Ann Coulter says
“We need to apply the First Amendment to social media Companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google, because it is a public square, and there is precedent for that and it’s gotta be done…”
I present arguments against her suggestion. I realize fully that these companies have important connections to government including contracts, data sharing and products being developed that further the surveillance state. My argument against Coulter’s suggestion is pertinent to Speech, which was her concern, not these other links.
Coulter is speaking out of emotion, confusion, needless desperation and ignorance. The First Amendment restricts Congress. It cannot be “applied” to speech on social media company platforms or to these companies themselves. They are not government. They are private associations. A corporation is a nexus of contracts accomplished by private persons. Her suggestion is impractical, unconstitutional and anti-freedom.
Coulter is actually calling for the government to enforce diversity of speech within these companies. Her diversity agenda is directed to speech, not other matters like hiring; but it’s no different in kind than the government controls that leftists demand when they advocate diversity or extend the idea of non-discrimination into areas where it doesn’t belong.
What Coulter wants is actually not free speech but its opposite, which is “fair” access to speech on social media platforms or “equal opportunity” to speak on these platforms. She wants non-discrimination by these media among those proffering speech. This is not free speech as exercised by the companies. A media platform or site or operation would not be allowed to shape a social communications product adhering to a given non-diverse or exclusive viewpoint. Coulter’s suggestion rules out companies devoted on political matters to particular audiences. There could not be companies devoted to conspiracy theories, fascist ideas, communist ideas, conservative ideas, progressive ideas, socialist ideas, etc. Diversity in speech enforced by government is not free speech at all, whether based upon the First Amendment or any other amendment or provision.
Coulter’s suggestion is akin to Elizabeth Warren’s proposal that government end existing corporate ownership and control structures and replace them with government-mandated structures. Coulter wants government to regulate, which means control, the products of these companies. Facebook is very clear that it wants to provide a certain kind of product. Read its community standards to discover that fact. It could not be more obvious that Facebook is defining its product via these standards. It’s defining its product by censoring users, which is putting the standards into practice. If Facebook decides to create a product that only leftists want to read or that’s biased against conservatives, that is its business and its right.
Coulter waves the First Amendment at us because it is so sacred to American political life and it almost seems logical to apply it against these companies that are discriminating against certain kinds of speech. However, the First Amendment rationale only obscures what her suggestion really means, which is government control of social media and their communications. It would be a big step in the totalitarian direction, which means it’s anti-freedom, the exact opposite of what Coulter seems to want in her advocacy of free speech.
Coulter cries “crisis”, which is the usual gimmick to get increased government control: “We are facing a crisis in free speech, right now. The left has control of the mainstream media, Hollywood, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, the schools k through 12, [and] the universities.”
The left doesn’t control Coulter, obviously. It doesn’t control the internet. The left doesn’t control what people experience and think. Narratives, stories, biased education, propaganda and all the rest have limits when people encounter reality. Soviet control or attempts to control information failed. People talk. They gossip. They see. They hear. They resist. They form their own opinions.
New or alternative platforms for expression will arise. New internet linkages will form. As long as people can express themselves, there will be no “crisis in free speech”. There is a temporary dislocation going on, but it will be overcome. There’s no crisis. There is every reason to avoid bringing government into this matter.
Plenty of companies have had bad leadership and gone down the tubes. If Facebook and Twitter are destroying their own franchises by censorship, let them. If they are enhancing value by censorship, let them.
If you restrict your notion of speech to what is said over CNN or other branded sites, you may panic at not hearing the views you consider true; but they are by no means the universe of discourse. Anyone who wants to hear or locate opinions or analyses that satisfy them can find them, or can invent them.
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