Will Republicans Ruin the Internet?

 

The internet is undoubtedly the most important invention of the last several decades. And no country has been better at commercializing the internet than America. Apple is unlikely to be the last trillion-dollar US tech company.

It sure would be a shame to mess all that up over a loopy provocateur like Alex Jones.

But here we are. The social-media banning of the conspiracy-mongering, hate-spewing performance artist could push Republicans to ruin the internet.

Even before Apple, YouTube, Facebook, and Spotify purged the noxious content produced by Jones and his Infowars website, Republican lawmakers and pundits were attacking social media and internet companies for bias against conservatives. Among the supposedly persuasive bits of evidence: unfounded claims that Facebook was censoring pro-Trump video bloggers Diamond and Silk, and an errant Google search result that linked the California GOP with “Nazism.” Then there’s the political liberalism — or at least financial support of Democrats — of many tech CEOs.

Sen. Ted Cruz, like many of his fellow Republicans, claims to have connected the dots. As he said on a Breitbart podcast: “These tech companies are hard left. . . . They are suppressing the views of conservatives. They are blocking conservatives. . . . That is invidious. It is invisible, and it is profoundly dangerous.”

Of course, it was skillful use of social media that helped Donald Trump win the presidency, and right-leaning pages apparently have a bigger presence on Facebook than left-leaning ones. But the reality that too many GOP politicians care most about is getting their voters ginned up for the November midterm elections. Perhaps nudging along the perception that conservatives are being persecuted by Silicon Valley will do the trick. As one Republican campaign strategist told Politico, “It’s something Trump has talked about repeatedly, it’s a base motivator, you’re not going to find conservatives who don’t believe there’s bias.”

Published in Technology
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There are 30 comments.

  1. Coolidge

    The social media companies are not the internet. They are big companies they are not the only companies that are online. 

    • #1
    • August 10, 2018 at 7:14 am
    • 8 likes
  2. Coolidge

    The internet would not be ruined. Google et al would be ruined. The beauty of the internet is that if google becomes unbearable, another will rise to take its place.

    • #2
    • August 10, 2018 at 7:26 am
    • 9 likes
  3. Member

    You forgot to mention the oh so threatening Dennis Prager and Steven Crowder – Jimbo. Perhaps you’re subject to some shadow banning or censoring as I don’t believe you’ve ever engaged in any back and forth with the masses on one of your columns.

    • #3
    • August 10, 2018 at 7:32 am
    • 18 likes
  4. Member

    If they are a big ideological threat the last thing we should want is for the regulatory state to cut a deal with the existing big tech companies which is what will happen if we try to regulate them. If there is a problem and no doubt there is because there always is, we do not want the Feds deep inside helping the status quo fight off challenges from new companies but we may want some laws that more clearly separate content and delivery and make entry easy, assure taxes fall equally. 

    • #4
    • August 10, 2018 at 7:39 am
    • 4 likes
  5. Thatcher

    If the tech companies really wanted to hurt Republicans, they keep Alex Jones’ views available and link him to Republicans. I hope @skyler is right, but I’m still waiting for a conservative tech giant to emerge . . .

    • #5
    • August 10, 2018 at 7:49 am
    • 4 likes
  6. Coolidge

    James Pethokoukis: Will Republicans Ruin the Internet?

    No.

    If one wants to take a principled stand on an issue, its easier to speak up for one’s own rights. Its much more difficult to speak up for someone else’s rights – particularly when that someone has a history of being a Nut.

    Here’s the heart of the issue that nobody is discussing:

    Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_230_of_the_Communications_Decency_Act

     

     

     

     

    • #6
    • August 10, 2018 at 7:56 am
    • 14 likes
  7. Member

    Yes, “Apple, YouTube, Facebook, and Spotify” are not the government. If so, it would be obvious to all that this is a bad thing.

    However, they are the culture and the leading “distributors” of online content. And they are biased. Bigly.

    If we have antitrust laws against monopolies; and “fairness doctrine” for media networks; and 0bama even created the concept of net neutrality out of thin air in order to keep and extend their already overt control over media, it is not inconceivable to have rules that regulate “online broadcast networks” to ensure that free speech is protected.

     The classic quote (Hall, not Voltaire?) applies …

    I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

    And (?) … First they came for Alex Jones ….

