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Big Tech Is Violating The Constitution

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.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.

11 Comments

  1. Ben

    Larry. Couple of things.
    The first amendment refers to the governments ability to censor and punish speech. NOT private business. Think of your speech as a gay wedding cake and the internet as a baker… I bet you have a slightly different view of things now ?
    Next, trump campaigned on removing the section of the fcc bylaws that protected providers from being held liable for things posted on their sites. You ever stop to think that may have had some influence on a private business being careful about what they allow on their sites?
    Let’s not forget, Reagan eliminated the fairness doctrine.

    Reply
    • Larry P Horist

      You lose the bet. It is the law that makes such distinctions. For example, if you own a 100 unit apartment building, you may not discriminate in accepting tenants. But if you have a three unit building in which you live in one of the units, you can discriminate. If you read my commentary carefully, you see that I believe that the tech companies should not be held libel for what appears on the platform … so that they have no reason to censor any language. Of course, the usual laws of slander, etc, would apply to the people posting.

      And you seem to think that conservatism and Republicanism are synonymous .. or that all conservatives agree on all issues. I disagree with Trump pulling out of Afghanistan in the way he did. I do not like tariffs. I thought Reagan would have vetoed the congressional Democrat big spending budget.

      Reply
      • Ben

        Larry, so you are ok with discrimination as long as it’s on a small scale? Ok. I am not.
        You are correct, Not all conservatives are Republicans, but a vast majority of Republicans are conservative. Of course there may be certain points within a political platform that one may not totally agree with, but you compromise to get other things that you strongly believe in. You may not believe the tech companies should be held liable for postings on their platform, but the President you voted for twice, does. Surely you recognize the concern of tech companies when the President of the United States threatens them with liability. And even if you didn’t, you’d have to stay intellectually consistent by acknowledging it may be their firmly held beliefs that allowing hate speech, racist rants, disinformation, or threats is not in their best interests. A terms of service, if you will.

        A lot of what is posted by readers on your site is absolute garbage. If I had an apartment building , be it 3 units or 100, and Nam Vet was in my yard yelling the N word and insulting other tenants while pushing nonsense conspiracy theories, you bet your butt I’d throw him out of his apartment for violating the code of conduct he checked yes to when he signed the lease.
        You ok with that? Or not?
        Thanks for responding. This site is WAYYYY more fun when you engage your readers. Thanks for paying for my email. It’s been loads of entertainment.

        Reply
  2. Joe S Bruder

    You write: “By any objective analysis, FOX provides a broader news coverage and opportunities for both sides of an issue.” Obviously, you’re not objective, since pretty much everyone knows that FOX is totally slanted toward supporting the right/Republican/Conservative propaganda. I would dispute your characterization of the other networks, but I don’t really care to debate you on that (and don’t care about your opinion). But, you’re basically starting our your editorial with a lie, and embellishing from there (as you often do).

    And as the last commenter pointed out, the Constitution only tells Congress what it can and can’t legislate. That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for things that businesses or people say or write. It also doesn’t guaratee that people have to listen to your viewpoints. That fact that Republicans and so-called Conservatives have become irrelevant and shunned has nothing to do with free speech – Republicans haven’t offered any useful programs in the last 20 years, and Biden’s programs have been overwhelmingly popular. People are voting with their feet, and if they’re not listening to Republicans, that’s not because of free speech, it’s because the Republicans have no policies (except for supporting wealthy corporations).

    Your own website has been known to take people’s posts down. Are you violating free speech? No, you’re taking down posts that disagree with your viewpoint and might alienate your readship, taking down speech that could be considered dangerous or threatening, or protecting your website from some sort of legal jeopardy. Your website is a private company, and nobody tells you what you can and can’t print (although you can be liable for false statements or inciting illegal behavior.)

    You have a problem with “monopolies” limiting your speech? Hmmm, Republicans have weakened antitrust laws and appointed pro-business judges who limit monopoly prosecutions (in order to further the interests of large corporations). Now you pay for it when they turn on you. You have a problem with cable and media? I do believe it was Republicans that eliminated the fairness doctrine for broadcasting. Republicans are starting to reap what they sowed. Your speech isn’t censored, it’s just being ignored.

    You want a REALLY simple solution? Become relevant again, and maybe people will start listening to Republicans again. Until then, expect to be ignored (not censored!)

    Reply
    • Larry P Horist

      Bruder … It is obvious that you have never done an objective analysis of the news coverage on the cable networks. You would find that FOX provides more time for opposing views and puts on more individuals with opposing views than CNN and MSNBC.. Take our your stopwatch and do your own analysis. If you have any intellectual integrity, you will find that FOX is more balanced than CNN and especially MSNBC. But I fear that you lack the intellectual integrity to do that. It seems that you prefer bloviating from the mendacious narratives you so uncritically embrace.

      And for a guy who does not care about my opinion, you sure have a lot of responses. Perhaps you could show your lack of care by ignoring what I say. After all, I generally ignore your baseless rebuttals. I only respond when I have a little time to waste — and that is not very often.

      Reply
  3. Ben

    Larry,
    I’m actually with conservatives on this subject. I say let capitalism speak. The people will make their will known. If the consumer believes Big Tech is not in line with their values, they will finically punish the business. In other words, “ corporations are people too, my friend”, and if the people believe corporations are not serving their interest they will “woke” them into submission.
    It’s the American way!

    Reply
  4. Rat Wrangler

    I agree with your assessment that we should not be charging social media sites for content they post, but do not create. I’ve never felt it was OK to kill the messenger as long as he delivered the message accurately. On the other hand, you say in your article that “we have sufficient laws to prosecute individuals for slander…”, but that is only true for people with excess money. Some states have limited criminal slander offenses, but the Federal government does not. A poorer person, working paycheck to paycheck, cannot afford to hire a lawyer to sue the kid down the street that is cyberbullying his child with provable falsehoods, possibly leading to suicide. What we should do is move slander and libel from the civil courts and over to the criminal courts. That way, poor people simply have to take evidence of provable slander or libel to the police, and the law will take care of it. Once a few politicians and social media posters are arrested and either jailed or fined, people will become less callous about throwing damaging falsehoods around.

    Reply
  5. JoeyP

    LOCK up the CEOs, and SHUT down their business, by SUING them into POVERTY. One Enlightened Patriot. Team Trump And His Allies 2020 – MAGA (WE’RE NOT going away!).

    Reply
    • Ben

      Joey, so much for the limited government mantra

      Reply
  6. Martin

    Mr. Horist,
    Thank you for taking the time to publish this, but I respectfully disagree that by limiting speech on their platforms, Big Tech is violating the 1st. I do think, however, that by doing so they become publishers instead of mere content aggregators. So, if they decide to censor for political content (anything short of speech deemed illegal, riot incitement, slander, etc.), they become liable for content. I don’t think they should be able to have it both ways. If they decide to limit what Trump can say or even some neo-nazi nut job, they suddenly become responsible for all the content on their site and let the lawsuits commence. Or they can limit their liability by allowing “offensive” speech on their sites. I don’t think there really is a strict 1st Amendment argument here though.
    Respectfully yours,
    –Martin

    Reply
  7. Rivahmitch

    Sorry but I fully agree with none of the above. IMHO, every on-line company providing a vehicle for the public to express their thoughts should be required by the government to make a one-time irrevocable decision to be either (1) a Platform with no control over or liability for 3rd party content; or (2) An Editor with editorial control and liability for their handling of 3rd party content. Once that decision is made, users may choose those on which they spend their efforts.

    Reply

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