It is generally accepted that because companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Alphabet (Google, YouTube, everything else) are private, they can suppress all the speech and exhibit as much (left-leaning) bias as they please.
As advocates for the free market, we tend to agree. Our Constitution is meant to protect us from government intrusions upon our natural rights. Private tyrannies are more than acceptable under most circumstances except where statutes take issue with selective discrimination (and conservative speech is not protected).
We have documented a few specific cases where this practice has limited us in ways that would never apply to other media outlets. Corporate venues can lie as much as they want without liberal-fact-checking inquisitors stomping on their digital footprints. It only means that we need to work a little harder to compete.
We’ve never balked at the idea of hard work. It’s actually a virtue we advocate.
But Gad Saad, writing at Townhall.com, suggests that this is all hogwash (not the hard work, the private speech suppression business). That the power and control these tech monsters wield is so large that it needs to be managed. And that the only way to do that is to treat them as public utilities. And while I’m not convinced it is ever a good idea to let the government regulate anything unless you want to make it expensive, scarce, and of declining quality (the quality of the abuse and corruption are always top shelf), this argument appeals.
As a libertarian, I am a fervent proponent of small government. I despise the never-ending and ever-increasing governmental encroachments into our daily lives. But it seems obvious that these online companies must be regulated as utilities. Just as your electricity or phone line is not shut off if the electric company or phone company doesn’t like what you say, social media platforms should not be in the business of monitoring and punishing speech.
This is a fantastic analogy, though not without risk. Leftists have been hounding banks and others to refuse business with groups whom they seek to ruin. What’s to stop them from wielding the identity politics totem like a cudgel on T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, or others?
Their status as utilities does not strike me as sturdy enough ground to protect us from their mob-tactics. But I do like the idea.
The power company can only restrict access to electricity when the viewpoint discriminated against is where you don’t think you have to pay your electric bill.
And while I would prefer to see an endless string of successful discrimination lawsuits enrich a series of litigants at the expense of these speech-policing douchebags, I doubt that path will bear much fruit. They have more money and more lawyers, and there’s still that bit about them being non-governmental entities.
Being willing sops to progressivism while a crime against humanity is not a crime against the state or the constitution, nor can it. Not if we are to hold to the values of our Republic. After all, corporate media has been providing billions in annual in-kind contributions to democrats and their priorities for decades, and we’d never suggest they be made into utilities, even though by all accounts they already are, for the Left.
So what is to be done?
Well, voting with your feet works. If enough people bailed on Facebook, it would lose billions in revenues and have to rethink the cost of its politics. That has not happened yet, nor does it appear likely anytime soon. And the only comfort we can take is that one day, if they get their way, the State will regulate their speech, and them, right out of profitability.
Maybe the utility idea isn’t so bad, after all.