    • #7
    • August 10, 2018 at 8:16 am
    • 10 likes
  8. Coolidge

    Columbo (View Comment):
    And (?) … First they came for Alex Jones ….

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist. managed to find three hiding Socialists to turn in.

    Then Just now, they came are coming for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.  know where to find three hiding Trade Unionists to turn in.

    Then they came will come for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
    Because I was not a Jew. have a lead on where some Jews are hiding.

    Then they came will come for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. but’ I’ll probably be dead by then or perhaps the Jews I don’t turn in will fight to the death and stop it before they can find me.

    • #8
    • August 10, 2018 at 8:35 am
    • 8 likes
  9. Member

    Sen. Ted Cruz, like many of his fellow Republicans, claims to have connected the dots.

    In truth, he did a very good job of highlighting the problem during Zuckerberg’s testimony …

    “Is Facebook (and others) a neutral public forum … or are they a first amendment speaker expressing their views?” It matters. Bigly.

    • #9
    • August 10, 2018 at 8:46 am
    • 7 likes
  10. Member

    Pethokoukis severely minimizes the issue (and one might wonder why. Cui bono?)

    And why does Pethokoukis seem skeptical that silencing conservatives is even happening? “Among the supposedly persuasive bits of evidence: unfounded claims . . .” “the perception that conservatives are being persecuted by Silicon Valley” “Ted Cruz, like many of his fellow Republicans, claims

    It’s “Republicans Pounce!” again.

    No, Jim. It’s happening. And you’re dismissing it because you’re well-connected, insulated, and believe it only happens to bad people, like the convenient bogeyman, Alex Jones. Or you’re gaslighting.

    Though I certainly don’t want the government regulating the tech companies either. But it’s disingenuous to say Republicans are just using the issue to gin up votes when Democrats have made it quite clear they wish to use the power and reach of social media and tech companies to silence conservatives.

    Pethokoukis is gaslighting.

    But why? Cui bono?

    • #10
    • August 10, 2018 at 9:05 am
    • 11 likes
  11. Coolidge

    They’ve made a tremendous mistake – They’ve exerted editorial control over their users…

    They opened themselves up for all kinds of lawsuits. Everyone who’s ever been slandered by anyone on these sites should sue. bury them in lawsuits.

    • #11
    • August 10, 2018 at 9:29 am
    • 7 likes
  12. Member

    James Pethokoukis: t sure would be a shame to mess all that up over a loopy provocateur like Alex Jones.

    It never ceases to amaze me that people fail to understand something as fundamental as free speech in the American tradition. Only unpopular and, in the opinion of many, obnoxious speech needs the protection. Cute puppy videos don’t need to be protected from censorship. If you’re interested in free speech, your only job is to defend the rights of controversial and, likely, odious parties. Noting that Alex Jones is “loopy” should be a clue that he’s in this category.

    The fastidiously accurate, yet misleading, argument that private entities do not fall under First Amendment has been disposed of in comments #6 and #9. Is Alex Jones allowed to have telephone service? After all, all the landline and mobile providers are private entities too.

    Beyond the strictly legal arguments, freedom of expression is a cultural value I’d like to see Americans defend, even if they aren’t required to do so by law. Mr. Pethokoukis is clearly not interested in this value. Yet if Mr. Jones is truly a “performance artist,” Mr. Pethokoukis should grant Jones’s musings the same latitude as he would to any fictional work. It’s not as if InfoWars and the New York Times are in the same category, though perhaps they should be.

    • #12
    • August 10, 2018 at 9:50 am
    • 14 likes
  13. Member

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Pethokoukis severely minimizes the issue (and one might wonder why. Cui bono?)

    And why does Pethokoukis seem skeptical that silencing conservatives is even happening? “Among the supposedly persuasive bits of evidence: unfounded claims . . .” “the perception that conservatives are being persecuted by Silicon Valley” “Ted Cruz, like many of his fellow Republicans, claims

    It’s “Republicans Pounce!” again.

    No, Jim. It’s happening. And you’re dismissing it because you’re well-connected, insulated, and believe it only happens to bad people, like the convenient bogeyman, Alex Jones. Or you’re gaslighting.

    Though I certainly don’t want the government regulating the tech companies either. But it’s disingenuous to say Republicans are just using the issue to gin up votes when Democrats have made it quite clear they wish to use the power and reach of social media and tech companies to silence conservatives.

