Conservative Principles Don’t Justify Silencing Conservatives
Conservatives who oppose social media censorship are constantly berated with two points.
“Why do you support big government telling private enterprises how to conduct their businesses?”
“This is the same as forcing Christian bakers to make cakes for gay weddings.”
If conservatives support limited government and the right of businesses to conduct to their operations as they see fit, then they should pipe down on social media censorship.
An example of this argument was presented in The Daily Caller’s opinion section last week. (Unlike the establishment media, TheDC embraces viewpoint diversity.)
Carl Szabo — general counsel for NetChoice, a trade association representing Facebook, Google and other Big Tech entities — argued in TheDC that conservatives don’t have free speech on social media platforms.
According to Szabo, the core conservative principles of limited government and opposition to state interference in private enterprise should preclude the Right from showing any concern over social media censorship. (RELATED: SORRY CONSERVATIVES: You Don’t Have Free Speech On Facebook Or Twitter)
“[C]ore conservative principles would oppose Congress holding hearings and passing laws to ensure that the Drudge Report doesn’t favor conservative views over liberal ones,” the lawyer writes, presuming that Facebook and Twitter are publishers just like any news company.
“[I]f platforms wanted to favor one political ideal over another, true conservatives, and really anyone who believes in free expression, should say the platform is free to do so,” he adds later in the piece.
So if someone truly believes in free speech, they should support Twitter’s censorship of conservatives. Szabo claims that conservatives worrying about the matter is a sign of “victimhood chic,” and that acting upon this concern would only result in “short-term political gains.”
Never in the piece does Szabo attempt to allay conservatives’ worries about Big Tech’s censorship. He assumes it’s just private enterprise at work, and if you have a problem with it, then you should find a more conservative-friendly alternative.
The problem is there is no real free speech alternative to these tech behemoths. Nearly every business has to have access to Facebook to survive, especially media companies. They are not mere publishers as Szabo claims.
In fact, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act offers immunity to platforms like Facebook from being “treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another.” Essentially, the law doesn’t see them as publishers when it comes to the consequences of libel and such.
The reason: social media platforms “offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.” So Twitter isn’t exactly like Fox News, and it’s legally protected from the consequences a normal publisher would face. All because the platform is intended to offer a neutral forum that doesn’t censor based on political views.
Also, unlike publishers, many of these platforms operate as monopolies. You can easily find an alternative to The New York Times — not so for Facebook.
Curiously, Szabo doesn’t bring up the Christian baker argument in his article. Then again, tech giants believe Christian bakers must bake the cake, as evidenced by their strong opposition to Indiana’s religious freedom law in 2015.
But Big Tech’s unwitting conservative defenders frequently point to this argument to shame their fellow righties who think giant corporations should respect free speech. “What about forcing Christian bakers to participate in functions against their religious beliefs?”
With the neutering of religious freedom laws throughout the country, Christian bakers are essentially forced to bake the cake anyway. Massive multinational corporations are not the same as self-employed workers feeling uneasy about providing services against their religious beliefs.
It’s not like immigration restrictionist views violate Mark Zuckerberg’s faith.
Social media companies are expected by law and society to provide relatively neutral platforms for political debate. If Twitter happened to be socially conservative and censored pro-choice views, there would be a serious uproar and the entire political spectrum would denounce such a move.
The same would happen if a Jewish baker was forced to make a Nazi cake.
Conservatives deploying the Christian baker argument makes no sense because it appeals to a standard that is not respected by Big Tech to defend Big Tech suppressing right-wing thought. It’s the definition of arguing against your own interests.
While tech giants may say they have a right to censor whomever they want, they sing a completely different tune when it comes to net neutrality. One of the primary arguments in favor of net neutrality is that it will protect free speech — even though numerous tech companies don’t respect this right on their own platforms. (RELATED: Corporations Remain The Biggest Threat To Free Speech)
Twitter has declared that “without Net Neutrality in force, ISPs would even be able to block content they don’t like,” without any hint of self-awareness. If Big Tech thinks other corporations censoring speech is a problem, conservatives should as well. (RELATED: Ajit Pai Is Right On Big Tech’s Threat To An Open Internet)
Defending social media censorship does nothing to further the cause of limited government. It benefits corporations whose only interest in limited government is to cynically exploit that ideal to protect their own interests.
Corporate America leans left and has little tolerance for right-wing views. Upholding the right of Twitter and Facebook to censor would only encourage more businesses to do the same. (RELATED: Woke Capitalism Is Still Going Strong)
Conservatives should not approve of powerful entities hindering free speech — unless they think it’s a victory to cheer on your own political annihilation.
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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.