Free speech is under assault. Trump has responded to a ridiculous fact check by Twitter, ordering the FCC and FTC to “consider” interpreting their regulations to strip social media businesses of immunity for politically biased censorship.
For years now, deeply biased progressives who control the major social media platforms have manipulated their businesses to promote the progressive line and to attack / silence conservatives. Examples are legion, from Twitter banning and shadowbanning Conservatives, to YouTube restricting and demonetizing Conservative sites, to Google practicing viewpoint discrimination against Conservatives via its algorithms. (That said, even Zuckerberg of Facebook has not been so foolish as to directly and openly target POTUS.) As the Federalist opines today:
Everyone knows that Silicon Valley is politically progressive and, as Vox reported Wednesday, its top executives are working hard to elect presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Conservatives have wailed against these practices for years. Various people have brought lawsuits, such as that brought by Praeger U against Google and Youtube, challenging Google’s decision to restrict access to and demonitize Praeger U videos. A California lower court judge ruled last year that Google was a private business and not subject to First Amendment limitations, a ruling the 9th Circuit recently upheld. This blatant discrimination finally came to a head recently when Twitter decided to append a bullshit “fact check” to President Trump’s tweets about the risks of mail-in ballot fraud.
If you follow the “facts about mail-in ballots” linked by Twitter, it takes you a separate page run by Twitter itself where they pontificate on the absence of any factual basis for the President’s tweet.
On Tuesday, President Trump made a series of claims about potential voter fraud after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an effort to expand mail-in voting in California during the COVID-19 pandemic. These claims are unsubstantiated, according to CNN, Washington Post and others. Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud. . . .What you need to know– Trump claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to “a Rigged Election.” However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.– Trump falsely claimed that California will send mail-in ballots to “anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there.” In fact, only registered voters will receive ballots. – Five states already vote entirely by mail and all states offer some form of mail-in absentee voting, according to NBC News.
“[Vote by mail] . . . increases the risk for fraud. . . . Vote by mail is likely to increase and of contested elections . . .The case of King County, Washington is instructive. In the 2004 gubenatorial elections, when two in three ballots there were cast by mail, authorities lacked an effective system to track the number of ballots sent or returned. As a result, King County election officials were unable to account for all absentee ballots. Moreover, a number of provisional ballots were accepted without signature verification. . . . [T]hese became issues in the protracted litigation that followed . . .. . . While there is little evidence of fraud in Oregon, where the entire state votes by mail, absentee balloting in other states has been one of the major sources of fraud. . . .
The best summation of voter fraud associated with voting by mail as well as ballot harvesting is made by Tucker Carlson in the video below. Suffice it to say, Twitter’s fact-free “fact check” is nothing more than cover for the progressive goal of election theft. That is every bit as much a scandal as the attempted coup that the progressives have tried and failed to execute over the past three years.
None of the things that Carlson mentions appears on the pages of Twitter. And indeed, it would appear to anyone who only follows Twitter that Twitter is being an honest arbiter, along with Wapo and CNN, and has caught the President in an egregious lie when the opposite is true.
Moreover, some of our states and localities, given the state of their voter rolls, would be prime for vote fraud if ballots are sent to all registered voters. For instance,
Absentee ballot fraud is just one method of exploiting flaws in the system to perpetrate voting fraud. In some cases, for instance, dead voters have been found to have cast votes in numerous elections, as a local CBS report found in Colorado several years ago. The same phenomenon was discovered in Chicago as well.
The potential for posthumous voter fraud may be more acute in some states than others. The Public Interest Legal Foundation, a voting watchdog group, sent a notification letter to New Jersey’s Division of Elections this week informing the state that it had found a total of nearly 12,000 “deceased individuals with an active registration in the State of New Jersey.” Roughly half of those, the foundation said, had died eight or more years ago.