    Pethokoukis is gaslighting.

    But why? Cui bono?

    Indeed. Not only did the dems prove this with their stupid net neutrality (sic) overreach, here’s the latest statement from Democrat Senator Chris Murphy … Infowars is just the tip of the iceberg … and real continued crackdown on libertarians (psuedo conservatives).

    And yet Pethokoukis thinks Ted Cruz and fellow conservatives are paranoid cranks. Sad.

    • #13
    • August 10, 2018 at 10:00 am
    • 13 likes
  14. Member

    No. 

    • #14
    • August 10, 2018 at 10:24 am
    • 6 likes
  15. Member

    CitizenOfTheRepublic (View Comment):

    No.

    Ha! I forgot Betteridge’s Law of Headlines.

    • #15
    • August 10, 2018 at 10:27 am
    • 4 likes
  16. Member

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    CitizenOfTheRepublic (View Comment):

    No.

    Ha! I forgot Betteridge’s Law of Headlines.

    It’s like the rule that anytime you come across the word “but” in a sentence (argument), it means you can ignore everything that came before it.

    • #16
    • August 10, 2018 at 12:01 pm
    • 3 likes
  17. Member

    After posting comment 12, it occurred to me that many who are hostile to the broader, cultural free-speech argument are post-American. That is, regardless of their country of residence or citizenship, they adhere to a more global set of values. A quick survey of other countries reveals that freedom of expression is a subordinate value, if it is a value at all. The level of First Amendment protections is almost uniquely American.

    It is unsurprising that individuals of a more globalist bent would prioritize other values. This is especially true for those who view human beings as mere economic units. Maximization of GDP and reduction of economic friction are sought with little concern for collateral damage, especially if the social costs can be externalized. Privatize profits while socializing costs. 

    • #17
    • August 10, 2018 at 12:29 pm
    • 7 likes
  18. Coolidge

    It’s very likely that conservatives will save the internet, not ruin it. As mentioned here in the comments above, just about everyone on the Left of Center except for Steven Pinker and Sam Harris and Bill Maher support censorship and are eager to liquidate the 1st amendment faster than the Khmer Rouge could liquidate people with eyeglasses.

    Nearly everyone on the Right of Center except for John McCain supports the 1st Amendment, even when it is to the Right’s disadvantage.

    Once Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the US Supreme Court, the high court will remain supportive of a robust interpretation of the 1st Amendment. The Left of Center members of the high court were more than willing to, in the Citizens United case, allow the FEC to ban movies that said critical things of politicians (if they are Democrats; criticizing Republican politicians is “patriotic”).

    If the internet is to be ruined, don’t go blaming conservatives for that. Blame the Left. The Left, with a few notable exceptions, supports censorship. Don’t believe me? Visit a University.

    • #18
    • August 10, 2018 at 2:45 pm
    • 6 likes
  19. Coolidge

    Back in the early days of when I first discovered the internet in 1995, I was amazed by the freedom it allowed in saying whatever you want to say to a global audience. On eWorld I was corresponding with people across the globe and we got into lots of lively and polite debates about all sorts of political and philosophical matters.

    But I soon became concerned that the internet, far from being a means of freeing the world, might eventually serve to oppress us all.

    Imagine you were to write “I love Hitler” on the internet. To my knowledge, that’s illegal in Germany (and if it’s not, just go with it). Now, such a sentiment, odious as it is, is yet protected speech in the United States. But suppose after writing such nonsense, you were to go on vacation to Spain. Spain is part of the EU and as such has extradition treaties, I imagine, with Germany. Could Germany, using some sort of “long arm jurisdiction” according to their laws require Spain to deliver you over and then prosecute you for posting it on the internet.

    Now, that’s a trite example of course, but it demonstrates a real danger. Even though our freedom of speech is protected here, we already see it being eroded by our citizens no longer practicing it and coercing employers to police the speech of their employees and fire anyone who speaks politically incorrect opinions. Now imagine an internet service provider, like AOL or the like, having clients that make such comments and now Argentina uses their laws to intimidate AOL not to allow you to have an account or Argentina will punish AOL through their courts.

    As a society, we have to embrace free speech. We need to stop spouting good little communist aphorisms that “the first amendment doesn’t apply to private individuals, only the government” and resume treating free speech as the ideal we once held it to be.

