When we read the first amendment to our Constitution, we can imagine a newly minted American citizen, standing on a soapbox at a street corner and freely expressing his or her political views to all those who would listen. The preservation of that right was caught with the first stroke of the Amendment pen, and our right of free speech was seared into the first very line on that parchment. Today, the entities of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are the modern-day form of the soap box on the corner.
The First Amendment clearly prohibits Congress from limiting or infringing upon our right to free speech, and the founders would have scoffed at the suggestion that they also needed to specifically restrict private enterprise, as well, from usurping total authority and censoring our free speech, deciding who can speak and who could not, and what they can say. That would have been considered absurd.
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Well, absurd as it might have been, that’s what we have today. Congress has allowed Big Tech and the digital media to be the self-appointed arbiter of the truth, and to dominate the street corner and the soap box, censoring Americans, and even the president. Who would have imagined that private companies, by virtue of having developed certain technology, could legally censor our citizens in a manner that even our Congress could not?
Remember that years ago, the citizen was conditioned to adopt political
correctness. Some did and some didn’t, but that opened the door to censorship and the elites began to sense that they could control speech. Then came hate crime legislation and finally control of what people can say was codified into law.
When Twitter and Facebook began to discipline their users, and cancel some of them, Congress should have stepped in and used its powers under the various antitrust laws. But nothing was done by those in power who had found a way to silence Donald Trump. And now Big Tech thinks it has acquired rights and the task to bring them down will be more difficult.
Congress is derelict in its responsibilities under the First Amendment. Shouldn’t it be evident that if Congress cannot censor free speech, then the private sector has even less right to do so? Imagine trying to convince our founders that the city that owned the street corner or the manufacturer of the soap box could restrict and censor the speech of the activist citizen by virtue of those entities having provided the location and venue. Well, that’s Big Tech.
How did this happen? How did Big Tech get its foot so firmly in the door and so quickly? It was because politicians like to silence their critics and letting Big Tech do it for them was a perfect solution! The ensuing, demonic alliance between Big Tech and the politicians was massive, effective, and the facilitators in Congress avoided any responsibility. Our mistake, as citizens, was to not nip that problem in the bud when it first reared its ugly head.
So, our Congress should now promote regulatory legislation, reiterating that free speech cannot be infringed by any entity, public or private, and that since effectively, in today’s world, entities such as Twitter and Facebook are the modern-day conveyors and conduits of free speech, those channels must be completely accessible to the public and be un-censored. That would be the condition under which an operating license would be granted to Big Tech social media companies. Otherwise, we take them down.
Those commercial enterprises can still make their profits from advertising and other means but their days as the keepers of the key, the “decider” the punisher must cease immediately.
General Motors has the right to manufacture and sell motor vehicles, but the law requires that the vehicle have brakes and a seat belt. Without those accessories General Motors would be prohibited from marketing its product.
Our founders didn’t want a filter on free speech. Free speech is exactly that, if you don’t like what is being said, don’t listen. But don’t think you have the right to restrict and censor what is said by others if it offends you. Our Constitution does not guarantee you the right to not be offended. The other person is free to speak, and you are certainly free to not listen.
However, if the United States Congress decides to cast its lot with Big Tech and creates legislation to facilitate censorship, of any kind by private entities, then we have perhaps the greatest problem since the birth of the republic and all bets are off as to who will behave civilly.
By David M. Zeckser
David M. Zeckser is a Former Major, Infantry, U.S. Army, and a regular contributor to The Blue State Conservative.