The Censorship Is Real

 

So someone on Twitter commented about Joe Biden being able to survive COVID-19, and I couldn’t help myself. I pointed out he was weak, frail, uncertain, and had no confidence. I pointed out that when you lack confidence that you can beat an illness, the likelihood is that the illness is going to kill you. It was fair commentary. I mentioned that I had clinical experience that bore out those observations in the tweet. There were no threats. It wasn’t targeted toward Joe Biden. It was a simple observation. But not to Twitter.

I was booted for 12 hours because of that tweet.

The censorship of conservative thought is real and ongoing, and it must be stopped.

I know that there are a lot of conservatives that believe that as a private business Twitter can throttle the opinions of whomever they like. Clearly that’s what they do. They even tried to stop Sean Spicer from sharing content by putting a “headlines don’t tell the whole story” label on it as he was attempting to retweet something from the Federalist. Now, obviously if the content had already been tweeted, it didn’t violate Twitter’s policies, so the slap-down was aimed solely at suppressing the free speech rights of conservative Sean Spicer. That’s evil. I would want the same rule to be applied to Sean as to Hillary Clinton. I wouldn’t read Hillary’s post. I’d go right past it. But I think she should be able to say what she wants to say without editorial oversight.

I would like to offer another opinion with respect to whether Twitter and Facebook should be the arbiters of truth for the nation. The software running their services may be of their own creation, and certainly their administration of it is done by their own nipple-ring wearing, tattooed, pierced, purple-haired, multi-gendered employees. Those people have a right to their opinions and should be allowed to post anything they want under the original post. The freedom to disagree is universal. What they should not be able to do is throttle free speech. The remedy for bad speech is good speech, not no speech.

The question is how to get there, and President Obama gave us the answer. Do you remember the “you didn’t build that” line from Mr. Obama? He claimed that the country as a whole created the system that allows private business to thrive. The roads that allow good to move, the police that protect businesses, all of that must be accounted for. While Obama was imprecise in his rhetoric, I think most reasonable Americans would agree that everyone (not just businesses) benefit from the infrastructure created and paid for by tax dollars.

So remind me again…how did the internet come about? Oh, that’s right, Al Gore invented it. Well, not really. Government had already linked thousands of military, industrial, and university computers together through dedicated phone lines, but when it became possible to link every computer to every other computer in the early 1990s, the internet was born out of a taxpayer investment in infrastructure. Taxpayers own the internet. The internet has become, for all practical purpose, the public square. Speech should not be subject to commercially-driven censorship so long as those social media services are using the internet.

As this piece points out, social media companies are protected from regulation of their content by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Yet that statute, and the carte blanche it provides to people like Jack Dorsey and Twitter to decide what America needs to hear, is an abuse of the Constitutional protections afforded under the First Amendment. This is because while the public square tolerates even bad speech (which is why Nazis can march down Main Street), social media companies do not have to tolerate any speech. None. And yet, they would fail to exist tomorrow if the internet were shut down. Without that federally-provided (and yet commercially-accessed) internet, social media would suffer electronic anoxia almost immediately. That Twitter, Facebook, and others depend upon the internet for the source of both their funding and their product, should allow the government to mandate open and unfettered access to post even the vilest of speech on their platforms. Like I said: the internet has become the public square. If a citizen can reverse a public figure’s decision to block them on social media based on free speech rights and the First Amendment right to petition for redress of grievances, then the same courts should protect free speech on these platforms.

That doesn’t mean users have to listen to speech that is arguably hateful. The blocking features on Twitter and Facebook would make the kind of evil hate speech that attacks people on the basis of race, religion, gender or national origin easy to avoid. And for those who draw comfort from being with likeminded idiots, these services would provide a useful outlet that might keep them out of the public square as well as serve as a bad example to hold up to the youth of the nation.

Twitter and Facebook allow rioters to conspire online, but they do not allow people to express opinions that are devoid of hate, but based on rational medical thought. The world is truly upside down.

In a perfect world, it would be the Twitters of the world that would get a strike whenever they throttled free speech. Regulation that permitted free speech would not make Twitter any more of a wasteland than it already is. There are ways to regulate these providers who use their market power to censor only conservative thought, and Congress needs to act to get that done.

