Private companies include Facebook and Twitter. Every time the subject of social media censorship is brought up, people bring up this fact. So they can approve or disapprove any kind of speech they wish, the reasoning goes. In theory, this is accurate. But when a social media platform operates on behalf of a government or presidential administration to block unfavorable speech, the situation is different.
People’s First Amendment rights are being violated at that point. The government is not allowed to censor online discourse. The Bill of Rights does prohibit it from doing so. Furthermore, it is not permitted to circumvent this fundamental rule by using a third party, any more than it is permitted to properly use a private security firm to search your home without a warrant.
The government is prohibited by the Bill of Rights from limiting free speech, particularly political expression. The government has no right to silence anyone, with rare exceptions for defamation, incitement to illegal activities, obscenity, and fraud. Before the recent emergence of the authoritarian Left, this fundamental belief was accepted without question when America was thriving better than it is now.
The “Twitter Files” published by the platform’s new owner, Elon Musk, as well as the October revelation that the Department of Homeland Security attempted to silence online discourse on particular subjects have raised red lights. The government’s escalating censoring role is concerning and un-American, whether it is done so in the name of preventing disinformation or safeguarding public health, safety, or even national security. Hunter Biden’s laptop story, which would have been disastrous for Joe Biden, the vice president, had it been revealed, was misrepresented on social media by the intelligence community using its own false information.
Regarding Twitter, internal correspondence from the pre-Musk firm show a profoundly dishonest corporate culture and perhaps perjury in a congressional testimony given by one of its workers. Employees of Twitter have consistently acknowledged in writing that former President Donald Trump did not encourage violence with his comments on January 6 and did not warrant a ban. However, the business has consistently made the contrary claim in public. Its claims that conservative voices were not purposefully muted have been exposed as fabrications.
Disingenuously, supporters of old Twitter point out that “de-boosting” was a well-known method that could be used to thwart aggressive spammers. This is both accurate and unimportant. Nobody is taking issue with spammers’ “visibility filters.” They claim that the use of these technologies resulted in a deliberate de-boosting of one side of the political debate. Accounts were secretly suppressed for the simple reason that it was claimed that kids shouldn’t be shut out of schools during COVID, despite the fact that everyone now knows this to be false.
Even the potential for governmental cooperation in censorship is cause for concern. However, it cannot be denied that the Biden presidential campaign made extensive use of Twitter to have harmful posts removed. Given that the help was overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats, a different question arises as to whether Twitter and possibly other social media companies made significant unreported in-kind political contributions to Democratic politicians by amplifying their message and stifling oppositional messages. Musk has hinted that Twitter’s enlightened former employees have even blocked political candidates, so it’s not impossible that there was a campaign finance violation.
The previous management of Twitter ignored real damages like child pornography but became fixated on the fictitious harm caused by people expressing different viewpoints or making jokes about presidential appointees. That pretty much says all you need to know about the humorless piety that once plagued Twitter. The change in ownership has already helped the country.