It's time to address how social media giants are censoring Republicans
It was perhaps a year ago that Scott Adams, who was clearly in a grim mood when he made his podcast, predicted that Donald Trump would lose in 2020. The basis for his prediction was the fact that the tech giants, having allowed Trump to have free access to the American public during the 2016 election, were not going to make that mistake a second time.
For a while there, it appeared that Adams might have been wrong, but, as the race narrows to two men (Trump versus either Biden or Bernie), the tech giants are starting to put their thumbs on the scale. More than that, they're trying to erase Trump entirely from the world of social media.
On Monday night's Tucker Carlson show, Harmeet K. Dhillon, a superb legal mind and free speech advocate, spoke with Tucker about how Big Tech is using its extraordinary power to silence Trump and his supporters:
There's a mention of #Zerohedge as well -- permabanned for reporting politically inconvenient facts about #coronavirus -- we are allowing tech oligarchs to shelter truths about China from consumers, smile & call it capitalism when in fact it is propaganda dressed up nicely.— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) March 10, 2020
There's no doubt that part of Big Tech's sudden aggression is due to the 9th Circuit's ruling in Google's favor in the suit Dennis Prager filed against it. Prager claimed that Google is so big that it is tantamount to a public utility and, as such, must accommodate free speech under the First Amendment. The court disagreed, holding that no matter how big Google is, it's still a private entity.
There are steps that Congress can take — but it can take those steps only if Trump can override Big Tech's censorship to retake the White House and get a Republican Congress. The cart, ironically enough, must go before the horse.
Assuming a glorious Republican victory in 2020, the first thing Congress should do is repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This act immunizes online platforms for defamatory, fraudulent, or otherwise unlawful content that users put on those platforms. However, if the tech companies are going to control user content, then they're publishers and should not be immune to suit.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act offers another possible approach:
That act held that all Americans must have equal access to "public accommodations," meaning privately owned hotels and relating lodging places, restaurants and related food retailers, and movie houses and related public event venues. Obviously, social media sites are not contemplated under the act.
Tech giants, though, have become a public accommodation for ideas. They are the tech equivalent of the old-time public square. In the modern marketplace of ideas, people place their messages on social media. In 2020, these outlets have a virtual monopoly on the dissemination of information and ideas.
That there are several different entities in the world of social media and search engines — Facebook, Twitter, Bing, Google, etc. — does not change their monopolistic nature, because they all pull in the same harness. They are guided by and employ people who have identical cultural and political values. They are ideological bigots, every bit as hate-filled and narrow-minded as the old-time Jim Crow Southerners who closed their businesses to people because of their skin color.
While the Constitution did not talk about privately owned public accommodations, its underlying premises were enough to legitimize legislation ensuring that all Americans had equal access to those accommodations. What the Constitution does focus on is the world of ideas. That's what the First Amendment is all about.
Today's censorious tech giants, rather than retailing accommodations are in the business of selling and re-selling ideas. If they use their prejudices to bar classes of people, their monopolistic status means that the targeted class is out in the ideological cold.
If the government can break up monopolies in oil, in transport, in lodging, and in dining, it's inconceivable that it cannot break up a monopoly on the most important thing that matters: the free exchange of ideas and information. Indeed, one should not even need a law equivalent to the Civil Rights Act. Because the Constitution is about the spread of ideas, and because the tech giants are impairing the 21st-century method of spreading ideas, their behavior is a prima facie violation of the Constitution that can be stopped without legislation.