Big Tech Is Violating The Constitution
We have long accepted the news media’s ability to influence public opinion by strategically deciding what could go on the airwaves and the cables.
The Federal Communications Commission strictly regulated broadcast news to ensure some semblance of fairness and balance. That was because they used the public airwaves.
At a time when the major broadcast networks – and the local affiliates – expressed opinion by means of television editorials, they were required to provide rebuttal time for opposing viewpoints. Although print media were not subject to fairness and balance, it was an ethical standard that kept news on the front page and opinion on the editorial page – which generally had columnists and writers, guest columnists and letters-to-the-editor expressing varying viewpoints.
Cable television changed all that.
As a subscriber service, they did not have to be fair and balanced. They did not have to present varying viewpoints. Consequently, opinion drove out news. While the major cable channels anachronistically refer to themselves as “news services,” they are not. Networks such as MSNBC and CNN have become so one-sided that they have evolved into 24/7 propaganda vehicles for the Democratic Party – with emphasis on the radical left.
(The sound you hear is the radical left jumping up and down because I did not mention FOX News. There is a reason for that. By any objective analysis, FOX provides a broader news coverage and opportunities for both sides of an issue. It provides truly informative debates during the news programs. Yes, they have Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson as editorialists during the evening hours. But the news programs report in a more balanced manner than their daytime competitors.)
Now we have a new phenomenon sired by the Internet – social media. The various social media platforms offer something that has never been possible in all human history – world-wide communication on an individual or group basis. It was the fulfillment of our First Amendment beyond anything imaginable by our nation’s Founders.
But then the Big Tech social media oligarchs moved in on the technology.
Claiming that as a private business, they could control content – not just truly dangerous talk – but anything that did not comply with their narrow partisan and philosophic political views.
The most dynamic communication form in human history is being constricted to a propaganda-only outlet. Big Tech decided that they would determine truth even over issues where there is diversity of opinion. In other words, they decided that THEIR opinion is truth.
Using a one-sided left-wing matrix, they started banning predominantly – almost exclusively – conservative and Republican speech. Big Tech started silencing and kicking off organizations and political figures critical to a robust debate in a free Republic. That is not much different than how China controls the public by controlling the message.
Those who own and control the modern social platforms always fall back on the fact that they are private corporations and can do as they please. Not so. Corporations must also comply with the Constitution. They cannot deny constitutional rights.
If you own an apartment building, you can not deny renting to a person because they are Black, gay or a Republican. And yes, that has happened. If you own a restaurant, you may deny service to customers without shoes or shirt, but not to Jews, Muslims or women.
In the days of “Ma Bell,” our telephone system could not deny service to folks in California. It could not “listen in” and censor what one person said to another. The Bell System was a private business heavily regulated in terms of Constitutional rights.
When a business is a “public accommodation” the Constitution generally applies. In terms of utilities, we call it a “common carrier” – meaning subject to the Constitution.
It seems the solution is simple.
Allow free speech to be unrestricted other than under the laws we currently have on the books to control what a person may say out loud in public. We are not allowed to slander or incite violence. Although both are very hard to prove in a court of law.
That is because the Constitution provides a wide berth for even offensive or inaccurate language. Having an opinion that is unpopular – even extremely unpopular – or wrong does not provide a basis for censorship.
I would have no problem if Big Tech had no liability for what people say. We have sufficient laws to prosecute individuals for slander – or inciting to riot. If a person were to slander another at a meeting held in a hotel, we do not sue the hotel. That standard should apply to social platforms so that they have no excuse to censor speech.
Using the established legal structure controlling a “public accommodation” (Amazon?) or a “common carrier” utility (Facebook?), we can protect our constitutional rights against usurpation by mega corporate giants and Big Tech. We did it before in the form of “trust busting.”
And what about those cable so-called news shows that argue that they are exempt from most FCC regulations because they are a “subscriber” industry. What about the electric or gas companies? Aren’t they subscriber based? Can they refuse to service folks with a Trump or Biden lawn sign? Me thinks not.
I am a First Amendment extremist.
I object to any laws or rules that deny any American the right to speak freely – even stating opinions with which I may strongly disagree, or some may find insulting. Some may wonder why a conservative would support laws to regulate private businesses. That is because there is a critical difference between laws and rules that arbitrarily restrict our constitutional rights – and laws that protect them from restriction by others.
In that spirit, it is time for the oppressive monopolistic practices of the humongous social platforms and Internet enterprises to be curtailed in their roles as censors.
So, there ‘tis.