President Trump says that he will veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) unless section 230 is terminated as part of the bill.
Although Trump means well and is trying to address a serious problem in America, tech censorship on social media, this probably isn’t the best way about it. Many people on the Right (and some prominent ones on the Left) have focused on section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as a potential solution to the problem. It reads,
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
However, all this really does is guarantee that websites can allow comments without being sued. For example, if we had a comments section on this website and someone made a libelous claim about Barack Obama in the comments section, Barack Obama could potentially sue us instead of Poopface1412, who actually made the comment. If you were trying to get rid of user comments from users entirely, that would be the way to go.
However, is the tech censorship problem really about comments? No. Do you care if liberals get censored on Fox or conservatives get censored on the Huffington Post? Probably not. The reason people care about the censorship happening on Facebook and Twitter is those services are effectively monopolies. That doesn’t mean they have no competitors, because both of them do, it means that they so effectively dominate the market that no one can compete with them on an equal level. No conservative publisher wants to be on Facebook, but they have to do it because of the traffic. An awful lot of conservatives, myself included, would prefer to be on Parler instead of Twitter. So why do so many of us have Parler AND Twitter accounts? Because Twitter has so dominated the national conversation that we feel like we still need them if we work in media. We could add to this, why does every conservative web page try to get better Google rankings if they detest Google? Because Google dominates the search space. When you despise a company, but they have so much control over the market that you’re forced to use them anyway, that’s an indication that you may be talking about a monopoly. If that is indeed the case, the fix for a monopoly is to break it up so the public will be better served by the increased competition. What makes more sense? Breaking up 3 companies that have so much control over what you see and hear that their censorship can largely determine who and what gets heard or getting rid of comment sections? The DOJ already has an antitrust suit against Google. Let’s hope that in the future, the DOJ expands that out to Facebook and Twitter as well. Breaking up those monopolies would be good for the country.
John Hawkins is the author of 101 Things All Young Adults Should Know. You can find him on Parler here, Twitter here, and his Facebook page is here.