We are taught from childhood that a defining hallmark of repressive regimes is that political officials wield power to silence ideas and people they dislike, and that, conversely, what makes the U.S. a “free” society is the guarantee that American leaders are barred from doing so. It is impossible to reconcile that claim with what happened in that House hearing room over the course of five hours on Thursday.
Glenn brilliantly sums up what’s been bothering me lately. For a long time, liberals have ducked-and-covered in the Free Speech debate, saying that online censorship was a private matter, and therefore did not run afoul of the First Amendment. But Congress has been applying more and more pressure to get Facebook (in particular) to censor their content in a way they find acceptable.
Once a platform becomes as ubiquitous as Facebook, Twitter, or Google (or Amazon), it should be regulated as a “common carrier,” and not censor at all. They have become de facto services of the public, like water or electricity, and should be treated as though they were. We don’t allow the water or electric companies to dictate who can be served, or what those resources are used for.
Libel and threats can still be prosecuted as the illegal acts they are. We lose nothing in preserving freedom of speech on these platforms. All the incitement and insurrection in the Capitol that was facilitated by social media is being prosecuted, and hard. That’s precisely how the system should work: Say whatever you like, but be prepared to suffer the legal ramifications if you cross over into illegal speech.
We are letting these companies redefine what it means to live in America. Congress is encouraging them to redefine it. At this point, I guess there are two kinds of people. Those that think that the First Amendment is, perhaps, the purest written form of freedom ever written down, and feel we should do ever more to preserve it, and those that think this was a Bad Idea, and feel it’s time to repeal the notion of it.
Orwell’s depiction of Oceania has already become reality in China. Even further, they have already implemented a social scoring system like the one depicted in the Black Mirror episode, Nosedive. What’s so utterly disappointing is to see all of this taking shape in the United States, the very last place it should, by the ideals of our founding. There’s a reason why the US has fallen to 27th place on the list of free countries.