The left’s bias isn’t easy to hide. Whether in the mainstream media or online in social media platforms, the left is unabashed about their ideological leanings and seems to care very little about your opinions on the matter. When big-tech CEO’s can sit in front of Congress and state that that bias isn’t a part of any decision-making process, you can take it to the bank they are lying.
Often, websites and social media companies hide behind Section 230, a little known part of the Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity from liability regarding the information contained on those websites and social media platforms. Essentially, it is a mutual agreement between the Government and those companies, that in exchange for the elimination of the potential of regulation of the material contained on these websites, that Congress will grant these companies immunity from liability regarding the information contained on those websites. In other words, in exchange for the freedom and openness of the forum, those companies would be immune from suits regarding any questionable or offensive content.
While the libertarian (small L intentionally) in me suggests that agreeing to no regulation is in itself, a form of regulation, Section 230 is clear in stating that it’s purpose is indeed to allow for free and open communications:
“The Internet and other interactive computer services offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development, and myriad avenues for intellectual activity.”
However, once a company decides to eliminate the very basis by which they gain access to Section 230 protections, we enter into a problem. Sure, they are private companies that are free to regulate and edit based upon their own terms of service and operational guidelines. They cannot, however, hide behind a protection, granted on the basis those services are to remain free and open and act in a manner which would otherwise have them facing legal repercussions for their actions. In other words, they want their cake and to eat it too.
Certainly, there are those on the left who would take statements made online by President Donald Trump, as violent or as an escalation. We have, however, seen members of the left make statements of escalation, absent any punishment from social media companies. The protections offered in Section 230 regarding restricting access are not for the social media companies, but for filtering companies, who want to provide software to people who wish to filter the internet available to them and their families, from offensive or violent material. Social media companies again wish to have the standards which give them the ability to platform any content absent liability for that content, as well as the ability to filter the content as they see fit. They wish to be both immune from the content, as well as maintain the role of publisher, with all of its accompanying privileges of editorial control.
With Big-Tech’s move over the last several days, handing out permabans to those of their choosing, they may themselves have removed themselves from the liabilities associated with Section 230 protections. For instance, one can be free from the threat of legal consequences of slander or libel, simply by adhering to the truth. The truth is the absolute defense of any slanderous statements. Social media companies essentially want those protections, while knowingly publishing false statements from others. It obviously shouldn’t work that way.
Had Twitter or Facebook had a policy that was universally applied to all Twitter users, their argument may be sound, and would likely still entitle them to Section 230 protections. The problem is that they want to be able to discriminate at will, absent the liability associated with doing so because they believe they have the right to protection from liability. Because of their discriminatory choices, for instance, of allowing violent threats to circle their forums from Iranian and Chinese propaganda machines, but yet, deny that same right (regardless if you believe it to be equal or not) from the President of the United States, is, in my opinion, removing them from the definitions of an “interactive computer service.” Instead, they become a publisher or an organization that provides edited information based upon their own biases and desires. If that is what Twitter and Facebook want, by all means, they should be entitled to do with their businesses as they see fit, but they should also, at the same time, not be able to hide behind a government enabled immunity.
Section 230 even provides for a section regarding illegal activity on the internet. If the President made a specific threat, which is an illegal action, that could have been turned over to law enforcement for investigation and prosecution. The problem is that the social media companies are defining what is a threat, and simply state they perceive Trump’s rhetoric to be so, not that it actually qualifies as such. This also is another example of editorial control, as they have redefined, beyond the legal definition that could be prosecuted, what a threat is. Again, this sets up these companies from self-denial of the protections contained in Section 230.
In fact, Section 230 states that the goal is “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal and State regulation. Now, these companies want to argue that although they are free of Federal and State regulation, they are free to regulate their own services as they see fit, essentially rendering those services outside of the free market. When Amazon unilaterally decides that Parler is not entitled to the protections from Section 230, but they are in denying Parler those same protections, they are in a way, invalidating their own access to the protections. Sure they are free to choose with whom they do business, but they cannot suggest that they are a part of a “vibrant and competitive free market” while denying services to a firm, which is also protected from liability within Section 230.
Is Parler not an “interactive computer service?” Are they not entitled to the protections of Section 230? If they are, and I want to be very thorough here, WHAT GIVES APPLE, GOOGLE, AMAZON, OR ANY OTHER INTERNET ACCESS PROVIDER THE RIGHT TO DETERMINE THAT THEY NEED TO EDIT, DELETE OR OTHERWISE CONTROL THE CONTENT ON PARLER, WHEN THE STANDARD ISN’T THE SAME FOR OTHERS? Again, they want to be able to hide behind Section 230 protections to deny another company of their own right to Section 230 protections. It is certainly cowardice if not criminal.
I imagine many arguments are going to be made in the coming months and days regarding this, however, a challenge to their Section 230 immunities likely won’t end well for them. This is the silencing of political opposition, full stop. Unfortunately, I don’t know if the Government has the power to stop them, or that the liberals in control of the Executive and Legislative branches will even want to do anything about it, as they are benefitting from this. Either way, it is time we re-tool Section 230.