Keep Twitter Accountable Without Censorship

Originally Published in the Wall Street Journal (Coauthored with Adam Candeub)

In an effort to “take a more aggressive stance,” Twitter announced on Nov. 3 that it will enact new and revised rules later this month to address graphic content, unwanted sexual advances, violent organizations, spam and “hateful” symbols and imagery on the social network. But one of these things is not like the others. Unlike regulating violent or harassing content that interferes with the experience of other users, prohibiting “hateful” imagery, symbols and content is a vague and subjective restriction—and one that would be unconstitutional if enforced by the government. Continue reading “Keep Twitter Accountable Without Censorship”

Despite high sounding name, Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act threatens Free Speech

Originally Published in The Hill.

The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA) embodies this reality. After all, who could possibly support sex trafficking? Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon, and most major online platforms oppose the proposal, leading to predictable headlines like “Tech companies push back as Congress tries to fight online sex trafficking” and “Google and Sex Traffickers Like Backpage.com.” And with outrage over “big tech” and its efforts to censor and influence political speech, some conservatives have joined with those condemning the companies for their opposition. But the truth is that SESTA could create calls for even more censorship. Continue reading “Despite high sounding name, Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act threatens Free Speech”

Who’s the Real Internet Censor: Comcast or Facebook?

Originally Published in the Wall Street Journal

Apple has at last broken its silence on net neutrality. Last week the company sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission endorsing “strong, enforceable open internet protections” and opposing the FCC’s planned deregulation. “Consumers must be allowed to access the lawful internet content, applications, and services of their choice,” wrote Cynthia C. Hogan, Apple’s vice president of public policy for the Americas. “Broadband providers should not block, throttle, or otherwise discriminate against lawful websites and services.” Apple’s comments are directly in line with the larger progressive narrative, which presents net neutrality as a bulwark against corporate censorship. If the FCC’s deregulation went through, a senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union worried in July, “corporations like Comcast , Verizon , and AT&T will have the power to distort the flow of data and the marketplace of ideas online.” Facebook ’s Mark Zuckerberg wrote that the FCC plan would let internet providers “block you from seeing certain content.” A public policy manager at Twitter said “free expression” would be threatened because cable companies could “block content they don’t like.”

One problem: No one has presented a single credible case of any major internet provider censoring web content based on political beliefs. But you know who does? The very companies calling for net neutrality. Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Google, PayPal and other tech firms are engaged in increasingly strict political censorship through vague and subjective prohibitions on “hate speech” and “fake news.” Continue reading “Who’s the Real Internet Censor: Comcast or Facebook?”

Google’s effort to undermine free speech strengthens case for regulating big tech

Originally posted in The Hill

As Silicon Valley has cracked down on perceived hate speech in lock step, many on the right are questioning whether the free market will protect the marketplace of ideas. Google’s decision to ban Gab — a social media platform where the mission is to “put free speech first” — from its Android operating system’s store raises serious antitrust concerns and strengthens the justification for public utility or common carrier regulation of online platforms.

  Continue reading “Google’s effort to undermine free speech strengthens case for regulating big tech”

Congress should base Google’s legal protections on the company’s own policies

Originally published in The Hill 

Google’s decision to fire an engineer, James Damore, for writing on a memo on the company’s “ideological echo chamber” has spurred questions about its commitment to free speech. What’s been left unsaid, however, is that the company’s search and social media censorship threaten the marketplace of ideas far more than its employment policies.

Continue reading “Congress should base Google’s legal protections on the company’s own policies”

Should government outsource censorship to Facebook and Twitter?

Originally Published in The Hill

Donald Trump’s Twitter account manages to create controversy even when he’s not tweeting. Over the last few weeks, many legal academics have accused the President of violating the First Amendment by blocking some critics from posting on @realDonaldTrump’s timeline. Their argument and a recent Supreme Court decision on free speech and social media create an even stronger case that all government accounts on social media with companies with discriminatory speech codes are unconstitutional.

Continue reading “Should government outsource censorship to Facebook and Twitter?”

An Unconvincing Attack on Silicon Valley from the Left

Originally Published in National Review

If Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s observation that “power in America today is control of the means of communication” still rings true, then a few Internet platforms possess unprecedented influence over our political affairs. Jonathan Taplin’s new book, Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, views this state of affairs as a critical threat to American democracy. But while he identifies a number of legitimate concerns related to Big Tech’s influence on culture and politics, Taplin’s ideological lens distorts the book’s insights. Continue reading “An Unconvincing Attack on Silicon Valley from the Left”

Trump should speak out against Europe’s effort to suppress free speech

Originally Published in The Hill

In February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she supported a “free, independent press” and had “high respect for journalists.” Her comments were widely interpreted as a response to President Trump’s tweet that the mainstream media is “fake news” and an “enemy of the American people.”

But while Trump may use harsh language against journalists, unlike Germany, he does not use his power to suppress free speech.

Continue reading “Trump should speak out against Europe’s effort to suppress free speech”

Tackle Internet censorship directly — not through antitrust law

Originally Published in The Hill

Sewlyn Duke’s recent op-ed for The Hill, “Antitrust should be used to break up partisan tech giants like Facebook, Google,” addresses the serious problem of how a few privately owned internet companies have unprecedented control over the distribution of information.

As Jeffrey Rosen has noted, “lawyers at Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twit­ter have more power over who can speak and who can be heard than any president, judge, or monarch.”  However, using antitrust laws to address this would be ineffective and likely illegal without new legislation.

Continue reading “Tackle Internet censorship directly — not through antitrust law”

Memo to the New York Times: Definitions of ‘Fake News’ Are Subjective

Originally Published in National Review

In 2007, the New York Times editorial board railed against Verizon for preventing an abortion-rights group from sending mass text messages. It warned against “the potential threat to free speech . . . as communications migrate from old-fashioned telephone lines, TV broadcasts and printing presses to digital networks controlled by unregulated private companies,” noting that “if newspapers were delivered over mobile phones, a company could simply cut them off because it did not like a particular article.” Though there was no government censorship, “our democracy is built on basic freedoms not being left to . . . individual companies.”

Continue reading “Memo to the New York Times: Definitions of ‘Fake News’ Are Subjective”