Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a series of tweets that the tech giant would no longer accept political or advocacy advertising of any kind on its platform. The policy will be published by Twitter on November 15. The policy will go into effect on November 22. Many took to Twitter to cheer Jack’s decision to take money out of politics.
The Trump campaign says that the Twitter ad-block is yet another way big tech is trying to “silence conservatives.” The Republicans tend to have more money to spend on political advertising than Democrats, so the mere implementation of the policy will favor Democrats.
Jack said, “We believe this decision [democratic elections] should not be compromised by money.” He goes on to say that political reach should be earned and not paid for. Well, this is a matter of opinion. If a political movement can garner a team to pool their resources to promote its message is not earning their reach? Jack is part of a private company but making political decisions that will affect the election process of many countries significantly. Aside from the many international issues, for the purpose of this article, we will focus on the U.S. Does Twitter have the right to make this decision?
Many make the argument that Twitter is a private company and can do what it likes – it’s their platform. Can the electric or telephone company turn off the electricity to political groups they don’t like? Is the telephone company responsible for someone planning a crime against another, because it was arranged on their platform?
Still, others argue that the nature of Twitter is in its ability to broadcast messages – not just a one-to-one messaging like in a telephone call. Would this mean an electric company could turn off the electricity to a political office that is producing materials for distribution? Or telephone robocalls? It is a slippery slope argument.
A private company can do as it likes, so long as it follows the law. However, the government has given special status to private social media companies by limiting their legal liability to deliver platform services to the public. Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act of 1996 is a landmark piece of Internet legislation in the U.S. that provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an “interactive computer service” who publish information provided by a third-party user. In essence, the deal is, governments grant protections in order to provide platform services so long as they do not pick and chose service based on the content on their platform.
Hence, social media companies dance between being a platform or a journalist – editing content. They guard the idea that they are platforms. But in fact, they are journalists – deciding the value and publishing of content on their platforms. This is aside from another issue of “Truth in Advertising” laws that they most likely are also violating.
So yes, Twitter can do want it wants, but it also can not have this Section 230 protection. If they are editing content, they are a journalist and are then exposed to legal liability like any other journalist. Of course, this would be a nightmare situation for all social media platforms. The cost to moderate the millions of third-party posts and the legal litigation would make the value of these private companies – zero!
The alternative to this legal nightmare for social media companies would be to refrain from editing any content on their platforms. Whether to have truly free speech on social media platforms and what it would mean to society is another issue. To be clear News Forecasters believes that Section 230 is unconstitutional and should be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. This issue has yet to be fully challenged by courts.
Perhaps new constitutional laws would need to be developed. Some have advocated for a Social Media Bill of Rights. Americans have seen their free speech civil rights continually eroded over the years – other major developed countries as well. News Forecasters asks whether free speech civil rights will get better or worse? Our answer is – it will only get worse.
The desire of governments to maintain ever-increasing power over the people is addictive. The 1984 dystopian world is becoming a reality, and everyone knows it. And now there is a lot of corporate money at stake. You also know what happens when people stop talking – what are the alternatives? Submit or revolt.
A video presentation of this subject: