August 2, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – With no signs that public outcry has convinced companies like Facebook and Twitter to voluntarily stop discriminating against conservative voices, some conservatives are arguing that it’s time for government intervention.
Since at least the 2016 election, Facebook and Twitter have been belaguered by ongoing allegations that they improperly restrict conservative content while giving preferential treatment to liberal material. Both rely on left-wing organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center for help weeding out allegedly “hateful” content, and both have rejected numerous pro-life advertisements.
Both companies deny any political motivations, and insist they’re merely trying to prioritize “healthy” and “meaningful” conversations. Insiders at both, however, have admitted to targeting figures and topics of interest to conservative users.
In response, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, has argued that if Facebook insists on making editorial judgements rather than acting as the “neutral public forum” it claims to be, the government should revoke the platform’s statutory immunity against potential being held liable for third-party material.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-CA, said over the weekend he was “looking at any legal remedies we can go through” in response to Twitter temporarily shadow-banning himself and other prominent Republicans last week. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-FL, was also shadow-banned, and has filed a Federal Elections Commission complaint on the grounds that restricting himself but not his Democrat opponent was the functional equivalent of an illegal corporate donation.
On Tuesday, Breitbart technology expert Allum Bokhari argued that regulation was the only way to solve the problem, highlighting several reasons why competing with conservative alternatives isn’t a viable strategy.
He noted that Gab.ai, a social media platform dedicated to allowing anything short of “illegal activity, spam, and abuse” and relying on users themselves to opt out of any objectionable content beyond that, is banned from Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store for permitting hateful speech. This effectively forbids Gab from releasing an app on the vast majority of smartphones (although a mobile version of the website can still be accessed via web browsers).
“The same is true of payment processors,” Bokhari continued. “Want to raise money for a conservative cause online? Sorry, Patreon and GoFundMe won’t let you. Want to build a free-speech friendly alternative to Patreon and GoFundMe? Sorry, PayPal and Stripe won’t process your customers’ payments. Want to build a competitor to PayPal and Stripe? You still need Visa and MasterCard to play ball.”
He went on to note that even DNS registrars, the “underlying architecture of the internet” upon which web addresses depend, have begun shutting down websites based on content, not only neo-Nazi websites such as the Daily Stormer, but merely conservative ones such as Rebel Media, as well.
Gab itself was threatened similarly last year over a user’s anti-Semitic post. Yet while its absolutist approach to speech remains controversial, Bokhari observed, Twitter continues to allow white nationalist leader Richard Spencer and Mark Zuckerberg recently declared that he would not ban Holocaust deniers from Facebook.
The concept that free speech must be upheld for even the most abhorrent speakers used to be a bipartisan principle, summarized by the left-wing ACLU’s famous defense of a 1978 neo-Nazi march in Skokie, Illinois. The premise was that making any exceptions for “hateful” or “extreme” speech would set a precedent that could be extended to more mainstream views, a fear conservatives argue has come true in recent years.
“Competition is impossible when your website can be kicked off the internet, your app can be banned from smartphones, and your financial backers can be banned from supporting you through the web,” Bokhari argued. “More importantly, they must act before the Democrats — who have no intention of preserving internet freedom, and in fact, want to restrict it – do.”
He noted that congressional Democrats have drafted proposals of their own that would further imperil online speech, such as by undermining user anonymity.
“If Republicans want tech companies to be obliged to protect the freedom and choice of their users rather than restrict them,” Bokhari concluded, “the race is on.”