Monday, October 19, 2020

If We Let Big Tech Strangle The Press, Say Goodbye To Your Freedom

 If We Let Big Tech Strangle The Press, Say Goodbye To Your Freedoms

Excerpt: With the recent suppression of a New York Post story damaging to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, many Americans have finally had enough of the one-sided censorious behavior of tech giants. Less than three weeks before one the most contentious and fraught elections in American history, Facebook and Twitter users were alarmed when it became clear they were prevented from sharing the Post’s article detailing the sordid dealings of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. Both citizens and lawmakers justifiably fear the enormous influence wielded by entities like Facebook, Google, and Twitter; the rise of an unchecked tech-tyranny where one side of the political aisle has its views promoted while the other side has its views punished. Nearly two centuries ago, the author of one of the most penetrating insights on American life shared similar fears of what would happen should a free press remain free in name only. Traveling across America in the 1830s, young French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville saw a nation filled with both promise and peril. Amidst boundless opportunities, an economically vibrant workforce, and an ever-increasing equalization of conditions, the potential for tyranny lurked underneath an otherwise promising future. Tocqueville feared some of the forces at work in the young republic could lead to despotism. To prevent this future, Tocqueville sung the praises of two essential safeguards: a free press connected with freedom of association. Armed with these two weapons, Tocqueville argues the United States can help prevent a tyranny of the majority as well as the chilling and repressive effects of a nascent soft despotism. [The problem, as I see it, is that our social media platforms want it both ways. They want to be free to publish what they please, and also be free to refuse to acknowledge anything they disagree with. That might work if there were 20 or so platforms of about equal usership instead of two that agree on almost everything. The problem is those social media platforms are effectively monopolies unanswerable to anyone. When they lie or cheat, there is no means of keeping them honest or fairly balanced, especially in their political coverage. The only solution I see is to revoke their “Section 230" protections so they’re treated like any other publisher. They are not the authors of most of the content they carry, and anything they do create can be protected just like any other author’s work would be. So, in their clearly marked editorials, they have freedom of speech like everyone else, but in the stuff they merely distribute, they have to be open to all, including the voices they disagree with. Perhaps there should be an obligation to provide a real way to verify who those outside authors really are, in which case the author can be held accountable, but otherwise, the platform may not censor content that is legal without being subject to penalties both civil and criminal, as the content dictates. It seems to me that including a disclaimer such as “We at ---- disagree with the preceding/following article/essay/story for the following reason(s), and then stating them before or following the cited article/essay/story allows them the same freedoms you and I get. That should be fair to everyone. And, remember there is no objective way to “fact check” an opinion. Ron P.]

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