Published in Law
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  1. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Anthony L. DeWitt:

    I was booted for 12 hours because of that tweet.

    The censorship of conservative thought is real and ongoing, and it must be stopped.

    And yet we got a Dog and Pony Show by our congressmen who assured us Big Tech wasn’t a threat or a monopoly.

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Anthony L. DeWitt: I was booted for 12 hours because of that tweet.

    Congratulations.

    • #2
  3. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

     

    • #3
  4. Anthony L. DeWitt Coolidge
    Anthony L. DeWitt
    @AnthonyDeWitt

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Anthony L. DeWitt:

    I was booted for 12 hours because of that tweet.

    The censorship of conservative thought is real and ongoing, and it must be stopped.

    And yet we got a Dog and Pony Show by our congressmen who assured us Big Tech wasn’t a threat or a monopoly.

    I feel so reassured knowing that.  Thanks for reminding me again how completely useless our legislative branch is.

    • #4
  5. Anthony L. DeWitt Coolidge
    Anthony L. DeWitt
    @AnthonyDeWitt

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Anthony L. DeWitt: I was booted for 12 hours because of that tweet.

    Congratulations.

    I’m pretty much switching to Parler anyway, but it still ticks me off.

    Thanks for your compliment.

    • #5
  6. Anthony L. DeWitt Coolidge
    Anthony L. DeWitt
    @AnthonyDeWitt

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

     

    Facebook is a wasteland too.  They encourage and up-post liberal content and they shunt conservative content to the groups.  You can have an opinion in a group, but post to your main page and you get stuff like that.  I hate both of them.  

    • #6
  7. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    I have little sympathy. Arguing on Twitter is like competing in the Special Olympics…

    • #7
  8. SkipSul Member
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Anthony L. DeWitt (View Comment):

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

     

    Facebook is a wasteland too. They encourage and up-post liberal content and they shunt conservative content to the groups. You can have an opinion in a group, but post to your main page and you get stuff like that. I hate both of them.

    Facebook has to go where its customers are, and is actually beginning to veer more conservative (kicking and screaming all the way, but still).  A bunch of lefty acquaintances spent a good part of the early summer denouncing how Facebook wouldn’t censor “hate”, and when more woke corporations pulled their ads for July these same acquaintances noted who still advertised and so added them to their personal boycott lists.  That temper tantrum still not proving effective against Zuckerberg, they’ve begun decamping entirely from the platform, denouncing it on the way out as a white-supremacists swampland.

    You see, Facebook’s user base is mostly middle-aged and up – the “cool” kids are elsewhere now.  And that’s making it trend more conservative.

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):

    I have little sympathy. Arguing on Twitter is like competing in the Special Olympics…

    A lot of them seem to have ridden the short bus to school, if you know what I mean.

    • #9
  10. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    I do not have a problem with Twitter censoring.

    What I have a problem with is the capricious censoring it does without any repercussions. If a comment concerning the chances Biden has to survive Covid are beyond the pale, than where’s all the censoring of Democrats hoping and wishing and praying that Trump bites the dust?

    At some point, the argument must be that Twitter is promoting death threats against the President when they refuse to act on those tweets while censoring content against their guy.

    The neutral platform of Section 230 was to protect platforms from liability if they chose to curate within certain boundaries – like porn, foul language, scammers/spam, etc. Typically, those things were codified in their Code of Conduct user contracts. Maybe it was poorly written to define those boundaries. But whatever it is, section 230 is being abused by these companies to be publishers with all the liability of a platform (i.e. no liability at all).

    You can not tell me that there is nothing within Twitter that a lawyer wouldn’t willingly jump on to litigate.

    If Twitter wants to curate information, they should be held liable for the information they choose to publish.

    Section 230 should be re-written and better defined to give protection to conscientious platforms.

    • #10
  11. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    Stina (View Comment):
    What I have a problem with is the capricious censoring it does without any repercussions.

    I wouldn’t be so sure that there have been no repercussions.  Twitter’s daily active user statistics pretty much plateaued in 2015, and has actually been decreasing (slowly) since Q1 2018.

