U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Attorney General William Barr are now on the prowl to fight giant tech companies on three fronts.
The first battle was making Facebook and Twitter choose between being “platforms” or “publishers,” but not both; the second is if they truly behave like monopolists, they will be regulated like one; and the third is holding them accountable for criminal acts conducted across their network.
The first, the old section 230 debate that the President raised again in an Executive Order, makes it clear that only publishers can edit what goes online, but not platforms, where there is no responsibility. Unlike today where the two blue giants are censoring viewpoints and opinions and punishing journalists outside of the mainstream media who bring up those uncomfortable truths.
The second, which could be the hardest to prove, but most fatal, if these platforms are the new public square, and because of their early moved advantage and domination of the market, they are monopolies and the government could take them over — hello, Twitter, you are the new Post Office, thank you, we own you now.
The third is the most damaging because of the rampant crime, let alone the rights impinged above, the heart of the matter is that private groups and messages across Facebook and Twitter are used for sex trafficking, drug dealing and all other types of crimes, including trading in prohibited animals, ivory tusks or assasasins-for-hire.
The Department of Justice is pushing Congress to pass new legislation that would hold tech companies accountable for what is posted on their platforms.
Speaking to Maria Bartiromo on FOX News, AG Barr said this move would alter the protections the companies currently enjoy under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
Under 230, companies are given broad discretion to monitor their sites as they deem fit and are not held liable for actions their users take on the sites.
The DOJ’s proposal wants to modify Section 230 so that tech companies can be held liable for material used in criminal acts like child sex trafficking.
“Criminals and other wrongdoers are increasingly turning to online platforms to engage in a host of unlawful activities, including child sexual exploitation, selling illicit drugs, cyberstalking, human trafficking, and terrorism,” the proposal states.
The DOJ, in a news release, said it was calling for lawmakers to “update the outdated immunity for online platforms” under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
This would allow the government to regulate the corporate giants as a public utility, similar to any other form of communication and stop the abuse of power they have created for themselves and inflicted upon many of their membership base.
Part of the problem is that these companies operate on a monopolistic platform. They have no viable competition and therefore retain nearly absolute power and control of the market.
Under the First Amendment, all Americans enjoy the right of freedom of speech.
As a tech platform, these companies are entitled to censor views as they wish until they become a monopolistic utility, which is a communications outlet, similar to radio or television and can be regulated as such.
The internet was created as a space for institutions for ease of the spreading of information in ‘packets’ in order to help rapidly spread ideas and knowledge.
It has since become a place to exchange ideas among friends, political opinion, social activities, and much more.
However, tech companies, once friendly to the users’ desire to share openly and freely have switched toward a more streamlined and malicious objective — that of silencing public opinion.
These companies are censoring users and journalists with conservative views because they don’t align with the companies’ own ideology as the election draws near while simultaneously permitting speech from individuals and groups that promote illegal and immoral speech.
While limiting speech has the dangerous potential to influence public opinion and the voting public to sway an election outcome for better or worse and should never be allowed, allowing dangerous speech has more lethal potential.
Barr noted that when the companies first surfaced “they built up all their membership and their networks [by] saying, ‘We have a wide variety of views. People can come in and post their views and their positions and their statements.’”
“Then they’ve switched,” Barr added. “Now they’re being more selective and they’re starting to censor different viewpoints.”
AG Barr: “The problem with the Internet and with these big concentrations of power, (is that they have) the ability to do just that, to quickly galvanize people’s views because they’re only presenting one viewpoint and they can push the public in a particular direction very quickly.”
Barr explained that “one way this can be addressed is through the antitrust laws and challenging companies that engage in monopolistic practices.”
Barr told Fox News that that is a “fundamental problem” because “our republic was founded on the idea, and the whole rationale was that there’d be a lot of diversity of voices and it would be hard for someone to be able to galvanize, big faction in the United States that could dominate politically and oppress a minority, and yet now we have with the Internet and with these big concentrations of power, the ability to do just that, to quickly galvanize people’s views because they’re only presenting one viewpoint and they can push the public in a particular direction very quickly.”
While the tech giants lay into the truth tellers, users everywhere are counting on Trump and Barr to hold the line against these enemies from within.