U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has proposed the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act. It would essentially force private social media companies to be “politically neutral.”
Fighting for free speech by allowing the government to block the free speech of those blocking free speech? I’m confused.
It’s clear some of the current social media giants are censoring, and even banning, speech by conservatives. As such, conservatives are rightly ticked off — particularly at Facebook and Twitter.
But here’s the part I don’t get: Conservatives used to argue, correctly, that the First Amendment protected individuals from only government infringement on free speech; that your right to free speech does not give you the right to use someone else’s soapbox.
The language of the First Amendment isn’t complicated. It’s crystal clear: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”
So let’s stipulate that Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies are, in fact, limiting, censoring and, in the words of our Founders, abridging the freedom of speech. But Facebook isn’t Congress. Neither is Twitter.
Indeed, it’s not Congress that’s blocking, censoring, shadow-banning, de-platforming or whatever else these tech companies are doing to conservatives. Therefore, there’s no First Amendment violation.
And yet some conservatives who are mad at these companies are claiming the First Amendment is under attack. This is disappointing.
Words mean stuff. That’s why conservatives insist on referring to our form of government as a “republic,” not a “democracy.” And it’s why conservatives celebrate “Independence Day,” not the “Fourth of July.”
Now, I’ve got no problem with fighting for free, unbiased speech on social media platforms. But we should be intellectually honest enough not to intentionally mislead the public into believing that what these tech firms are doing is a violation of the First Amendment. Otherwise, we’re no better than the liberals we’re trying to fight in the court of public opinion. Liberals who call gun control “gun safety.” Liberals who call abortion “family planning.” Liberals who leave the word “illegal” out of debates over illegal immigration.
As for using someone else’s soapbox to express your opinions, let’s say you take up a new cause: Equal Rights for Oompa-Loompas. As per the First Amendment, Congress shall make no law abridging your right to freely speak out on behalf of the oppressed, stigmatized and discriminated-against Oompa-Loompa community. However … you have no right to force a newspaper to publish your letter-to-the-editor or op-ed on the subject. You have no right to force a radio station to have you on as a guest to speak about your issue. You have no right to demand that your local TV news cover your “Oompa-Loompa Rights Rally.”
And yet some conservatives are now arguing that conservatives have a right to post their opinions on Twitter and Facebook. Worse, they’re asking Congress to step in.
That’s not us. We don’t run to the government for help. Instead, we create competitors.
That’s why conservatives read the Washington Times instead of The New York Times. That’s why they watch Fox News instead of CNN. That’s why they listen to Rush Limbaugh instead of Rachel Maddow.
Conservatives shouldn’t be backing legislation forcing private social media companies to open their platforms to us — which would be an actual First Amendment violation. Instead, we should be creating and supporting competitive alternatives.
Sen. Hawley’s frustration with liberal social media bias is understandable. His effort to abridge the freedom of speech isn’t.
Chuck Muth is president of CitizenOutreach.org and publisher of NevadaNewsandViews.com.