It’s not often you’ll see me demanding government action, especially in matters of free speech. In this case, though, I am calling for the government finally to protect the free speech of those individuals who have committed no crime, but who have nevertheless been punished by the oligarchy of Big Tech. I am speaking of conservatives and even of those who defy simple political labels — nuts, honestly — who have been “unpersoned” by social media.
Put simply, social media is now the public square. This means that access to that public square is no longer a matter of private property or even of free speech; it is a matter of public accommodation. Current law in the United States makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on a variety of protected classes. These laws were passed despite the “free market” argument that if a private seller doesn’t want to take your money, he shouldn’t have to. In other words, someone dumb enough to refuse paying customers based on who they are will suffer financially, opening opportunities for competing businesses with no such hang-ups.
The problem is that where social media is concerned, competition is quite impossible. Every time a site attempts to compete with Facebook or Twitter, the major players in the social media game, the Big Tech oligarchs, deny those competing sites any means of actually monetizing their business. The established players in Big Tech collude with payment processors and political pressure groups to deplatform and demonetize any and all “free speech” competition.
Mind you, the people being deplatformed, the people having their bank accounts and their payment processors and their Facebook accounts and their Twitter accounts taken away, have not committed crimes. They have broken no laws. They are guilty only of having opinions with which Big Tech disagrees. Meanwhile, the major social media sites and payment processors further collude to coordinate their deplatforming and demonetization schemes, to the extent that often a person loses every single digital link to their livelihood on the same day.
Because all major social media platforms are dominated by far-left progressives, the effect is the digital marginalization of anyone who is not a liberal or a Democrat. Yes, some of the people being unfairly excluded from public accommodation include nutters like Alex Jones. Yes, it’s possible a few of the people excluded even have loathsome, radical views. But unless and until they commit actual crimes, the First Amendment is supposed to protect these people from such attacks on their ability to exist within society and the public sphere.
The libertarian in me understands that a social media site is private property. You don’t have to use Facebook or Twitter; you don’t have to use any specific bank or payment option; you don’t have to have an Instagram account, and so on. But if you are denied these things — particularly if you run a business or you are running a political campaign — to be denied public accommodation based only on the content of your opinions is to make it almost impossible for you to participate in public life. It certainly hamstrings your ability to earn a living.
None of this would matter if these social media publishers — who meddle in elections by closing Republicans’ accounts and who have begun purging from their memberships any and all Republicans by imposing draconian “community standards” that remove legal content (and remove it retroactively) — were held to the standards of publishers. No one forces The Daily Wire or The Huffington Post to publish political opinions at odds with their editorial biases. But social media “platforms” masquerade as areas of public accommodation — as platforms that enjoy legal indemnity for liability arising from third-party content.
If Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites are going to censor news stories harmful to Democrats — as we’ve watched them do so very brazenly — they are not platforms, but publishers. If these sites are going to drive from their memberships anyone who is not left of center, they are not platforms, but publishers. If social media’s management is going to continue advocating for and amplifying left-wing news sites, causes, and businesses to the detriment of right-wing interests, then they are not platforms, but publishers.
Publishers are held to a different standard than platforms. They have complete editorial freedom — but none of the protections of those digital platforms open to the public. It’s time that Facebook, Twitter, and every other biased social media platform be stripped of its legal protections. This goes double for those colluding peripheral interests that have conspired to crush all competition in the social media market — not to mention harming the lives and livelihoods of those individuals and groups whose only “crime” is holding dissenting opinions.
Hold these oligarchs accountable through the law. Make them enforce their terms of service fairly and impartially, or deny them the protections that make their business model possible. This is the only solution for the rampant political bias that is, even now, being used to hurt anyone who is not a progressive Democrat. It’s time for the bias to end — and for the American people, through their government, to insist on something that is, if not better, at least fair.