Media reports have revealed that numerous deceased residents of New Jersey have in the past received vote-by-mail notices.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation also told New Jersey it found “830 potentially duplicated registrations across state lines with apparent voting credits assigned by election officials in each state for the 2018 General Election.” The foundation recently sent similar letters to Virginia and New Mexico.
As the old joke goes, my grandfather never voted Democrat in his entire life — not until after he died.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, defended the decision to add the “fact check” to the President’s tweet, ridiculously taking the moral high ground without acknowledging the mountain of evidence supporting President Trump’s contentions. As the Federalist opines:
What changed this week is that Twitter essentially came out and admitted these biases, discarding the façade of a neutral platform. The company itself, it turns out, has a point of view—in this case, about absentee voting—and it is willing to push that point of view on its users, not just by employing people like Roth to write and enforce its rules, but by explicitly fact-checking the President of the United States.
By doing this, Twitter hasn’t just waded into politics in an overt way, it has exposed the fiction at the heart of what social media companies are: they’re not neutral platforms, they’re biased, and like their peer organizations in the mainstream media, they’re overwhelmingly biased against conservatives and in favor of progressives.
Not surprisingly, President Trump has responded to this outrageous provocation, coming as it does on the heels of years of anti-conservative bias by the social media platforms. Andrea Widburg has an interesting theory at American Thinker that Trump was baiting Twitter into this type of overt action, though she thought that his tweets regarding Joe Scarborough were the bait. Regardless, going into the 2020 election, it gives Trump a tremendously popular issue with his base and puts the social media platforms on thin ice indeed. This from Ms. Widburg:
By challenging the president that way, Twitter made the fatal mistake of overtly inserting itself as a content editor, and therefore publisher, of overtly political material. Trump was ready:
Twitter has now shown that everything we have been saying about them (and their other compatriots) is correct. Big action to follow!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2020
Big Tech is doing everything in their very considerable power to CENSOR in advance of the 2020 Election. If that happens, we no longer have our freedom. I will never let it happen! They tried hard in 2016, and lost. Now they are going absolutely CRAZY. Stay Tuned!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2020
The big action appears to be that Trump will sign an executive order. The best guess is that it will target the social media giants’ current immunity from libel and defamation suits because they’re viewed as bulletin boards, not publishers. However, when they actively manipulate content — especially the most political content of all, which is statements from the President of the United States — they’ve put themselves in an editorial position and should be held liable.
This has to have been Trump’s goal all along with those Scarborough tweets. He goaded Twitter into censoring him, and the social media giant walked right into his trap. Well played, President Trump. Well played.
This threat, to essentially treat social media platforms as public utilities, has many on both sides of the issue up in arms. The progressive criticism is to be expected, their only concern being beating the bad orange man in the 2020 election. They will do so by any means, whether by hook or crook. Thus they cloak their embrace of the social media bias with such bullshit as Dick Blumenthal tweeting that the President is actually attacking “freedom of speech.” As Victor Davis Hanson so perceptively opined the other day, in articulating his Rule of Opposites:
As a general rule, when the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, Public Broadcasting Service, NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, and CNN begin to parrot a narrative, the truth often is found in simply believing just the opposite.
Put another way, the media’s “truth” is a good guide to what is abjectly false. Perhaps we can call the lesson of this valuable service, the media’s inadvertent ability to convey truth by disguising it with transparent bias and falsehood, the “Doctrine of Media Untruth.”
My corollary to that is that the rule applies with equal force to anything uttered by a progressive congresscritter.
Regardless, as to those on the right opposed to any presidential action, their opposition is mostly grounded with one foot on the First Amendment, the second foot on a knee-jerk reaction to any government regulation of private business. Law Professor Jonathan Turley, a very principled man, writes:
I have a column criticizing Twitterfor its labelling of tweets from President Donald Trump as presumptively false. Twitter has yielded to demands in Congress to censor and regulate political speech. In signature style, however, Trump promptly bulldozed the high ground in the controversy by threatening to close down social media companies through retaliatory regulations. The First Amendment was written to bar that very authority in either the President or Congress or both. . . .
