Rambling Thoughts on Big Tech Censorship

I’ll be honest, the “Facebook and Twitter are private companies so they can censor whoever/whatever they want” argument doesn’t really sit right with my.

A) they’re not fully private. They receive government subsidies.

B) Saying that the interactions on Facebook is taking place within the private property of Facebook feels to me to be making the same kind of category error as saying that downloading an MP3 is stealing someone’s “intellectual property”.

It’s lazy to assume the same property rights that apply to the physical world should apply to the digital world. Especially when they use this pretense to take and profit off of so much of our information – effectively using their platform to spy on us.

3) Most importantly, the fact that These social media spaces form the “public square” of our society right now – especially during a pandemic – I think we need a new category. When you invite the public into your space and say “come be social in here” you are inviting them to come in and engage in free speech.

I don’t think this means there should be no censorship at all. I don’t want people sharing child porn on Facebook. But except for certain egregious examples like this, I don’t want the government or anyone with near Government level authority to censor speech.

There are a number of reasons for this. The biggest one is that the government (or Facebook) is not unbiased, despite what they may say, and could be wrong. A lot of people have problems with or see danger in the possibility of false information being spread, but that’s the thing about free speech. If people are free to spread false information, then people are free to counter and debunk that false information. And part of being an adult is learning to vet information before you just believe things.

There was no campaign to get grocery stores to throw tabloids out of the supermarket. People just learned to tell the difference between legit publications and the tabloids. The same was going to happen with fake news on the Internet too until the big tech companies were pressured to step in.

Who pressured them? Was it the government/deep state who feared they would subvert the government’s propaganda? Was it CNN and the like who were afraid of losing market share? Or was it their layers who were afraid of legal liability should they allow “fake news” that induced someone to make an unwise decision of some kind? We’ll never know.

All I do know is that I don’t like the fact that Censorship seems to be the reality and is on the rise. This should not be construed as support for Trump or his followers. I disagree with them on the results of the election, but I don’t think they should be silenced wholesale.

I don’t know where that line is between what should be censored and what shouldn’t but it’s going to be very closely coupled to the NAP whatever it is.

I know people will say “just go to Parler or MeWe”. Well there’s two problems with that. First, we see what’s happening with Parler right now being shut down by Google, Apple and Amazon. Second, and more importantly, there’s the problem of the fact that very few people are on those platforms right now. Until there’s a sufficient number of people on those platforms, we can’t consider them to be an arena of public discourse, and so they don’t really fill the same market need as what is currently provided by Facebook and Twitter.

Then again, maybe this idea of a public forum where there is free speech is just the last vestige of collectivism that still infects my brain. Who knows. It’s a sleepy Sunday and my thoughts are not very well organized.