Do the Big Tech companies act unconstitutionally when they censor social media they own and make sure views other than theirs have no chance?
Not really: they are private corporations, not government entities. They can publish whatever they please, the U.S. constitutional first amendment does not come into play here.
Does the fact that they co-ordinate their behaviours change the picture?
Absolutely, it does. That’s why they have anti-trust legislation in the United States.
Is their behaviour moral?
No question about that: no. If they claim to be social media, with all the financial advantages and tax considerations this status gives them, censorship on any pretence should be anathema to them. Taboo, even.
Why it took American lawmakers so long to decide they ought to look at some of the practices employed by (in alphabetical order) Facebook, Google and Twitter will remain a mystery until and unless some of them fail in their re-election bids and start writing their tell-all memoirs.
But, at least, they subpoenaed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, with a request that they explain their motivations and actions.
He says, she says
The lawmakers’ attitudes are split quite neatly and almost precisely along the party lines. One side claims it is necessary to stop spreading misinformation, meaning what the Big Tech are doing is socially useful. The other side insists they see too much of a discrepancy between supressing real fake news and removing real and legitimate news.
The latter group has a point: Twitter has gone to unprecedented lengths to make sure New York Post’s expose of the Biden family links to crime remained unexposed.
Considering that Twitter has from time to time removed from circulation messages sent out by the country’s sitting president, there’s not much reason to be surprised, shocked, even.
According to congressional records, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey went so far as to suggest that he would personally see to it that New York Post’s Twitter account be restored. But, they would have to remove the Biden crime story first.
This is called blackmail, and it happens to be a crime, under American penal code. Certainly, the line between negotiating tactic and blackmail is very fine, too fine, quite often, but in this case it seems to be clear: Twitter would change its ways on reasons that have nothing to do with business. Twitter simply prefers that its users aren’t aware of the allegations made in the New York Post story, no matter how well researched and double-checked it may be.
This kind of behaviour has had a strange side effect: it backfired. It helped the story spread across the country in a way New York Post could not anticipate, in a way that hurt the Biden family more than permission to spread it on Twitter would have.
It all started with the coronavirus scare: quite a few intelligent people knew they shouldn’t trust official figures that had been published without any checking. They also noticed that, even more irresponsibly, those figures were announced without any context and comparison. Logically enough, they began questioning the entire matter.
There were some who also remembered that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had changed its standards for determining spreads of diseases in a way that made those standards simply unusable. These people recalled that the European Union’s health commission, chaired by a German physician, Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg, inquired into this issue and established the change happened upon advice by some of the WHO’s medical experts, and that those experts would receive (and accept) lucrative offers from pharmaceutical companies had been involved in research (and also sales) of medications dealing with the so-called swine and bird flu.
Social media chiefs took note of the trend and started removing such posts, saying they were not in tune with official science. Anyone with an IQ at the level of normal room temperature would know that one of the main characteristics of each and every science is that it keeps developing: what is perfectly true today may be perfectly wrong tomorrow.
American legislators took notice only when they realized that there were in fact two issues: social media started censoring posts by experts in the field who had started adding their voices of concern, and the fear of artificial panic had become more politically pronounced: all of it was developing during American elections (not only presidential, but Congressional, also).
American lawmakers realized, as they put it, that this kind of censorship suppresses public involvement in democracy and distorts the free flow of information. It has not only become outright election interference: covering up reports on criminal activity, without regard of who has been accused, becomes a criminal act in and of itself, too.
What made matters worse was the fact that a Senate investigation into the New York Post allegations proved they had been factual.
The fact that most of social media so-called fact-checkers’ credentials lag badly behind credentials of those whom they are trying to silence has become a sidebar story.
American Big Tech social media outlets stand accused of crime.
Certainly, they will remain innocent until proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.
Except, it seems, they still haven’t grasped the gravity of the allegations that many are making against them.
And that’s the worst part of the deal.