Here is the problem with the First Amendment argument. It is axiomatic to say that our Founders firmly believed that our system of government would only work as it should if people paid attention and were consuming accurate information. Utterly critical to this belief was that the people and press had to have freedom of speech in order to be able to evaluate arguments. The danger to our nation lay in the absence of free speech. As Ben Franklin said, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”
As I have long pointed out, our Founders lived in an era where the only threat to Freedom of Speech lay in a government misusing its police power to censor speech. That was true throughout our nation’s history until five years ago, when Google and the social media megaliths, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, began misusing their domination of speech for partisan purporses. President Trump, in his Executive Order issued today, begins with noting this reality:
Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy. Our Founding Fathers protected this sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution. The freedom to express and debate ideas is the foundation for all of our rights as a free people.
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.
The growth of online platforms in recent years raises important questions about applying the ideals of the First Amendment to modern communications technology. Today, many Americans follow the news, stay in touch with friends and family, and share their views on current events through social media and other online platforms. As a result, these platforms function in many ways as a 21st century equivalent of the public square.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube wield immense, if not unprecedented, power to shape the interpretation of public events; to censor, delete, or disappear information; and to control what people see or do not see.
That is an excellent summation of the issue and the danger these politically biased social media platforms pose to our system of government. Unfortunately, absent legislation from Congress, the President is limited in what he can do. He cannot by fiat order that Google, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter apply the First Amendment standards or be held liable in private actions. Instead, he has publicly directed the FCC to review its interpretation of “section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act” that provides immunity to internet providers and social media entities.”
Section 230(c) was designed to address early court decisions holding that, if an online platform restricted access to some content posted by others, it would thereby become a “publisher” of all the content posted on its site for purposes of torts such as defamation. As the title of section 230(c) makes clear, the provision provides limited liability “protection” to a provider of an interactive computer service (such as an online platform) that engages in “‘Good Samaritan’ blocking” of harmful content.
Ultimately, Trump is asking the FCC to interpret its regulation such that a social media entity engaged in politically biased censorship or other like decisions lose its immunity. Likewise, Trump enlists the Federal Trade Commission:
It is the policy of the United States that large online platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, as the critical means of promoting the free flow of speech and ideas today, should not restrict protected speech. The Supreme Court has noted that social media sites, as the modern public square, “can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard.” Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S. Ct. 1730, 1737 (2017). Communication through these channels has become important for meaningful participation in American democracy, including to petition elected leaders. These sites are providing an important forum to the public for others to engage in free expression and debate. Cf. PruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74, 85-89 (1980).
In May of 2019, the White House launched a Tech Bias Reporting tool to allow Americans to report incidents of online censorship. In just weeks, the White House received over 16,000 complaints of online platforms censoring or otherwise taking action against users based on their political viewpoints. The White House will submit such complaints received to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC shall consider taking action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, pursuant to section 45 of title 15, United States Code. Such unfair or deceptive acts or practice may include practices by entities covered by section 230 that restrict speech in ways that do not align with those entities’ public representations about those practices.
There is more, but this is the meat of the Order. As Turley notes, this is an end-run around Congress. That said, having watched Obama do that for eight years to the applause of the left, I am willing to be labeled a hypocrite in this instance for supporting Trump for doing the same. Actually, this one is long overdue.
For his part, six months ago, Slow Joe Biden agreed with Trump’s criticism of Section 230. Apparently, that changed when Trump articulated his EO. Wonder if anyone in the MSM will notice (h/t Instapundit)?
Unreal. It’s like the Biden campaign doesn’t even track what their candidate says.
Here’s Biden in December, telling the New York Times editorial board that “Section 230 should be revoked immediately” for tech companies
— Zach Parkinson (@AZachParkinson) May 29, 2020