Recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders raised concerns over the banning of Donald Trump from Twitter as an attack on free speech by corporate censors. It apparently had no impact on Big Tech. Facebook has removed a video of an interview by Lara Trump of her father-in-law and former president. The company declared that it would censor any content “in the voice of Donald Trump.” It appears that Trump has achieved Voldemort status on social media and is now “he who must not be heard.”
Notably, he could be talking about the Yankees but the posting would be censored because the team was discussed in the voice of Donald Trump. It is not his view but Trump himself that is being canceled by the company. However, presumably, Lara Trump could sit next to Trump and have him whisper his views into her ear. She could then give his views in the voice of Lara rather than Donald Trump.
As we have previously discussed, Democrats have abandoned long-held free speech values in favor of corporate censorship. They clearly has a different “comfort zone” than Sanders. What discomforts many Democratic members is the ability of people to speak freely on these platforms and spread what they view as “disinformation.”
When Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey came before the Senate to apologize for blocking the Hunter Biden story before the election as a mistake, senators pressed him and other Big Tech executive for more censorship.
In that hearing, members like Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., HI) pressed witnesses like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey for assurance that Trump would remain barred from speaking on their platforms: “What are both of you prepared to do regarding Donald Trump’s use of your platforms after he stops being president, will be still be deemed newsworthy and will he still be able to use your platforms to spread misinformation?”
Rather than addressing the dangers of such censoring of news accounts, Senator Chris Coons pressed Dorsey to expand the categories of censored material to prevent people from sharing any views that he considers “climate denialism.” Likewise, Senator Richard Blumenthal seemed to take the opposite meaning from Twitter, admitting that it was wrong to censor the Biden story. Blumenthal said that he was “concerned that both of your companies are, in fact, backsliding or retrenching, that you are failing to take action against dangerous disinformation.” Accordingly, he demanded an answer to this question:
“Will you commit to the same kind of robust content modification playbook in this coming election, including fact checking, labeling, reducing the spread of misinformation, and other steps, even for politicians in the runoff elections ahead?”
“Robust content modification” has a certain appeal, like a type of software upgrade. It is not content modification. It is censorship. If our representatives are going to crackdown on free speech, they should admit to being advocates for censorship.
Now “robust content modification” includes censoring the voice of Donald Trump. It is not just censorship but senseless. These companies are trying to erase a unpopular figures but in doing so they are only deepening the divisions and anger in our country. Yet, the media is largely either supportive or silent in the face of this corporate regulation of political speech.
The move by Facebook could strengthen calls for changing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Big Tech once fashioned itself as the equivalent of the telephone company, and thus sought protections as neutral suppliers of communication forums allowing people to voluntarily associate and interact. It then started to engage in expanding, conflicting acts of censorship. Yet, it still wants to remain protected as if it were neutral despite actively modifying content. We would never tolerate a telephone company operator cutting into a call to say the company did not approve of a statement that was just made, or cutting the line for those who did not voice approved positions.
That is why I call myself an “internet originalist.” True neutrality leaves it to individuals to choose who they read, watch or converse with in the media. You leave it up to people to decide whose voices will be heard.