Silicon Valley tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter receive a good deal of criticism for discriminating and censoring conservatives under the guise of policing “hate speech.” Much of that heat is deserved, but it is easy to forget that businesses are also being pressured from external forces to behave in a politically charged manner. These actions, which are sometimes reprehensible, deserve to be viewed from the perspective of a vulnerable actor, protecting its interest against government intervention.
Today, free corporations have no recourse for protecting themselves against dubious political interference.
Sharia in Silicon Valley
For instance, consider the case of Sharia compliance in Silicon Valley. Political pundit Michelle Malkin has inquired into the curious friendliness towards Islam in tech giants. Twitter recently banned the Jewish conservative Laura Loomer for criticizing a politician who supports Sharia, while the Islamic minister Louis Farrakhan is free to tweet that Jews are termites without any consequences.
Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud is the second largest shareholder in Twitter and owns more stocks than co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey. As such, the tech giant is forced to give ear to the concerns of a Wahabi extremist. There is no evidence that there has been any pressure on Twitter to be Islam-friendly, but that a significant Saudi statesman has a voice in a U.S. company raises concerns about foreign influence.
One recent example of a case that fits such a concerning pattern is the banning of renowned Islam-critic Robert Spencer from Patreon. The company told Spencer that it was not their decision, but that Mastercard had insisted on taking him down. Otherwise, they would ban Patreon from using their payment services.
That may be just due to the typical social justice warrior craze in corporate America, but it may also be because credit card companies have a strong business presence in the Middle East and that they have been politically pressured by a foreign government to be allowed to continue operating there. If so, this raises the concern that a foreign dictatorship can stifle free speech in America.
Internet Bill of Rights
Today, free corporations have no recourse for protecting themselves against dubious political interference. They are operating in a global environment, and consequently, the worst regimes in the world may set the criteria for free speech in America.
Is there a way to solve this conundrum? One solution may be an Internet Bill of Rights, which protects infrastructure platforms from political pressure by legally preventing them from banning legal content. They would then have the protection of the law to tell political pressure groups that “we would like to comply with your requests, but the law prevents us from doing that.” By hiding behind the law, no-one can blame them for allowing someone on their platform.
So how would this work? If you are a publisher, you are liable for any of the content you publish. An electrical utility, however, cannot be held accountable for unknowingly providing electricity to a drug producer. Similarly, if a company declares itself to be an information infrastructure, it gains protection from liability in exchange for not being able to discriminate any customer on any action except that which is illegal in the United States.
If Patreon had been allowed to be defined as infrastructure under an Internet Bill of Rights, it would have been illegal for Mastercard to demand that they take down Robert Spencer. Similarly, Gab could not have legally been de-platformed for providing an account to the Tree of Life synagogue shooter, and Alex Jones would still be on YouTube.
Such a legal framework would not only protect conservatives from being silenced for being Christian; it would also free the tech companies from the burden of having to deal with political pressure from organizations hoping to control their content.