    Sources:

    • #11
  12. Locke On Member
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    Stina (View Comment):

    I do not have a problem with Twitter censoring.

    What I have a problem with is the capricious censoring it does without any repercussions. If a comment concerning the chances Biden has to survive Covid are beyond the pale, than where’s all the censoring of Democrats hoping and wishing and praying that Trump bites the dust?

    At some point, the argument must be that Twitter is promoting death threats against the President when they refuse to act on those tweets while censoring content against their guy.

    The neutral platform of Section 230 was to protect platforms from liability if they chose to curate within certain boundaries – like porn, foul language, scammers/spam, etc. Typically, those things were codified in their Code of Conduct user contracts. Maybe it was poorly written to define those boundaries. But whatever it is, section 230 is being abused by these companies to be publishers with all the liability of a platform (i.e. no liability at all).

    You can not tell me that there is nothing within Twitter that a lawyer wouldn’t willingly jump on to litigate.

    If Twitter wants to curate information, they should be held liable for the information they choose to publish.

    Section 230 should be re-written and better defined to give protection to conscientious platforms.

    Revoking 230 is a good start, but I think breaking up the censoring monopoly platforms under anti-trust would be a better outcome.  History has shown that regulating businesses is just the first step to regulatory capture by that industry, followed by using regulation to keep out new entrants and force customers toward incumbents. 

    Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple et. al. have in many cases used cross-subsidy, either overt or by cross-promotion, to use their existing services to prop up or force entry into new categories.  They are also using their business presences to directly intervene in politics and other social functions.  Similar behavior was previously used to justify anti-trust investigations and actions into Microsoft and IBM.  Time to break up big tech monopolists along functional lines.  Twitter is a relative pip-squeak with only one viable service.  Carving similar functions off the big tech conglomerates would give it significant competition overnight.

    • #12
  13. DrewInWisconsin, Man of Constant Sorrow Coolidge
    DrewInWisconsin, Man of Constant Sorrow
    @DrewInWisconsin

    They must be forced to choose: “platform or publisher?” Right now they get the benefits of both. Force them to pick one and treat them accordingly. Because regardless of which they choose, there will be lawsuits. (Oh, you’re just a platform? Okay, then you’re being sued for censorship. Oh, you’re a publisher, then you’re being sued for libel.)

    Pick one. Don’t let them wiggle out of it.

    • #13
  14. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    DrewInWisconsin, Man of Consta… (View Comment):

    They must be forced to choose: “platform or publisher?” Right now they get the benefits of both. Force them to pick one and treat them accordingly. Because regardless of which they choose, there will be lawsuits. (Oh, you’re just a platform? Okay, then you’re being sued for censorship. Oh, you’re a publisher, then you’re being sued for libel.)

    Pick one. Don’t let them wiggle out of it.

    Yes, the way they’re behaving now, they could be sued from either direction.  But if they picked the platform side and then were honest brokers about it, the protection would be appropriate and effective.

    • #14
  15. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    Stina (View Comment):
    If Twitter wants to curate information, they should be held liable for the information they choose to publish.

    Repealing 230 would apply to all websites, not just Twitter and Facebook.  Should Ricochet be held legally liable for the comments of its users?

    • #15
  16. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):
    If Twitter wants to curate information, they should be held liable for the information they choose to publish.

    Repealing 230 would apply to all websites, not just Twitter and Facebook. Should Ricochet be held legally liable for the comments of its users?

    I didn’t say repeal. I said rewritten. I know the consensus is repeal, but I think the problem is in enforcement based on poorly defined boundaries. And it is not my opinion to repeal. I don’t want porn on twitter or in blog comments.

    I’d even be good if section 230 required user agreements of what is acceptable or not. Then code violations by users or by the company could be actionable as breach of contract.

    • #16
  17. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):
    If Twitter wants to curate information, they should be held liable for the information they choose to publish.

    Repealing 230 would apply to all websites, not just Twitter and Facebook. Should Ricochet be held legally liable for the comments of its users?

    Wouldn’t that only be possible if Ricochet opted to be a Publisher, rather than a Platform?

    • #17
  18. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):
    If Twitter wants to curate information, they should be held liable for the information they choose to publish.

