As the Trump – Twitter war heats up, a salient question emerges: Who is really trampling on the First Amendment? The Associated Press – a former news wire service that now sounds eerily like the Huffington Post – says it is the president who is stomping all over the Constitution. In a new Executive Order, the president says it is the massive social media platforms like Twitter who are violating this most precious of American rights. Both sides have assembled in assault positions on an issue that carries significant consequences for the average internet user.
It is time to pay attention because the future of what you are permitted to say to whom and how on the internet is at stake. A relatively nascent conflict just a few years ago elevated into a few skirmishes when Mr. Trump was elected. This month, however, legacy media guerrillas like Mika Brzezinski emerged from behind the bushes and stormed the president’s Twitter account with complaints to Mr. Twitter himself – Jack Dorsey.
Hell hath no fury like Mika scorned.
As the MSNBC television host ratcheted up complaints about the president’s Twitter account, everyone prepared for a burst of fire. Dorsey did not disappoint his media pal and took up sides with the most recent Mrs. Scarborough. On his command, Twitter began to “fact check” the president – an increasingly utilized but rather useless concept – leading to a scramble for the high ground to establish a beachhead.
Loading CDA 230 into the Cannons
Back in the early days of Al Gore’s miraculous creation of the internet, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act. Within this legislation lies Section 230, which should be viewed as a potent offensive weapon by the Trump Administration. It separates “interactive computer services” from being held to the same standards as publishers. In essence, it protects these now-gargantuan social media platforms from being held responsible for what their users say.
CDA 230 seems straightforward enough: Open your media platforms, and it doesn’t matter whether your users are naughty or nice – let freedom ring. The Electronic Frontier Foundation puts it this way: “CDA 230 creates a broad protection that has allowed innovation and free speech online to flourish.”
From a business standpoint, why should corporations like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Google give a rat’s derriere what the little people out there are writing and saying? One would think they would be happy to leave all the political and policy wrangling to others and just keep cashing in their chips and doling them out to shareholders. But it appears money is not enough. Thus it comes as no surprise that Twitter stock has tumbled over the last few days.
Twitter and its social media buddies need only stay in their lane to succeed. Instead, these mega-platforms have morphed into demi-gods as national arbiters of truth and fact. Do as I say, speaketh the tyrants at Twitter – or else.
In issuing his Executive Order, President Trump wrote, “As President, I have made clear my commitment to free and open debate on the Internet. Such debate is just as important online as it is in our universities, our businesses, our newspapers, and our homes.” Then he went on to say:
“In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet. This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power. They cease functioning as passive bulletin boards, and ought to be viewed and treated as content creators.”
As a remedy for the power-hungry internet platforms, the president calls for “Protections Against Arbitrary Restrictions” in section two:
“Section 230 was not intended to allow a handful of companies to grow into titans controlling vital avenues for our national discourse under the guise of promoting open forums for debate, and then to provide those behemoths blanket immunity when they use their power to censor content and silence viewpoints that they dislike. When an interactive computer service provider removes or restricts access to content and its actions do not meet the criteria of subparagraph (c)(2)(A), it is engaged in editorial conduct. It is the policy of the United States that such a provider should properly lose the limited liability shield of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) and be exposed to liability like any traditional editor and publisher that is not an online provider.”
Buried deep within the leftist mindset is a need to control what others say and do – from the type of straw you use to stir your drink to the picture that appears on your Facebook. Whether this mentality will ultimately turn into self-destruction remains unclear. But what is evident is that we have come a long way since the American Civil Liberties Union took up with the neo-Nazis to protect their right to march in Skokie.