Don’t ban free speech

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on crying ‘censorship’ at social media giants:

Former President Donald Trump is suing Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.

They banned him, and he calls the ban censorship and casts himself as a champion of free speech and the First Amendment, which has never been Mr. Trump’s cause before.

Mr. Trump would be on stronger moral ground if his own speech were truthful and factual and if he had not declared the free press of the nation an enemy of the people. It’s his speech that he is primarily concerned with, and not free inquiry for all.

It is also hard to see the legal ground of his intended lawsuits. These big tech giants are private companies, and, strictly speaking, they have the right to ban any of us.

But there are larger issues worth talking about in the public square, if not the courtroom.

Are these three entities really just platforms, or are they actually publishers?

If they bear no responsibility for what they allow (publish?) on their platforms, why would they exclude any one or any content?

And if they have an obligation, as well as a right, to curate material, as a newspaper does, what is the standard for exclusion? Is it opinion, taste, veracity or a little of all three?

The real problem with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and, for that matter, Amazon is not free speech but size and monopoly. Thus it is a matter of antitrust, not censorship. They are all so large and dominant that those they exclude may well be silenced. The monopoly, not the editing, creates the problem.

The functional idea of free speech in America is that the cure for stupid or factually false speech is more speech.

But that speech must come, not from inside a particular platform but from other platforms — competition.

The New York Times will never run an op- ed by Donald Trump. The Wall Street Journal will.

But what if the Journal did not exist? What if the Times bought it and made it another Times?

The tech giants have to be broken up to give free speech and press a chance, not told what content they may or may not use by the courts.

Mr. Trump was on the right course when he wanted to create his own social media platform: more competition, more voices, more speech.


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