It appears conservatives have grown weary of being censored on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Recently, right-leaning organizations have called on the government to address the issue.
This action has ignited a debate among conservatives. As Americans who advocate for less government interference and personal liberty, should we be trying to use the government to prevent private organizations from silencing our viewpoints?
The Government in Social Media?
Last month, several conservative organizations — including The American Conservative Union, The Institute For Policy Innovation, and American Principles Project — penned a letter to lawmakers urging them to investigate the practices of social media companies. In it, these organizations stated that a variety of problems have arisen on the internet, including “election interference, suppressing conservative voices, improper use of data, theft, and more.”
The groups argued that these problems are the result of a “lack of accountability.” While they do not ask for laws and regulation outright, it is implied that such a solution might be appropriate. They wrote:
“In place of regulation, online companies were given the opportunity to police themselves, entrusted with wide latitude to fix problems associated with their products and services. However, over twenty years later we have little to show for this grant of trust. To the contrary, concerns continue to grow, and as a result, elected officials from both sides of the aisle are seeking answers and change.”
At the end of the letter, the organizations state that they “support congressional oversight” of these companies.
The argument for Regulating Speech
It would be easy to assume that the majority of right-wingers would not support additional governmental regulation of social media companies. However, this may not be the case. Many conservatives support the idea of government oversight of these organizations, who have been shown to routinely suppress right-leaning opinions on their platforms.
Proponents of regulation argue that social media companies should be expected to provide a neutral forum for political conversations and debate. The Daily Caller’s Matt McClain argues that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides social media platforms with immunity from being “treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another.” This means they can’t be sued for defamation.
McClain states that this protection is given because the platforms “offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.” He asserts that since these companies clearly do not promote diversity of thought, they do not deserve to be shielded by the government. He also states that viable alternatives to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube do not exist. “Also, unlike publishers, many of these platforms operate as monopolies,” he wrote. “You can easily find an alternative to The New York Times — not so for Facebook.”
Like McClain, many on the right believe that without regulation, these companies will continue to elevate left-wing ideas while minimizing the opinions of those with whom they disagree. However, others believe that there is a valid alternative to getting the government involved.
The Argument for the Free Market
Conservatives who argue against government interference when it comes to social media companies are concerned that it could backfire. The state is not permitted to become involved in the operations of news outlets who favor a particular political side. For this reason, Fox News is allowed to present the news from a right-wing perspective and CNN can report stories from a leftist point of view.
If Congress began making moves to police The National Review or The Drudge Report, conservatives would aggressively oppose it. Allowing the government to have too much oversight over social media companies could empower them to take further steps to control the speech of other organizations.
Those who do not favor more regulation also state that conservatives can use the free market to disseminate our ideas; the idea that we are stuck with Facebook isn’t accurate. For those on this side of the argument, it is not impossible for us to build our own media outlets. They refer to prominent conservatives who have attained a certain level of success by using alternative forms of media including streaming TV services, podcasts, and news sites.
It is also interesting to note that even though companies like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube routinely stifle conservative viewpoints, several high-profile personalities have still managed to be heard. When Candace Owens posted a video of her addressing Black Lives Matter activists at one of her speeches, rapper Kanye West took note, tweeted about it, and then set the internet ablaze for weeks. For people on the anti-regulation side, there is still hope for us to influence the American public despite the left’s attempts to silence us online.
To Regulate? Or Not to Regulate?
Both arguments have merit. However, regardless of what side you choose, be careful about advocating for more government control. There is a reason why we do not like the state meddling in our lives. On the other hand, there could be situations in which government involvement is necessary. As a movement, we will need to decide if censorship on social media is one of these instances.
Either way, we know that the far left wants to silence us. It’s why they do their best to keep conservatives out of the media, our universities, and entertainment industry. While we work towards preventing them from silencing us, we must not lose our focus on continuing to get our message heard through other means. It may not seem like it, but conservatives have gained some ground in the culture war. Let’s not give it up.