspool ideology from confrontation or contradiction. Completely legal discussions about firearms, etc., have been blocked because the content was ‘violent.’ On the other hand, domestic terrorist organizations like Antifa are left alone. Often, narratives that these companies don’t like are actively suppressed. Sometimes these actions reveal a great deal about the company. YouTube, for instance, censors criticism of communist China:
YouTube has deleted every comment I ever made about the Wumao (五毛), an internet propaganda division of the Chinese Communist Party. Who at Google decided to censor American comments on American videos hosted in America by an American platform that is already banned in China?
— Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) May 26, 2020
A few days ago, Twitter imposed a ‘fact check’ on a couple of President Trump’s tweets. They concerned the susceptibility of mailed ballots to fraud. Twitter used liberal fact-checkers to label the claims false despite widespread evidence that indicates that mailed-in ballots are just that. Never mind that no similar action was applied against another politician’s Twitter account. One can only be left with the conclusion that this was simply the #Resistance members Twitter is so prone to hire acting out.
Twitter has now shown that everything we have been saying about them (and their other compatriots) is correct. Big action to follow!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2020
Today, several outlets ran a story that President Trump was about to release an executive order to take Twitter, Facebook, and Google to task:
Trump has portrayed the expected order, the early details of which were first reported by The Washington Post late Wednesday, as an attempt to stamp out political bias on the part of the country’s largest social media platforms. His directive comes days after Twitter steered viewers of some of the president’s tweets to news articles that fact-checked his claims, a move Trump said was a form of censorship.
Trump’s order essentially would pave the way for U.S. agencies to revisit and potentially undo long-standing legal protections known as Section 230, which spares tech giants from being held liable for the content they allow online and their own moderation decisions, according to two people familiar with the document, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it has not been finalized. The Post also obtained an undated draft copy of the order, which sources cautioned could still change before the president signs it.
The directive specifically could pave the way for federal officials to seek a new rulemaking proceeding at the Federal Communications Commission to rethink the scope of the law, the people familiar with the document said. A change could have dramatic free-speech implications and wide-ranging consequences for a broad swath of companies reliant on doing business on the Internet.The order also would seek to channel complaints about political bias to the Federal Trade Commission, which would be encouraged to probe whether tech companies’ content-moderation policies are in keeping with their pledges of neutrality. It would further create a council along with state attorneys general to probe allegations of political bias, while tasking federal agencies with reviewing their spending on social media advertising, according to the people familiar with the White House’s thinking.
“In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to handpick the speech that Americans may access and convey online,” according to an undated draft version of the executive order obtained by The Post late Wednesday.
I’m sure the ‘muh private company’ bunch will be up in arms over this and we’ll hear more and more about ‘if you don’t like their rules start your own platform,’ both of which are patent nonsense.
What Google (in particular) and Facebook and Twitter have carved out for themselves is essentially a monopoly. It is a monopoly based on the fiction that they are simply a way for people to interact when, in reality, they are operating very much to control not only the content presented on their platforms but the political context to be drawn from factual information. Because of the market dominance of those companies and their ability to damage potential competitors (how, for instance, could an alternative platform survive if they were not allowed to use Google’s internet advertising network?) it simply is not feasible to compete with them in a meaningful way.
Since 2018, we’ve seen all these companies branch out from meddling in political spats and suspending people who tell newly unemployed journos to “Learn to Code,” to direct interference in the political process. This is from my post The Story Of 8chan Shows Why There Is No Alternative To the Leftwing Social Media Giants:
A prime example of this is the decision by Twitter to suspend the Twitter account of Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign for encouraging violence when it tweeted a video of leftwing wackos, at least one of which appeared to be very chummy with Elizabeth “Ol’ 1/1024” Warren, at McConnell’s home shouting obscenities and threats of physical harm. This behavior is not new. During the 2018 campaign, Facebook pulled ads by Elizabeth Heng because she made reference to the fact that her parents had escaped from the Khmer Rouge genocide.
Had a radio or television station done this, they would have been in violation of federal election law.
In the case of President Trump’s tweet, he stated his opinion that mail-in ballots were more susceptible to fraud than in-person voting. You can disagree with it (and reveal yourself to be an ignorant ass) if you wish; what you can’t do is fact-check someone’s opinion. And all sane people know why they did this. They did it try to damage Trump politically.
How does this play out?
This order does not take place in a vacuum. Many Republican senators, particularly Missouri’s Josh Hawley, have been chomping at the bit for the chance to go after the social media monopolies because of their obvious hostility to free speech and their willingness to blatantly lie during Congressional testimony. Ordering the FCC to engage in rulemaking to define what Section 230 actually means sounds like a good step. The argument that this limits free speech is simply bizarre. And some of the numbskullery that it created is mindboggling:
In a truly Orwellian new executive order, @realdonaldtrump defines gov’t regulation of Americans’ speech as “free speech” and private questioning of government authority as “censorship” https://t.co/eUN8nYqjBl
— Elizabeth Nolan Brown (@ENBrown) May 28, 2020
The best you can say about Nolan’s point is that she’s an idiot. Companies operating under Section 230 do so in an environment where they have legal protection should someone use them to violate copyright or send kiddie porn or the latest article from The Bulwark. Requiring me, or any other conservative, to be able to say what we wish on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube does not impinge on their rights, it simply keeps them from using a monopoly position to control what Americans are allowed to read and say. The real threat to free speech is by our own oligarchs who can simply stop discussions and opinions they dislike from being shared, the threat is not from a federal agency acting according to law.
Ed Buck’s playmate has a stupid take…it must be Thursday:
The executive order by @realDonaldTrump cannot change the law or the Constitution. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is what allows Trump to post his deranged thoughts on social media. The First Amendment is what allows companies to say whatever they want in response. https://t.co/Y8hvA1PX3Q
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) May 28, 2020
Section 230 has zero to do with the Constitution and under the Administrative Procedures Act, the federal government is 100% free to define exactly how this part of the law will be interpreted. The First Amendment is also what allows people, including the President, to say whatever they wish without their words being forced to carry a disclaimer imposed by some goober in skinny jeans. By the way, isn’t Ed Buck’s buddy one of the guys who always lose their sh** whenever Citizens United is mentioned…the case that held that corporations do have free speech rights?
Whatever happens here, it is headed to court. And the current Supreme Court is much more likely to be attuned to the just how Twitter denying you access is very, very different from a billboard company refusing to sell you space or your local newspaper not running your letter to the editor. What is much more likely, given that anti-trust investigations of Google and Facebook are underway by the Department of Justice and multiple state attorneys general, is that we see some behavior shifts as the management of those companies are waking up to the fact that the SJWs they’ve hired to police content are making them unnecessarily vulnerable to some very unpleasant consequences.