By Rod Thomson
Let’s be clear. When Republicans regain majorities in the House and Senate, if they do not redefine Section 203 of the Communications Decency Act more narrowly to strip its protections from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, it will be a dereliction of duty to the American people and the principles of free speech and truth.
If Section 203 is not the solution, then perhaps anti-trust is. Because these three social media giants legitimately and unarguably are the public square, and their unbounded, one-sided, political censorship cannot continue. Seeing that they collude with the mainstream media and major corporations, it becomes an affront to Americanism and a visible threat to the future of the country as we know it.
After allowing every false story on Russian collusion for more than two years, after allowing every false story on Russian “bounties” on the heads of American soldiers in Afghanistan — the most recent long-running media narrative definitively proven false now — after blocking every true story by the New York Post and other conservative outlets about Hunter Biden’s laptop, Facebook and Instagram have now blocked the Post’s true story on the luxury homes purchased by Black Lives Matter Co-Founder and avowed Marxist, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, in predominantly white neighborhoods. I would link to the fully documented story, but of course Facebook won’t allow it. It’s true and it’s based on public information. So this is just more woke partisanship.
Further, when sports writer Jason Whitlock shared the Post’s story with the tweet, “Black Lives Matter founder buys $1.4 million home in Topanga, which has a black population of 1.4%. She’s with her people!” he was locked out of his account by Twitter. Whitlock was told he had violated Twitter’s rules against publishing private information. When called out on such nonsense — there was no address, just actual public information — Twitter reversed the decision, claiming for the millionth time that it was just an error.
No it wasn’t. These are all on purpose, and that purpose is to help the Democratic Party and its increasing leftward lurch, to pursue a partisan and ideological agenda that is increasingly radical and outside the bounds of mainstream America.
Because BLM is one of the premier activist political organizations in the country, this is a blockbuster story squashed by the major social media outlets who are increasingly not just aligned philosophically, but also in business, with the Democratic Party. We see them getting protection from accountability when Democrats run Congress and they seem to be working hand in hand with other major “American” corporations to oppose election integrity laws, such as Georgia’s — which is less restrictive than New York’s and Joe Biden’s Delaware to name a couple and to show that none of this is about voter rights.
The examples go on and on. Because social media is overtly acting as an arm of the Democrat communications establishment, just as the mainstream media has for years.
This partisanship cannot be defended by Section 203, which is meant to hold websites harmless for what readers or viewers put in comment sections. Mostly, it was designed for “interactive web sites” where third-party users might post defamatory information on a website, such as a comment section, and the website could not be held liable for that. Sometimes the analogy is made that the way it works in practice is like more benign information carriers, such as Verizon or AT&T, who are not held liable for everything from slander, or child porn or terrorist planning using their networks.
Of course, the phone carriers don’t block political conservatives for violating nebulous “community standards.” They don’t keep Republicans from using their services to help Democrats, or vice versa.
It’s this “comments” protection that social media uses as a shield by counting every post as a comment from a third-party, which of course it is. And comments are moderated on news sites, mostly for language or indecent pictures, but also other purposes. But even the largest news websites are barely a blip compared to the social media giants.
Yahoo News and Google News are the biggest by monthly users, according to Statista, but a big part of that is because people have those auto-set as their homepage. If you remove those outliers, the three biggest are the Huffington Post (110 million unique monthly users) CNN (95 million) and the New York Times (70 million.)
By comparison, Facebook has 2.8 billion monthly active users. It also has 1.84 billion daily visitors. YouTube has 2 billion monthly users and Twitter has 330 million, but interestingly, it is the darling of the media and political class.
You can see how these three social media sites dwarf traditional media, and form a de facto public square. That should change the knee-jerk defense of “a private business can do what it wants” — said frequently by people who rarely suggest that same defense in a plethora of other situations for private businesses — because that is not true in a thousand different ways. A private business cannot be a monopoly. It cannot deny service based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference and so on. It cannot hire or fire based on that criterion. And now, apparently, cannot not make a cake for a gay wedding. So that argument is weak gruel and clearly hypocritical.
But the media does not have those 203 protections. They can be as biased or partisan as they want under the First Amendment, but they are also liable for the content that they create. So they can be sued for liable and slander and so on.
Yet in practice, the social media companies operate prima facie much more like the media than they do a comments section of a website or Verizon. This is critical because treating them like the media destroys their entire model. Every photo and story that the media publish from other media such as Reuters or AP or any other source, the media outlet pays for. If social media had to pay for every such usage they would be bankrupt in a week. Or they would have to block billions of users from sharing any copyrighted stories and photos. Completely unsustainable.
The social media companies say that their entire business is akin to a comments section, so they should be afforded the Section 203 protections. Indeed, this is where, I think, a Republican Congress needs to re-work the Section 203 — or another legal angle I do not see — to ensure that a cabal of three companies does not control the vast majority of arguably the most important industry in America: Information.
The comments section on a newspaper site is so paltry as to pose no threat to the public square. Not so with social media. The most glaring example of the power they wield is this data point: A post election survey found that 17 percent of Biden voters would not have voted for him if they knew about the Hunter Biden laptop and the implications in it. If those polled answered truthfully, that alone would have been a landslide for Trump. That one case, and the obvious collusion among all of the social media and mainstream to block out a truthful story, apparently swung a presidential election.
That cannot be allowed to continue.
The New York Post article that BLM leader Cullors purchased “four high-end homes for $3.2 million” in the United States since 2016 is only meant as another example of the ongoing closing of the public square by social media. This cannot be allowed to stand in a nation that can only thrive on robust and free debates.