We have been discussing the rising private censorship on the Internet demanded by Democratic leaders and meted out by companies like Twitter and Facebook. The original purpose of the Internet as a free and robust space for political and social expression is under attack as politicians demand greater levels of control to combat “disinformation.” Indeed, Biden adviser Pete Buttigieg on Election Day demanded more penalties for companies not stopping “inciting material,” a subjective term left intentionally undefined. This drumbeat for censorship was amplified on Election Day when Twitter again hit tweets from President Donald Trump with warnings of disinformation. The tweets were pure political speech and Twitter again showed that it is now fully committed to biased regulation of speech between users of its service.
I have criticized President Trump’s rhetoric in the election about “stealing” the election. However, that is hyperbolic political speech. Biden supporters, including leaders like House Whip James Clyburn, have been saying that Trump was stealing the election through voter suppression. They have not been hit with Twitter warnings. Yet, Trump was immediately hit when he sent a Twitter post that Democrats were trying to “steal” the election: “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!”
I have previously objected to such regulation of speech. What is most disturbing is how liberals have embraced censorship and even declared that “China was right” on Internet controls. Many Democrats have fallen back on the false narrative that the First Amendment does not regulate private companies so this is not an attack on free speech. Free speech is a human right that is not solely based or exclusively defined by the First Amendment. Censorship by Internet companies is a “Little Brother” threat long discussed by free speech advocates. Some may willingly embrace corporate speech controls but it is still a denial of free speech.
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.
The actions by Twitter and Facebook on Election Day were reprehensible and wrong. What is so disturbing is that so many Democrats have come enablers of such corporate speech controls by the giant tech companies.