    Repealing 230 would apply to all websites, not just Twitter and Facebook. Should Ricochet be held legally liable for the comments of its users?

    Wouldn’t that only be possible if Ricochet opted to be a Publisher, rather than a Platform?

    Repealing 230 deems any moderation a publishing act (from my understanding). What Section 230 does is allow for a kind of “common decency” exception so certain things can be moderated without getting “publisher” status.

    It’s about the equivalent of “no shirt, no shoes, no service” or forbidding sex and nudity in the park.

    By defining common decency to exclude conservative views, you can use the good faith vagueness of the allowance to push an entire political view (or any view, to be frank) out of the public space without being held accountable for what you let stay on your site.

    • #18
  19. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Stina (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):
    If Twitter wants to curate information, they should be held liable for the information they choose to publish.

    Repealing 230 would apply to all websites, not just Twitter and Facebook. Should Ricochet be held legally liable for the comments of its users?

    Wouldn’t that only be possible if Ricochet opted to be a Publisher, rather than a Platform?

    Repealing 230 deems any moderation a publishing act (from my understanding). What Section 230 does is allow for a kind of “common decency” exception so certain things can be moderated without getting “publisher” status.

    It’s about the equivalent of “no shirt, no shoes, no service” or forbidding sex and nudity in the park.

    By defining common decency to exclude conservative views, you can use the good faith vagueness of the allowance to push an entire political view (or any view, to be frank) out of the public space without being held accountable for what you let stay on your site.

    Oh, I actually was thinking of if 230 were in force as-is, which means places like Twitter and Facebook have to pick whether they are going to be a publisher, or a platform, and then consistently behave that way.  It seems to me that Ricochet already operates pretty much as a platform, except maybe when they decide to delete things that they consider to be a “conspiracy theory” or whatever.

    • #19
  20. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Oh, I actually was thinking of if 230 were in force as-is, which means places like Twitter and Facebook have to pick whether they are going to be a publisher, or a platform, and then consistently behave that way. It seems to me that Ricochet already operates pretty much as a platform, except maybe when they decide to delete things that they consider to be a “conspiracy theory” or whatever.

    It’s why I think it needs rewriting. It is too vague and political views should never be freely defined by a “platform” to fall outside common decency.

    The current manifestation is to vague and ripe for lawyering the words to mean what you want.

    It’s why i wouldn’t mind a contract form… require the platforms to be up front about what they will or will not moderate and then allow users to sue for breach of contract if they overstep.

    Of course, that also is open to abuse in writing  contracts so obtuse that no one person can reasonably understand what they are signing. But i think we have some consumer protection laws to prevent that.

    • #20
  21. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Stina (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Oh, I actually was thinking of if 230 were in force as-is, which means places like Twitter and Facebook have to pick whether they are going to be a publisher, or a platform, and then consistently behave that way. It seems to me that Ricochet already operates pretty much as a platform, except maybe when they decide to delete things that they consider to be a “conspiracy theory” or whatever.

    It’s why I think it needs rewriting. It is too vague and political views should never be freely defined by a “platform” to fall outside common decency.

    The current manifestation is to vague and ripe for lawyering the words to mean what you want.

    It’s why i wouldn’t mind a contract form… require the platforms to be up front about what they will or will not moderate and then allow users to sue for breach of contract if they overstep.

    Of course, that also is open to abuse in writing contracts so obtuse that no one person can reasonably understand what they are signing. But i think we have some consumer protection laws to prevent that.

    Another thing I think you run into is the same old EULA problems with software, where the fine print says that you owe Microsoft your firstborn child – and every 3rd child thereafter – if you…  well, pretty much anything, really.  And maybe even if you DON’T…

    Nobody actually reads through all that gibberish, and really who can blame them?  They want whatever the software is supposed to do.  It’s easy to say “well if Microsoft makes their EULA too complex then just nobody buy it, problem solved” which isn’t going to happen either.

    I remember a series of Dilbert strips from years ago, where in order for Dilbert to cancel his subscription to AOL or whatever it was, the EULA required that he mount a ninja guerilla attack on AOL headquarters or something.

    • #21