For some years now, many on the right have studiously avoided looking at what was going on with social media. As social media companies ratcheted down the ability of anyone to oppose the conventional, and invariably leftist, wisdom, all we heard was “muh private company.” The idea is that if a private monopoly prevents speech on any subject, that’s fine because they are a private company and conservative, you know, worship at the altar of private property and free enterprise. The solution has always been something along the lines of “if you don’t like how they operate, start your own social media platform.” You’d think that by now, given the difficulties faced by Parler, TruthSocial, and other would-be competitors, the folly of that flippant statement would be evident.
It was apparent at an early stage that social media was using its power to interfere in political campaigns. Federal election law requires broadcast outlets to offer candidates for federal office their best price for ads, and they are forbidden to censor candidate ads. So when a very attractive conservative candidate of Cambodian heritage ran a political ad showing a few frames of the horror of the Communist Khmer Rouge killing fields, Facebook banned her ad (Facebook Blocks Republican Candidate Ad for Daring to Show Horrors of Communism, Republican Candidate’s Ad Again Banned From Social Media and We’re Supposed to Think It Is an Accident). By the same token, in 2018, Facebook approved an ad by the North Dakota Democrat Party on behalf of then-Senator Heidi Heitkamp that warned hunters that they would lose their deer license if they voted (Facebook Verifies Bogus Ad Designed to Suppress GOP Turnout in North Dakota). If you aren’t a liberal Democrat, this kind of hijinks is called a felony. In 2019, Twitter temporarily banned Senator Mitch McConnell because his campaign account showed left-wing protesters wishing death on him and his wife (Twitter Shuts Down Mitch McConnell’s Campaign Account Because They Didn’t Like Him Making the Left Look Bad).
During the COVID panic, all social media platforms fell in lockstep behind the constantly changing and usually bogus information disseminated by Anthony Fauci and his posse. Any disagreement or questioning of governmental actions brought down immediate retaliation.
Fine, you say, the social media companies were just following their natural progressive and anti-freedom impulses, and they are private companies and not the government, so we should support their suppression of free speech, which is at least as much a blessing of liberty as the drag queen story hour at your local daycare center.
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During the infancy of commercial radio, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover observed:
It cannot be thought that any single person or group shall ever have the right to determine what communication may be made to the American people. … We cannot allow any single person or group to place themselves in a position where they can censor the material which shall be broadcasted to the public.
But, of course, we’re much wiser now, and what did he know anyway?
In the past couple of weeks, additional information has come to light that indicates the social media conglomerates are not acting as free agents but are acting as agents of the federal government. This is a significant development.
In the late-fifties, a Rhode Island state commission on obscenity would tell a major book distributor serving the state which books they had found to be “obscene, indecent or impure language, or manifestly tending to the corruption of the youth.” Based on that communication, the book distributor would block the books from being sold in Rhode Island. The US Supreme Court ruled that even though it was a private company, not the government, preventing the distribution of the books, the government was using the company as a government agent. The purpose of this was to allow the government to do by “advising” the company rather than a process open to court challenge and therefore violated the Fourteenth Amendment.
Last year one of my favorite authors, Alex Berenson, was banned from Twitter because he publicized opinions and scientific papers against the COVID hysteria. He had the resources to pursue a legal case against Twitter and was reinstated after most of the controversy over COVID had abated. As part of the legal process, Berenson received in discovery emails from Biden’s White House to Twitter directing that Berenson be banned because of the problems he was causing them, see Journalist Alex Berenson Busts Biden Team, Says WH Demanded that Twitter Ban Him. The fact that Berenson had operated before the email and was banned after the mail seems to indicate that Twitter acted at the behest of the Biden White House to silence an influential critic.
During the 2020 election, the epic story of Hunter Biden’s laptop, complete with Russian hookers, crack smoking, and underage girls, blew up. Twitter banned all references to the story. They went so far as to shut down the New York Post’s Twitter account for promoting its own frontpage story (Twitter Admits to Blocking NY Post Story Regarding Hunter Biden — Might the Supreme Court Have Interest?) and silence President Trump’s campaign Twitter account (Unreal: Now Twitter Has Shut Down the Main Trump Campaign Account Over the Hunter Biden Story) over its mention. That could, given a very dim light, look like an action by a private company. Then Facebook honcho Mark Zuckerberg gave an interview with Joe Rogan in which this fiasco was discussed (Smoking Gun: Mark Zuckerberg Makes Big Admission to Joe Rogan About FBI, Censorship, and Hunter Biden).
In the interview, Zuckerberg admits the FBI approached Facebook about censoring mentioning the Hunter Biden notebook because it was “disinformation.” Zuckerberg says, as though this was heroic restraint on his part, that Facebook elected to use an algorithm to make it difficult to share stories about the Hunter Biden notebook rather than banning it altogether. In the interview, he seems to confirm that an FBI visit also drove Twitter’s actions.
It is difficult to fathom a scenario in which the only two times federal agencies have intervened with social media companies to quash the flow of information in the United States were Berenson’s ban and the crackdown to suppress news of Hunter Biden’s laptop. In fact, the whole COVID crackdown now looks much more like a government information operation than a bunch of high-strung, magenta-haired, tongue-pierced, gender-questioning SJWs going rabid-Karen on us. If social media companies restrict information flow based on the federal government’s request, it has to stop. A request by the FBI or the White House is not trivial, as they can imprison you and shut down your business if you ignore their demands. We conservatives need to understand we are approaching a stage of proto-fascism where large private companies are working as an arm of the government to do things the government cannot. The only way it stops is with a Congress and a Justice Department that is ready to break these giant corporations up and with a president who is prepared to put in jail and financially ruin the people who interfered with the information available to the American people.
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