Another day, another post on free speech. I’ve been noticing lately how there have been some conservatives desiring some sort of regulation on Big Tech. By that, specifically Facebook and Twitter, possibly Google as well. Is this a good idea? There may be a case for some sort of regulation, but I’m in the camp of no.
Let me start by saying that all of these companies are private and have no obligation to provide anyone a platform whether they are conservative or liberal. These companies are publicly held, meaning that they have shareholders that they are primarily responsible to for any business decision. Their goal is to increase shareholder value by generating revenue.
So there have been calls recently for the government to regulate these platforms to ensure fairness. I’m not anti-regulation but I’m for less rather than more government regulation. Not always, but sometimes when the government becomes involved, they create a bureaucratic mess. But then I can use the example of government regulation of the airwaves (broadcast television and radio) to show the opposite.
There have been a small number of conservatives actually calling for nationalization of these platforms. The argument in favor? That the government, unlike private entities, are subject to the 1st Amendment and that the government could not ban or delete accounts solely on speech it dislikes. That too me is a very radical idea and I seriously doubt that it would ever be considered.
The problem is that, as I said above, these are publicly held corporations. How would the government compensate those same shareholders? These companies have a collective worth in the trillions of dollars. Would the government just ignore that and forcefully takeover these companies? No, of course not and the idea that it may be the right thing to do is just silly to me.
As far as regulation, I’m unsure, after a search of the FCC website, that they have the authority, under current law, to regulate any of these companies. Congress would have to pass new legislation giving the FCC authority to do so. This is not out of the realm of possibility, and I could easily see this legislation being bipartisan.
The problem is the FCC is 5 political appointees. In the current administration, 5 Republican and 2 Democrat. Under the last administration, those numbers were opposite. Imagine every 4 to 8 years, as the face of the FCC changed, the regulations change as well. How could any company operate not knowing what the rules may be in the future. Any legislation passed would have to be very specific, as in how the airwaves are governed so that as administrations come and go, these companies would know how to operate.
There’s a much simpler solution in my mind. Something so simple, it would require zero government intervention and would probably increase shareholder value over time: Apply their Terms of Service and Community Standards equitably. No need to form a new team or have any reviews over anything. No need for any Congressional investigations if those standards were applied the same to all users. Will there still be complaints? Of course there will be but the complaints will not be coming from just one ideological side. These companies need to also hold their employees accountable that they do not ban one form of speech over another. In other words, fire those that will not apply the standards fairly.
I know. This is too easy and we’re all asking why they haven’t already done this? I can’t answer that question but it seems to me to be an easy fix to what has become a problem to the extent where government may become involved. One thing the government could do (Congress) is to tell these platforms that they must apply their standards to all users, not just some. Failure to accede will mean that yes, they will become a regulated entity.
Something they will not like. At all.