    I don’t care if your store’s shoe clerk is a fanatical abortion rights/plastic straw banning/global warming alarmist/metoo-er. If we don’t allow people to speak their minds when we don’t like their ideas, we will lose our hard won natural rights.

    And if we don’t be very careful, it will be the internet that will allow it to happen. 

    • #19
    • August 10, 2018 at 3:20 pm
    • 7 likes
  20. Member

    Skyler (View Comment):
    As a society, we have to embrace free speech. We need to stop spouting good little communist aphorisms that “the first amendment doesn’t apply to private individuals, only the government” and resume treating free speech as the ideal we once held it to be.

    The First Amendment forbids the federal government from abridging the God given speech rights of the citizens. It does not grant the federal government the power to force citizens to provide the means of exercising their speech rights. Nor does it empower the federal government to obligate commercial entities to provide open access to all comers.

    I don’t agree with the decision to ban people and organizations from what most people would call public forums. The best response to odious speech and behavior is not restrictions, it’s more speech.

    • #20
    • August 10, 2018 at 4:13 pm
    • 1 like
  21. Member

    James this is a new low.

    Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act grants immunity to internet service providers for defamatory user content. 

    After achieving near monopolistic power Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter and others now want to censor user content that a doesn’t conform to their leftwing views. There is no legal reason for these companies to take down user content other than to enforce their own political views. 

    One could say these are private companies and can monitor user content as they like. However, the government also has a very compelling interest in providing an environment where free speech flourishes. If these social media platforms become, as it appears, the primary distribution network for political views, then the government just as it regulates monopolistic behavior that seeks to corner a market, has a compelling interest to regulate the dominant social media companies to ensure that a free speech environment is maintained. 

    Free Speech is clearly under a attack from the Progressive Left. It wants to control all the content that the public receives and has succeeded massively in the mainstream media and in our schools. To deny that these companies are not colluding to deny free speech across the social media spectrum is worse than delusional, it is pure evil. This attack on free speech is an direct attack on our liberties and our Constitutional form of government. Those losers that try to justify this attack on free speech are simply disgusting and deserving of the worst scorn possible. 

    • #21
    • August 10, 2018 at 5:42 pm
    • 6 likes
  22. Coolidge

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    After posting comment 12, it occurred to me that many who are hostile to the broader, cultural free-speech argument are post-American. That is, regardless of their country of residence or citizenship, they adhere to a more global set of values. A quick survey of other countries reveals that freedom of expression is a subordinate value, if it is a value at all. The level of First Amendment protections is almost uniquely American.

    It is unsurprising that individuals of a more globalist bent would prioritize other values. This is especially true for those who view human beings as mere economic units. Maximization of GDP and reduction of economic friction are sought with little concern for collateral damage, especially if the social costs can be externalized. Privatize profits while socializing costs.

    This is why the base is growing more and more hostile to the business-first wing of the party; simply put, the latter have largely become social and cultural progressives (in some cases without even realizing it), and use their economic power to wage war on other conservatives, all the while acting shocked when we no longer respect them or take everything they say at face value.

    • #22
    • August 10, 2018 at 6:41 pm
    • 5 likes
  23. Coolidge

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):
    As a society, we have to embrace free speech. We need to stop spouting good little communist aphorisms that “the first amendment doesn’t apply to private individuals, only the government” and resume treating free speech as the ideal we once held it to be.

    I don’t agree with the decision to ban people and organizations from what most people would call public forums. The best response to odious speech and behavior is not restrictions, it’s more speech.

    And you get more speech through a legal strategy that motivates companies not to censor their users (effectively blackballing anti-Left voices in the process) by making them afraid that they will be held liable for endorsing ‘harmful’ speech unless they provide an open platform.

     

    • #23
    • August 10, 2018 at 6:47 pm
    • 3 likes
  24. Member

    lowtech redneck (View Comment):

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):
    As a society, we have to embrace free speech. We need to stop spouting good little communist aphorisms that “the first amendment doesn’t apply to private individuals, only the government” and resume treating free speech as the ideal we once held it to be.

    I don’t agree with the decision to ban people and organizations from what most people would call public forums. The best response to odious speech and behavior is not restrictions, it’s more speech.

    And you get more speech through a legal strategy that motivates companies not to censor their users (effectively blackballing anti-Left voices in the process) by making them afraid that they will be held liable for endorsing ‘harmful’ speech unless they provide an open platform.

