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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Ann Coulter is Wrong on Controlling Facebook, Twitter and Google


By Michael S. Rozeff
Ann Coulter says
“We need to apply the First Amendment to social media companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google, because it is a public square, and there is precedent for that and it’s gotta be done…”
I present arguments against her suggestion. I realize fully that these companies have important connections to government including contracts, data sharing and products being developed that further the surveillance state. My argument against Coulter’s suggestion is pertinent to speech, which was her concern, not these other links.
Coulter is speaking out of emotion, confusion, needless desperation and ignorance.
The First Amendment restricts Congress. It cannot be “applied” to speech on social media company platforms or to these companies themselves. They are not government. They are private associations. A corporation is a nexus of contracts accomplished by private persons. Her suggestion is impractical, unconstitutional and anti-freedom.
Coulter is actually calling for the government to enforce diversity of speech within these companies. Her diversity agenda is directed to speech, not other matters like hiring; but it’s no different in kind than the government controls that leftists demand when they advocate diversity or extend the idea of non-discrimination into areas where it doesn’t belong.
What Coulter wants is actually not free speech but its opposite, which is “fair” access to speech on social media platforms or “equal opportunity” to speak on these platforms. She wants non-discrimination by these media among those proffering speech. This is not free speech as exercised by the companies. A media platform or site or operation would not be allowed to shape a social communications product adhering to a given non-diverse or exclusive viewpoint. Coulter’s suggestion rules out companies devoted on political matters to particular audiences. There could not be companies devoted to conspiracy theories, fascist ideas, communist ideas, conservative ideas, progressive ideas, socialist ideas, etc. Diversity in speech enforced by government is not free speech at all, whether based upon the First Amendment or any other amendment or provision.
Coulter’s suggestion is akin to Elizabeth Warren’s proposal that government end existing corporate ownership and control structures and replace them with government-mandated structures. Coulter wants government to regulate, which means control, the products of these companies. Facebook is very clear that it wants to provide a certain kind of product. Read its community standards to discover that fact. It could not be more obvious that Facebook is defining its product via these standards. It’s defining its product by censoring users, which is putting the standards into practice. If Facebook decides to create a product that only leftists want to read or that’s biased against conservatives, that is its business and its right.
Coulter waves the First Amendment at us because it is so sacred to American political life and it almost seems logical to apply it against these companies that are discriminating against certain kinds of speech. However, the First Amendment rationale only obscures what her suggestion really means, which is government control of social media and their communications. It would be a big step in the totalitarian direction, which means it’s anti-freedom, the exact opposite of what Coulter seems to want in her advocacy of free speech.
Coulter cries “crisis”, which is the usual gimmick to get increased government control: “We are facing a crisis in free speech, right now. The left has control of the mainstream media, Hollywood, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, the schools k through 12, [and] the universities.”
The left doesn’t control Coulter, obviously. It doesn’t control the internet. The left doesn’t control what people experience and think. Narratives, stories, biased education, propaganda and all the rest have limits when people encounter reality. Soviet control or attempts to control information failed. People talk. They gossip. They see. They hear. They resist. They form their own opinions.
New or alternative platforms for expression will arise. New internet linkages will form. As long as people can express themselves, there will be no “crisis in free speech”. There is a temporary dislocation going on, but it will be overcome. There’s no crisis. There is every reason to avoid bringing government into this matter.
Plenty of companies have had bad leadership and gone down the tubes. If Facebook and Twitter are destroying their own franchises by censorship, let them. If they are enhancing value by censorship, let them.
If you restrict your notion of speech to what is said over CNN or other branded sites, you may panic at not hearing the views you consider true; but they are by no means the universe of discourse. Anyone who wants to hear or locate opinions or analyses that satisfy them can find them, or can invent them.

The above originally appeared at LewRockwell.com

12 comments:

  1. As I understand it The First Amendment only protects people from prosecution at the hands of the government for speech. It doesn’t compel private companies to permit all forms of expression on their property.

    Interestingly, conservatives seemed to possess a keen understanding of this nuance during the NFL anthem protests. Not sure what caused them to forget...

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    Replies
    1. The NFL is paid by the government to promote patriotism, the military, and so on. They just want what they pay for.

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    2. The government can pay whatever it wants. It can't compel speech, without violating the Consfitution.

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    3. The power of the customer compels you. That alone you should understand Torres. But beyond that, it's the government.

