The Irony of Internet Censorship

When the Internet went public 30 years ago, its key purpose was to help people access and share information.

“The World Wide Web project merges the techniques of information retrieval and hypertext to make an easy but powerful global information system,” wrote Internet creator Tim Berner-Lee.

The Internet was always intended to facilitate the free exchange of information and ideas. Before Tim decided on the name “World Wide Web,” he considered titles such as “The Mine of Information” and “The Information Mesh.”

While the Internet has long since evolved past its original purpose, the World Wide Web continues to function as an invaluable source of information for the public. And while the government has long shied away from regulating that source, the public is now demanding the government step in to stop Big Tech’s censorship of conservative thought.

The Problem

While the media has long since abandoned objective reporting for partisan reporting, all one must to do learn the other side of the story is switch the television from CNN to Fox.

It doesn’t work the same way online, where search engines and social media sites can push conservative stories out of view without consequence.

Roughly 66% of Americans get their news through social media.

“By almost any measure the giant tech companies today are larger, and more powerful, than Standard Oil was when it was broken up,” says Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R). “And if we have tech companies using the powers of monopoly to censor political speech, I think that raises real antitrust issues.”

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act allows social media companies to remove any content they consider “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.”

But based on court rulings, Section 230 is giving social media companies the power to remove users and content for any reason.

Critics argue that sites like Facebook and Twitter should not be covered by Section 230 because they are not behaving as neutral forums.

“Both Facebook and Twitter are currently considered to be open ‘publishers’ under Section 230…which exempts them from legal liability for the content posted on their websites,” explains conservative magazine Human Events. “However, it’s hard to argue that they are acting merely as bystanding ‘publishers’ when they are in fact operating as the exact opposite – promoting the ideas, posts, and people they agree with by allowing them to be viewed on their platforms and censoring the ideas, posts, and people with whom they do not agree.”

Conservatives’ fight with Big Tech exploded in 2016 when social media companies were accused of filtering content related to the presidential election.

A key example is Google, which was caught prioritizing negative search results for Donald Trump and prioritizing positive search results for Hillary Clinton. Last month, an investigation by the Daily Caller revealed a Google “blacklist” that keeps ‘inappropriate’ content from appearing in special search features. The blacklist includes conservative websites Breitbart, American Spectator, and The Gateway Pundit.

This sort of speech suppression is the ultimate fall from grace for the World Wide Web, which should be doing its best to preserve the First Amendment.

The Solution

As Daily Caller contributor Alex Sears explains, conservatives are faced with a seemingly unsolvable problem: “How do we, as conservatives, handle a group of corporations – whose rules we agreed to – who are now stepping on our right to free speech?”

Of the few solutions to be presented, most favor a big government approach that is out of line with conservative principles. That leaves us with an impossible choice: Do we argue for zero regulation (thus paving the way for increased hate content and pornography) or do we swallow the pill and submit to terms and conditions that threaten freedom of speech?

 Mr. Sears has an idea that falls somewhere in the middle.

Social media companies rely on their users to generate profit, so it makes sense for those users to be compensated. What Sears has proposed is legislation that requires tech companies to compensate individuals who are banned from their platforms.

“Any person who is banned from a platform must be paid whatever money that platform made from their activity, and the banned user must also be provided with a list of places their data was sold,” writes Sears.

In May, Facebook expelled conservative users Paul Joseph Watson, Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer, Alex Jones, Louis Farrakhan, and Paul Nehlen.

“Reports are true. I have been banned by Facebook,” tweeted Watson, a right-leaning YouTube personality. “Was given no reason. I broke none of their rules. In an authoritarian society controlled by a handful of Silicon Valley giants, all dissent must be purged.”

The same month, Twitter banned a handful of conservatives including actor James Woods.

“How is it that James Woods is currently being banned on Twitter, but Jim Carrey is not? It’s certainly not any standard based on “hate,” wrote Senator Cruz. “Carrey’s latest Twitter ‘art’ shows Bill Barr drowning in a sea of vomit…How ‘bout we let everybody speak and the People decide?”

Under Sears’s proposal, Watson and Woods would receive compensation based on the money generated by their activity on Facebook and Twitter.

“This legislation would circumvent any terms document and give users more insight into the money-making aspect of social media,” explains Sears. “It would also allow companies to continue banning users but at a tangible cost.”

 Sears’s proposal is bipartisan by its very nature and would likely kick-start a campaign to introduce better solutions. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

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