    You would, if you could pull that off. But I happen to think giving government that kind of power would be foolish. 

    • #24
    • August 10, 2018 at 7:16 pm
    • 5 likes
  25. Coolidge

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):
    As a society, we have to embrace free speech. We need to stop spouting good little communist aphorisms that “the first amendment doesn’t apply to private individuals, only the government” and resume treating free speech as the ideal we once held it to be.

    The First Amendment forbids the federal government from abridging the God given speech rights of the citizens. It does not grant the federal government the power to force citizens to provide the means of exercising their speech rights. Nor does it empower the federal government to obligate commercial entities to provide open access to all comers.

    I don’t agree with the decision to ban people and organizations from what most people would call public forums. The best response to odious speech and behavior is not restrictions, it’s more speech.

    I said nothing about the government forcing anyone to do anything. I said we as a society need to resume our embrace of the principle of free speech as part of our culture and relearn to tolerate speech no matter how odious, so long as it is civil.

    • #25
    • August 10, 2018 at 8:58 pm
    • 1 like
  26. Member

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):
    As a society, we have to embrace free speech. We need to stop spouting good little communist aphorisms that “the first amendment doesn’t apply to private individuals, only the government” and resume treating free speech as the ideal we once held it to be.

    The First Amendment forbids the federal government from abridging the God given speech rights of the citizens. It does not grant the federal government the power to force citizens to provide the means of exercising their speech rights. Nor does it empower the federal government to obligate commercial entities to provide open access to all comers.

    I don’t agree with the decision to ban people and organizations from what most people would call public forums. The best response to odious speech and behavior is not restrictions, it’s more speech.

    I said nothing about the government forcing anyone to do anything. I said we as a society need to resume our embrace of the principle of free speech as part of our culture and relearn to tolerate speech no matter how odious, so long as it is civil.

    It’s not a communist aphorism. It’s how we’ve structured our republic. Otherwise I generally agree with your point. 

    • #26
    • August 11, 2018 at 5:48 am
    • 2 likes
  27. Member

    drlorentz (View Comment):
    Is Alex Jones allowed to have telephone service? After all, all the landline and mobile providers are private entities too.

    Interesting analogy. 

    • #27
    • August 11, 2018 at 2:05 pm
    • 1 like
  28. Thatcher

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    CitizenOfTheRepublic (View Comment):

    No.

    Ha! I forgot Betteridge’s Law of Headlines.

    It’s like the rule that anytime you come across the word “but” in a sentence (argument), it means you can ignore everything that came before it.

    We call it a “butt-monkey” . . .

    • #28
    • August 11, 2018 at 2:06 pm
    • 2 likes
  29. Moderator

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):
    As a society, we have to embrace free speech. We need to stop spouting good little communist aphorisms that “the first amendment doesn’t apply to private individuals, only the government” and resume treating free speech as the ideal we once held it to be.

    The First Amendment forbids the federal government from abridging the God given speech rights of the citizens. It does not grant the federal government the power to force citizens to provide the means of exercising their speech rights. Nor does it empower the federal government to obligate commercial entities to provide open access to all comers.

    I don’t agree with the decision to ban people and organizations from what most people would call public forums. The best response to odious speech and behavior is not restrictions, it’s more speech.

    It also does not obligate us from giving internet service providers safe harbor from lawsuits.

    Under the law, you can have an open forum, with extremely limited editorial control, or you have a content provider controlling and liable for the content you host. It’s the difference between the posts on a website, and the comments on the website. You cannot be sued for the comments if you operate an open forum, while a libelous post on your website is grounds for a lawsuit. The censorship by the tech companies means that they are trying to have it both ways, which is not legally supported.

    The safe harbor under the CDA was actually fairly ingenious, as it incentivizes the creation of open fora without a subsidy, and does not give control to the government.

    • #29
    • August 11, 2018 at 2:56 pm
    • 4 likes
  30. Member

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):
    The safe harbor under the CDA was actually fairly ingenious, as it incentivizes the creation of open fora without a subsidy, and does not give control to the government.

    Agreed. But it looks like there will soon be a long line of people at the courthouse fighting over the penumbras emanating from that law.

    And the winners will be the guild that bills by the minute.

    • #30
    • August 11, 2018 at 3:29 pm
    • 1 like