      The government has paid the NFL in dollars and probably various crony regulatory protections along with stadiums, road improvements, etc for a show of patriotism. That's not even counting the secondary factors that help the NFL's bottom line. The NFL would have all sorts of issues without its various subsidies.

      If a private business gets in bed with the government the government then compels them. It's that simple. If the NFL didn't want the government compelling them it shouldn't have gotten so cozy with it.


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    4. Re: Jimmy Joe Meeker

      --- The power of the customer compels you. That alone you should understand Torres. ---

      What does that have to do with anything?

      --- The government has paid the NFL in dollars and probably various crony regulatory protections along with stadiums, road improvements, etc for a show of patriotism. ---

      Sure, and if that same government feels cheated, the government can take the NFL to court to seek restitution. But the government cannot compel a person to do speech without violating the constitution. Stop avoiding that point.

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    5. The customer getting what it paid for is key here because the government's leverage here is entirely with the exchange the NFL has with government. The NFL doesn't want to live without what it gets from government.

      Oh now you move the goal posts to "violating the constitution". The constitution does not protect the NFL from the contracts they sign with government. I haven't heard of a single instance where the government is going to "violate the constitution" on the NFL but rather use the leverage it has over the NFL because the NFL sought the goodies only government could provide it. That's the government's power over the NFL. Otherwise the NFL could tell the government to get stuffed. But the NFL needs the government to make its life easier and cheaper on many levels.

      Without the business protections, stadium deals, eminent domain, and more the political office holders would have to resort to more typical forms of coercion like public safety violations and not approving permits. It would also leave the federal government entirely powerless over the NFL without digging through the federal code to find something to charge the NFL with. Even then that would simply be selective enforcement and scrutiny, not a technical violation of the constitution. If that's a violation of the constitution then so are the efforts against Trump.

      The moral of the NFL story is don't make deals with the government.

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    6. What are you talking about "moving the goalposts"? I said the same thing above, two days ago. Read the older post above. And you're still avoiding the point: who told the government it can compel speech? I qgree with you that the NFL shouldn't get in bed with government (no one should, it's folly) but even if the NFL becomes the government's mistress doesn't mean that compulsory speech is acceptable.

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    7. I replied to Evan. You replied to me and moved the goalposts to the constitution. I gave you the benefit of the doubt the first time and simply explained.

      Government compels speech through contract all the time. There are people in prison for violating contracts they signed with the government regarding what they could or could not say. The use of contract to get people to cede constitutionally protected rights is one of the oldest methods the federal and state governments has been using. Look at some of the contracts government employees sign. Violate them and they may end up in prison. Even the whistle blower protections do not protect people who violate those contracts. These contracts have never been ruled a violation of the constitution as far as I know.

      With the NFL the government isn't even going that far. It is simply leveraging the benefits it provides the NFL. The NFL has their free speech and not compelled or prohibited in it if it is willing to live without the benefits provided to it by government. It can tell the government to pound sand if it wants, but it will lose the government benefits as a result. It's that simple. If they want their freedom they need to break up with the government. The only compulsion they face is their addiction to subsidy.

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  2. First of all, I cant stand Ann Coulter. Let me get that out of the way.
    Secondly, her idea on this subject are not well thought out and needs work to meet all the differing circumstances.

    However, these companies are effectively the government. If not overtly working with the government, they are so influenced by government so as to be the same. As much as I believe in the sanctity of private companies being able to act without gov interference, when the entities posses such a monopoly so as to constitute an entity that can effectively deny peoples speech, there should be action.

    The left never had any problems with the civil rights act, telling private employers who they could hire. Why are they now so hesitant to do the same in defense of free speech?

    The constitution is under attack by the cleverest of forces.

    Things are not as they appear.

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  3. So let me get this right, John. Because these companies are essentially the government, we need the government to get involved?
    It’s amazing to me that people actually trust the government to “get involved” and expect a good to come from it.
    That’s happened when?

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  4. She like most people in this country wants to treat symptom. End the fed and all other the government driven support these companies used to become these huge platforms and maintain their position as such. Once that is done the free speech issue will fix itself.

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  5. These companies ought to abide by their terms of service. If they announce that they are a neutral forum, then they should act like it. They are free to propound terms of service announcing that their platforms exist solely for the purpose of spreading SJW idiocy and warning that anything or anyone which hints at opposing those purposes will be deleted forthwith. Their terms of service presently proclaim that the services are neutral forums.

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