Social Media: A Free Utility?
Twitter, facebook, and many other social media companies face increasing controversy over their usage of censorship on their respective platforms. Per usual, the debate has turned quite political, but the interesting factor to me is the spectrum of opinions on this particular topic.
Liberals who usually favor mass governmental regulation over everything appear quite content with Twitter purges removing those with alternate views (e.g. Alex Jones from infowars and Milo Yiannopoulos). Some of the left’s typical conservative opponents also agree with social media groups censoring as they wish, because Zuckerberg and friends do own these private businesses. Traditional free marketers can easily observe the notion that businesses have the right, to some degree at least, to make their customers feel comfortable within their environment, albeit virtual or physical.
My curiosity rises with many on the right starting to rally behind the idea of regulating speech online. Ann Coulter believes that the nation must reinforce free speech policies on social media; Dennis Prager recently said that regulation of large social media companies will end the push against right-of-center speech online. (breitbart.com/tech/2018/08/22/dennis-prager-we-can-prevail-over-silicon-valley-with-regulation/)
I’m sure millions agree with Coulter and Prager, and I happen to mostly agree with them. Social media controls such a large part of the public sphere of speech today, with most Americans utilizing some form of online connection between friends and colleagues.
Hell, most of the 2016 election season was dominated by news stories solely covering Trump's tweets. Imagine telling our founding fathers that tweets would make the headlines!
Operations such as facebook and twitter are private businesses and the laissez faire side of me says they should have the choice to eliminate opinions they don't like on their sites. Companies can discriminate against political parties and their supporters (generally speaking). However, these organizations describe themselves in a way that prevents using a solid argument advocating free markets. If the general rule of thumb is that we will have free speech, then we should have that in every public space. After all, if the #resistance can march along my sidewalk every day of the week, can't Trumpy Bear bombard their twitter feed with "build the wall" memes?
The question of social media serving as a utility will continue. I can honestly say it's an area where my opinion is developing. A key factor to me is trying to find out where the conservatives in social media are, and will they create a reasonable alternative? If that seems impossible, and there truly can't be market based competition, then twitter and facebook turn into water and electric companies. All the rules change, and maybe they should.
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