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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The most prominent free speech protections come from the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. But folks seem to forget is that these protections only protect individuals from federal and state action (the Fourteenth Amendment applies the First Amendment to the states).
As a general rule, “free speech” does not protect individuals from censorship by a private entity, such as churches, employers or social media companies. This gives social media companies like Twitter and Facebook the right to create their own rules that can restrict the speech of its users in any way it sees fit.
I have no problem with that-until the government begins to yank the strings of these “independents.” Then we end up with de facto government censorship and manipulation on a scale that would make Stalin and Lenin proud. All the while hearing the bleating of “private companies have to right to edit however they see fit.” And they do-problems that when the government is making “suggestions’ then the companies are not really private anymore.
Jen Psaki (White House press secretary) actually confirmed on Thursday what skeptical conservatives and some civil libertarians have been squealing for years: that the world’s social media platforms (and the source of most of the populations information and news) take direction from the government in choosing what content to suppress, amplify, or remove.
“We are in regular touch with social media platforms” about COVID-19 related misinformation, including misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine,” Psaki said. “We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook.”
On Friday, she urged social media companies to be working together to ban misinformation “super spreaders” from multiple platforms, even going so far as to suggest that if a user was banned from one platform that they should be banned from all-effectively silencing their voice.
Not really a startling admission to anyone who has been paying attention. It was backed up by a 22-page “health misinformation” guidance issued by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, in which he urged the social media platforms to “impose clear consequences for accounts that repeatedly violate platform policies.”
The White House claims to be addressing a real problem: overtly wrong information about the COVID-19 vaccine. Certain posts may be factually inaccurate, and the fact that vaccines, in general, do work might be misrepresented.
When asked yesterday what his message was to platforms like Facebook, President Biden said “They’re killing people,”
So the administration has an age-old tried and true solution — to control what can be said. This isn’t new, although the approach of control by deciding who can use the world’s biggest speech platforms gives them a “hands off” perspective.
“The control of information is something the elite always does, particularly in a despotic form of government. Information, knowledge, is power. If you can control information, you can control people.”-Tom Clancy
There is a frightening dystopian element to “suggesting” social media platforms to control “misinformation” when the very definition of that keeps changing depending on who’s is at the desk. One has to look no further than the “Evolution” vs “Creation” theory to see that sides that believe that they-and they alone-are correct and everyone who disagrees with them is wrong can showcase the EXACT reasons the 1st Amendment came about in the first place.
And certainly, certain cases of censorship do make a modicum of sense-yelling “Fire” in a theater, or false advertising can be forms of clamping down that most will agree are reasonable. But as any salesperson/therapist/narcotics dealer knows, once an individual starts to say “yes” when they previously would have said “No” the trend will start to generate inertia.
In the early months of the pandemic, Facebook began banning anti-lockdown protest content. Not because it violated any laws, but because such gatherings might run afoul of local guidance and public health recommendations. At least this was the reason given, and in the beginning it made sense. They always do.
But it didn’t stop (!)-YouTube then began censoring any content that disagreed with the (error-prone) World Health Organization recommendations and removing videos from both emergency room doctors and podcasts from Stanford University neuro-radiologists alike. Pretty much anyone that had questions concerning what we were told (check out a timeline of COVID if you want to see all of the changes that have occurred) ended up on the “do not resuscitate” list.
Professor Satoshi Omura, who won the Nobel Prize for his work was censored on YouTube for discussing how ivermectin might help treat COVID-19 patients. His work WAS Ivermectin.
Satoshi Omura has also been censored on YouTube for saying how ivermectin could potentially help COVID patients. The reason was that he was referring to papers that weren’t “academic” works.
Psaki added the government has flagged posts on Facebook that they deem “problematic.”
Social media platforms have banned accounts for asking questions (“We are not banning your free speech, we are banning YOU!”), and discussing errant data points or emerging hypotheses around new treatments. This is a common tactic; if you don’t agree with what someone has to say then take away their ability to say it.
Discussions concerning whether the virus came from the Wuhan Lab were trash-canned within minutes. In and of itself the reaction speed should be a little alarming. In a desire to bend to the controlling narrative the platforms have banned debate and inquiry itself.
The media ridicules people about what is- and isn’t covered by the First Amendment. Social media platforms are private companies and can decide what appears, they argue.
But social-media platforms have become the de facto public square/town crier through which Americans communicate with one another, petition their government, ask questions, and air dissent.
This development has not escaped the notice of our elected leaders, who FULLY understand that “He who controls the information controls the universe” (With apologies to Frank Herbert). As most Americans get their news from these platforms (in the old days it was from news broadcasts and the daily paper) it surely didn’t escape the notice of someone that if that information was to be throttled then the general belief structure of individuals could be manipulated. Which would then tend to affect behavior.
The Biden administration’s moves veer close to the government “abridging the freedom of speech.” while keeping an ‘arm’s length transaction’ as far as accountability.
“The government can’t censor speech. The First Amendment makes that very clear,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said Friday on Fox News. “A private, for-profit corporation can make its own decisions, but when it’s doing that in collusion with government, that starts to look to me like a First Amendment violation.”
There is a fine line between spreading outright lies in a public health crisis, and individuals thoughtfully pursuing information in a rapidly changing and evolving field of science.
Increasingly, our major speech platforms and our government would prefer there is no difference. And the instance of public support behind this seems frighteningly enough to be gaining.
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