There’s nothing shocking to this story, but it is disturbing nonetheless. Vox recently interviewed Democratic presidential candidates regarding their positions on a slew of important issues. One of the topics under discussion was online speech. In a piece titled: “Should social media companies be legally responsible for misinformation and hate speech? 2020 Democrats weigh in,” Vox published the responses that each candidate provided.
Judging by their answers, it’s clear that allowing any of these individuals to obtain power would be dangerous to the First Amendment.
Let’s start with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). He argued that social media companies should be held responsible for “dangerous activity” that can be blamed on them. “Tech giants and online platforms should not be shielded from responsibility when they knowingly allow content on their platforms that promotes and facilitates violence,” he said. “Section 230 was written well before the current era of online communities, expression, and technological development, so [I] will work with experts and advocates to ensure that these large, profitable corporations are held responsible when dangerous activity occurs on their watch, while protecting the fundamental right of free speech in this country and making sure right-wing groups don’t abuse regulation to advance their agenda.”
The key part of Sanders’ statement is the notion that social media companies should be punished if someone uses their platform to publish content that “promotes and facilitates violence.” Anyone familiar with the First Amendment knows that it is already illegal to engage in speech that incites violence.
But if you read between the lines, you know that the hard left has a different definition of inciting violence than the rest of us. To them, speech is violence. It’s easy to see how this could punish people who express normal non-leftist views under the guise of preventing incitements to violence.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was no better. She argued that companies shouldn’t be allowed to profit from hate speech. “I condemn hate speech and I believe we should be able to hold people accountable for their words,” she began. Later in her response, she said:
“Big tech companies cannot continue to hide behind free speech while profiting off of hate speech and disinformation campaigns. That’s why I’ve called out Facebook for operating as a disinformation-for-profit machine and why I’m committed to unwinding Facebook’s anti-competitive mergers and cracking down on practices that allow the company to undermine our democracy.”
Only on the hard left would someone think it sensible to protect democracy by infringing on freedom of expression. Speaking of disinformation-for-profit machines, does Sen. Warren plan to target establishment media outlets that routinely lies to the American public?
Mayor Pete Buttigieg used the El Paso shooting to support his anti-speech stance. It’s an interesting departure from the norm, isn’t it? Usually, progressives use mass shootings to attack the Second Amendment, not the first. “The El Paso shooting, following on so many others, has highlighted the role of online platforms in spreading hate,” he said. Then, he promised that his administration would “engage with social media and other online platforms to advance new tools and best practices, including appropriate terms of service, for limiting the spread of hateful ideology and of targeted harassment of individuals.”
Buttigieg also echoed the sentiments of those who criticize companies like Facebook for allowing political ads on their platforms without regulating them. “As president, I will also work to close the digital ad loophole, including by requiring clear disclosure of the purchaser of online political ads and any entities they are acting on behalf of.”
Then, there was Andrew Yang — who replaced Beto O’ Rourke as the skateboarding candidate. He too claimed that the government must play a role in dealing with “hate speech.” He said:
“Last year, a research study found that 6 percent of Twitter accounts identified as bots were responsible for 31 percent of the misinformation on the website, and algorithms are designed to elevate polarizing and inciting information. We need to address these issues with the tech companies in order to combat the rise of misinformation and hate speech.”
Yang doesn’t indicate how the state should deal with “misinformation and hate speech.” But it’s likely to look like what others on the left have suggested when it comes to suppressing what they deem to be “hate speech.”
Michael Bennet, who is still in the race for some reason, also suggested that Section 230 should be altered in a way that empowers the government to take a more active role in policing speech. “Section 230 may have made sense in the earliest years of the internet, but it makes little sense for a time when tech companies are some of the wealthiest and most powerful on the planet,” he said. “We should modernize Section 230 to reflect current realities.”
So there you have it. The Democratic presidential frontrunners have a plan to tamp down on free speech on social media. But we already knew this was coming, right? With all of the recent attacks on free speech under the guise of preventing incitement to violence, it seems inevitable. Right now, two ideological forces are fighting for the country: Liberty and Socialism. The fight over speech is just one battle in the overall conflict.
Socialism seeks to stifle independence and resistance. Limiting what people can say is essential to statism. Bear in mind that the hard left will not stop with “hate speech,” if they get their way. One only has to look at statist societies in Europe to predict the slippery slope. They will start by regulating social media companies. But it’s not unreasonable to assume that they will continue until the state can imprison people for expressing the wrong views.
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