Congress needs to rein in out-of-control social media giants while there’s still time

It’s become increasingly clear that Big Liberal Social Media outlets and other Silicon Valley tech giants like Google are out of control.  As we and others reported the last few days, Twitter has implemented a new set of rules and has engaged in what is seen by many as a tyrannical “purge.”  Combine that with a near-monopoly on information and ad revenue by Facebook and Google — sites known to have a strong far-left point of view — and the result is an Orwellian suppression of content by those whose opinions fall somewhere on the right of center.

Consider this from the Wall Street Journal:

Google is used for nearly 90% of online searches in the U.S. A Pew survey this summer found that the four most popular social-media sites for getting news are Facebook, YouTube (owned by Google), Twitter (which has a Google partnership), and Instagram (owned by Facebook). No more than 5% of Americans use another social-media platform to get news.

In a November speech, Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, argued that “edge providers” like social-media websites and search engines “routinely block or discriminate against content they don’t like.” Mr. Pai cited YouTube’s decision to place age restrictions on and pull ads from videos by conservative commentator Dennis Prager’s Prager University, including a video by Alan Dershowitz on Israel’s founding.

He also pointed to Twitter’s suspension of a pro-life campaign ad from Rep. Marsha Blackburn, an action that would have been illegal if done by a TV or radio station. Twitter has refused sponsored tweets from immigration opponents, saying its hate-speech policy is triggered by messages such as “the fiscal cost created by illegal immigrants of $746.3b compares to total a cost of deportation of $124.1b.”

“When virtually all online advertising goes through two companies, however, they have the power to harm websites arbitrarily,” Mark Epstein wrote, observing that Google and Facebook “accounted for 84% of all digital advertising outside China, including 96% of its growth” in 2017.

take our poll - story continues below

What is your top alternative to Facebook? - FIXED

  • What is your top alternative to Facebook?  

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Completing this poll grants you access to Conservative Firing Line updates free of charge. You may opt out at anytime. You also agree to this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Trending: Lost 2014 Video: Two Weeks Before Unexpected Death, Joan Rivers Said Barack ‘gay,’ Michelle a ‘transgender’

There’s hardly a conservative site on the Internet that hasn’t felt the impact of actions taken by these digital empires this year.

Epstein gave the following example: “One political blog that posted an article trying to distinguish the ‘alt-right’ from white nationalism received a warning email from Google’s AdSense team. An editor took the article down, explaining to readers that the blog ‘needs revenue from the Google ad platform in order to survive.’ You needn’t agree with the editorial decision to publish the article to be troubled by Google’s vetoing it.”

“If executives at a Silicon Valley monopoly believe that censoring certain content will push the world in a positive direction, market pressures cannot sufficiently restrain them,” he wrote, citing Peter Thiel’s 2014 book, “Zero to One.”

He added:

Journalists also argue that tech companies are pushing media toward the lowest common denominator. Social media rewards clickbait—sensational headlines that confirm readers’ biases. Google and Facebook’s advertising duopoly bleeds traditional publishers of the revenue needed to produce high-quality news. At the same time, Google’s search engine is biased against subscription content, depleting another source of funding.

The bottom line is that Google’s and Facebook’s advertising policies and algorithms make it less profitable to produce high-quality journalism from any perspective. Their duopoly also gives tech executives the power to defund and block content they personally object to without taking a major hit to the bottom line.

Epstein concluded by saying that, “Antitrust authorities ought to be concerned about the undue influence of Google and Facebook.”

And it’s not just ad revenue.  As regular readers of this site know, we have documented a number of abuses by Facebook:

  • One user was slapped over a picture of a 2012 Donald Trump campaign button that only showed his face.  Facebook said it violated their rules on nudity.
  • One female user was told that her profile picture of a lilac tree was pornographic.
  • Yours truly was repeatedly banned in 2015 over posts that were forged to appear as though I made them.  Several others were banned for the exact same posts, also made to appear as though they made them.
  • In November 2016, Facebook claimed a photo of an eagle superimposed on a U.S. flag violated their community standards.  That claim was punished with a 30-day ban.
  • Facebook yanked pro-Trump pages after falsely claiming posts contained nudity.

