by Brandon Smith, Alt Market:
The issue of censorship by major tech companies is a precarious one, and I’m becoming increasingly suspicious of the nature of the debate. There are some complexities, but it can all be boiled down to this:
Big tech social media conglomerates argue that their websites are like any other private business and that they are protected from overt government interference by the US constitution. In other words, they have a right to platform or deplatform anyone they choose. Of course, this is the exact OPPOSITE of what most leftist groups have argued in the past when it comes to private businesses refusing to cooperate with people they disagree with on basic principle, such as LGBT activists, but let’s set that hypocrisy aside for now.
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Social media companies have decided that the people they want to deplatform most are conservatives, along anyone else who disagrees with hard left ideologies such as social justice or the handling of the pandemic situation. Statements or content that run contrary to leftist philosophies are simply labeled “hate speech” or “conspiracy theory” and are erased.
Conservatives argue that big tech is a monopoly with far too much power, that social media should be treated more like a public resource or “town square” and that these companies are violating the free speech rights of conservatives by specifically targeting them for censorship. Many conservatives are also demanding that Donald Trump and the government step in to regulate or punish such companies for these actions.
The truth is that both sides are right, and both sides are wrong. The real solution to the problem requires a radical change in how we view the institution of corporations and how they interact with government, and it’s a solution I doubt ANY political official will consider, and that includes Trump.
Let me explain…
Social media and big tech do in fact represent a monopoly, but not in terms most people are familiar with. Instead of acting only as an economic monopoly controlling market share, big tech is also a political monopoly controlling the majority of communication platforms. If only one political and social ideological group dominates every major social media and digital information outlet, this in my view represents a completely unbalanced power dynamic that does indeed threaten the free speech rights of the populace.
Rabid censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal, a scandal that is supported by facts and evidence that big tech has chosen to bury because it’s inconvenient to them rather than a violation of their community guidelines, is just one more example of the incredible danger that social media monopolies present.
Obviously, there is the issue of private property rights to consider. I fully support and defend private property rights and I do believe that a business has the freedom to refuse service to anyone for any reason. Just because you open your doors to the public does not mean the public now owns your labor. You should have the right to refuse labor whenever you wish.
If a business refuses a customer based merely on personal bias, then word is going to get around quickly and that business may lose a large number of potential buyers in the future (this is happening right now with multiple alternative social media companies on the rise). The free market should determine the fate of that business, not state or federal governments.
Government itself is an untrustworthy entity that craves a monopoly of power, and by handing government the authority to micromanage the policies and internal practices of web companies we might be trading the big tech monster for an even more dangerous governmental monster.
Who is to say that the government will stop with sites like Facebook or Twitter or Google? Maybe they will exploit their newfound powers to go after smaller websites as well. Maybe they will attempt to micromanage the entire internet. Maybe they will start dominating and restricting conservative websites instead of the leftist conglomerates we intended, and then we will be doubly screwed.
If you value freedom and the Bill of Rights, then this debate leaves us at an impasse. Both sides (perhaps conveniently) lead to a totalitarian outcome. The thing is, the publicly presented argument is a contrived one, a manipulated discussion that only presents two sides when there are more options to consider. The narrative is fixed, it is a farce.
The public has been led to believe that government and corporations are separate tools that can be used to keep each side in check. This is a lie. Big government and big corporations have always worked together while pretending to be disconnected, and this needs to stop if we are to ever defuse the political time bomb we now face.
To solve the social media censorship debacle we need to examine the very roots of corporations as entities. First, corporations as we know them today are a relatively new phenomenon. Adam Smith described the concept of a corporation as a “joint stock company” in his treatise ‘The Wealth Of Nations’, and stood against them as a threat to free market economics. He specifically outlined their history of monopoly and failure, and criticized their habit of avoiding responsibility for mistakes and crimes.
Joint stock companies were chartered by governments and given special protections from risk, as well as protection from civil litigation (lawsuits). But, they were supposed to be temporary business entities, not perpetual business entities. The point was to allow for the creation of a joint stock company to finish a particular job, such as building a railroad, and once the job was finished the company was dissolved and the government protections were no longer needed. Smith knew that if corporations were ever allowed to become permanent fixtures in an economy, they would result in disaster.