I have been meaning to get into this for a while because I keep hearing the same mantra that since these social media platforms are privately owned they can do as they like. Well speaking for myself, I don’t think that at all. People don’t sign up for Facebook or Twitter, or open a blog post on some commercial website, building up their own profile based on knowing the political ideology of the people who set the platform up. They are therefore in danger of having quite a bit of the value they have created stolen from them because of some political preference harboured by the people who run the platform. Once these forms of social communication are established and individuals are asked to join and build their own online presence on these platforms, the law must do as I say in the title, it must make it illegal to suspend or deny service to people because they say things the proprietors of such platforms disagree with but which are not in themselves illegal to say.
So let me choose a couple of recent examples of how things are working out. The Rebel is a Canadian online broadcasting website that entirely devotes its resources to defending conservative positions in the media. Quite large in Canada, and now with a presence in Australia, but hardly at the level of the government-funded CBC. But this was in the news just this week: The Rebel disrupted as it loses its domain provider. The story is from The National Post:
The ultra-conservative online Canadian media outlet The Rebel reportedly went dark in some parts of the world Monday after a technology company stopped directing traffic to its site.
Rebel proprietor Ezra Levant told Reuters he was given 24 hours notice of — but no explanation for — the move.
“If this was a political censorship decision, it is terrifying — like a phone company telling you it is cancelling your phone number on 24 hours notice because it doesn’t like your conversations,” Levant told Reuters. He did not identify the company.
It is terrifying, and if and when they come back online, you may be sure they will be more circumspect thereafter. The voices on our side are being thinned down while those on the other are amplified at every turn.
Then there’s Facebook. People go onto Facebook to keep up with family and friends, and some of those people think and say things that your standard issue modern lefty doesn’t like to hear said. Things that are perfectly legal and legitimate to say, but which many of those on the left do not approve of. Here is the principle that needs to apply: If you can say it on a published printed page you must be able to say it on Facebook, and if others don’t like it, they don’t have to read it. Meanwhile Zuckerberg is angling to run for president in 2020 as a Democrat.
This is from Facebook’s Community Standard on Hate Speech:
Facebook removes hate speech, which includes content that directly attacks people based on their:
sex, gender or gender identity, or
serious disabilities or diseases.
Organisations and people dedicated to promoting hatred against these protected groups are not allowed a presence on Facebook. As with all of our standards, we rely on our community to report this content to us.
What is an “attack”? And who judges? Each and every time, the adjudicators are from a left, if not a far-left perspective. Two things should therefore happen. First, these tech providers must be open to being sued for suspending and forcibly closing accounts unless the company can prove in court that what was being said could not be legally said in public. Second, these are now part of modern social infrastructure in the same way as banks and hospitals. They must be compelled by law to accept and maintain on an equal basis anyone who wishes to participate in their services. This is not something the market can or will fix. There can be only one Facebook. It only works if everyone can join. If the proprietors of Facebook don’t want to work within the new rules, then they can sell up to someone else who does.
So let’s see how this sort of thing works at the moment. This is from Instapundit
today. And note the author of the post self-describes himself in this way:
#Republican candidate for US Senate. Radical philosopher & social critic. Captain, lawyer, agitator, rebel. The most dangerous #Libertarian in America.
That is, a prime candidate to end up banned at Facebook. This is what did it.
Do you not see a problem that needs to be fixed? Then keep your head in the sand. I’m not sure it can be fixed, but to think the market will self-correct is just a form of self-delusion.
And then there was this: After Charlottesville, Even Dating Apps Are Cracking Down on Hate. From which:
The Silicon Valley companies that make money off social media and online services have started to enact strong measures against extremism, barring white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and others who follow creeds they deem racist and hateful.
Facebook and Twitter have developed tools to allow users to report hate speech and harassment. PayPal has blocked hate groups from using its financial services, and the ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft have urged drivers to report unacceptable customers. Airbnb took steps to stop white nationalists from renting rooms through its app before their gathering in Charlottesville, Va.
Most remarkably, perhaps, the efforts have even spread to the free-wheeling world of dating apps, where users have for years been welcome to screen potential lovers based on everything from height to religious beliefs.
And to be more specific OkCupid Banned Me for Supporting Our President by Cassandra Fairbanks.
While on vacation in Florida, I was informed by other Twitter users that my OkCupid account — which is largely inactive — has been suspended. This was presumably due to my open support for President Donald Trump.
On the weekend following the disastrous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, I had been scheduled to speak at a rally in support of free speech in Boston. Despite many of the speakers being people of color, and the most exciting speaker of the day being Va Shiva from India who addressed the crowd while standing in front of signs that read “Black Lives Do Matter,” the rally was falsely labeled a “white supremacist” rally by the liberal media and the city’s joke of a mayor, Marty Walsh.
Threats and accusations immediately rolled in, from hundreds of people who just blindly follow whatever the mainstream media tells them — and suddenly I was branded a “Nazi” for daring to agree to speak at a rally supporting our most important right. It was exactly what Trump supporters had worried would happen following the “punch a Nazi” meme. All it takes to now be tarred as “literally Hitler,” no matter the color of your skin or actual political beliefs, is support for our president. . . .
I have reached out to OkCupid to confirm that my ban was due to supporting the president — as obviously they will be unable to provide a shred of evidence that I am racist or belong to a “hate group.” The company had not responded by press time.
She then adds at the end what I think is the biggest mistake we make: “I personally believe that companies have a right to deny service to anyone they want.”
Well I do not. Is it illegal to say what these people say? Then you just have to put up with the possibility that if you go on a dating site, you might end up paired with a Democrat. After the interview date you can work out whether you are compatible or not. This categorisation of others by people who are politically and morally clueless in every way is a serious problem and should not be permitted. If you open this kind of service, open to any and all, no discrimination should be permitted by law based on race, religion, creed etc etc or on one’s personal beliefs however repellent they may be to you or to the proprietors of these “social” media platforms.
The laws should be just like the laws that apply to renting out your house.
She is being interviewed by William F. Buckley Jr. so we have two of the great defenders of freedom and the free market at one and the same time.