There’s many more examples, here.

YouTube has jumped on the censorship bandwagon, demonetizing and censoring conservative users.

Enter Twitter, with its rules that now state in part:

Violence: You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people. This includes, but is not limited to, threatening or promoting terrorism. You also may not affiliate with organizations that — whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform — use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes. We will begin enforcing this rule around affiliation with such organizations on December 18, 2017.

The first two sentences make sense.  It gets dicey after that.  According to this, Twitter apparently plans to spy on users even though they may not be on the site.  We tried reaching out to Twitter, but got no response as of this writing.

By the way, December 18 happens to be the birthday of former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.  Coincidence?

So, how does Twitter plan on enforcing this rule?  Will it surreptitiously install spyware with keyloggers to capture everything users type — including usernames and passwords?  Will it hire an army of perpetually-outraged social justice warriors to follow conservatives around?  And what happens to the information they collect?  Will they make it public?

In our book, “Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad,” Adina Kutnicki and I warned that censorship on social media would only get worse if nothing is done.  That prediction has certainly come to pass.

So, what to do?

As we said in our book, Congress needs to take action — and fast, since social media sites seem to be getting more Orwellian by the day.

For starters, Congress needs to immediately amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 — a law that a federal judge said gives providers like Facebook, Google and Twitter the power to censor even Constitutionally-protected speech with no legal consequences — to offer users and content creators protection from abusive tech giants.

Second, Congress needs to consider a measure similar to the one proposed by GOP House candidate Paul Nehlen.  If passed into law, this measure would impose company fines of $500,000 per instance of wrongful censorship, and would be enforced by the FCC. Judicial remedies (both monetary and non-monetary) may also be available to aggrieved parties.  If this were in place during the latter half of 2015, Facebook would have been hit with at least $3.5 million in fines just for the times this writer was banned over forged posts.

Third, Congress should consider taking anti-trust actions against Facebook and Google.

Fourth, lawmakers should consider and enact legislation that regulates social media giants like public utilities.

“But these sites are free,” one might argue.  “Free,” only to the extent that users aren’t forced to pay a monthly fee to use them.  But their use does come with a cost not only to the users, but to society as a whole.

“But these are private companies and they can do what they want,” others might say.  Industries are regulated all the time.  Ever hear of trucking companies, banks, hospitals or insurance companies?  There’s hardly an industry in the country that isn’t regulated by someone.  It’s also interesting to note that some making this argument are generally absent when it comes to mom-and-pop bakers who don’t want to cater gay weddings.

“If you don’t like it, why don’t you just leave,” some may ask.  Right.  Consider this: With a user base of more than two billion registered users, Facebook could lose the entire population of the United States without skipping a beat.

Sure, users could migrate to free-speech alternatives like MeWe, Gab, Tea Party Community and PatriotSpace, but those sites simply do not have the reach of Facebook or Twitter — yet.

Users could file lawsuits against these companies, but the deck would be stacked against them.  Civil lawsuits are extremely costly and could drag on for years.  Worse yet, these companies deploy armies of high-priced attorneys and then there’s federal law — namely Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Let’s face it — most of us get our information from sites like Facebook and Google, and they’re not going anywhere any time soon.

There’s only one option: Congress needs to take action, and they need to do it quickly, while we still have some semblance of free speech and a free press.  There simply is no other alternative at this time.

Related:

If you haven’t checked out and liked our Facebook page, please go here and do so.  And be sure to check out our new MeWe page here.

If you appreciate independent conservative reports like this, please go here and support us on Patreon.

And if you’re as concerned about online censorship as we are, go here and order this book:

Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad
Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad – Source: Author (used with permission)

 

 

Join the conversation!

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse.