My column in The Hill discusses the call of Democrats for greater censorship on the Internet. As someone who was raised in a liberal Democratic family in Chicago, I am still mystified by the conversion of the Democratic Party into an anti-free speech party, including demands for limiting speech on the Internet and social media. Yet, days after various Democratic Senators called for greater censorship from big tech companies, Twitter added another attack on free speech with the blocking of the account of acting Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Mark Morgan. Morgan had tweeted on the success of new wall installed around the Southern Border.
There is clearly a reasonable basis to disagree with Morgan’s tweet stating “Every mile helps us stop gang members, murderers, sexual predators and drugs from entering our country.” One can challenge how undocumented persons are stereotyped or the real threat posed along the border. It is a matter of good-faith disagreement. However, that is the point. This is an opinion held by one of the top officials in our government. Twitter has again decided that citizens should not be able to hear or read such views. It is no longer supplying a neutral platform for the free exchange of views, but a biased regulation of approved speech.
I have supported those attacking the immigration policies of the Administration as much as those praising it. It is all an exercise in free speech. Yet, many work harder to silence opposing voices than responding to them. Equally concerning is the silence of academic and political figures against such anti-free speech campaigns. Indeed, as we saw in the recent hearing, many leading politicians have joined the movement to crackdown on dissenting voices on the Internet.
The action taken against Morgan is blatant viewpoint discrimination by a private tech company. Even if you want censorship on the Internet, how is this view that the wall works demonstrably or presumptively wrong? It is an opinion shared by almost half of the country. The crackdown by Twitter is the realization of the “Little Brother” danger of private censorship to shape political and social opinion. Censorship, not free speech, has become an article of faith for many.
Facebook also added a controversy by blocking a large pro-Trump women’s group just days before the election.
This is why I recently described myself as an Internet Originalist:
The alternative is “internet originalism” — no censorship. If social media companies returned to their original roles, there would be no slippery slope of political bias or opportunism; they would assume the same status as telephone companies. We do not need companies to protect us from harmful or “misleading” thoughts. The solution to bad speech is more speech, not approved speech.
If Pelosi demanded that Verizon or Sprint interrupt calls to stop people saying false or misleading things, the public would be outraged. Twitter serves the same communicative function between consenting parties; it simply allows thousands of people to participate in such digital exchanges. Those people do not sign up to exchange thoughts only to have Dorsey or some other internet overlord monitor their conversations and “protect” them from errant or harmful thoughts.
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