Is it Time to Regulate Social Media?

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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.

11 thoughts on “Is it Time to Regulate Social Media?

  1. Government control of speech!
    Approved speech only!

    In a year, we could build enough gulags and concentration camps to isolate every single person who dared to publish disallowed speech.

    And why stop there?
    What about uttering unapproved thoughts in the workplace?
    We’d need to have a political officer in every public place, like the Commies, and collect billions of remarks on tape like the East Germans.

    Very dangerous to give minority views a platform!
    At the very least, we have to punch unpopular views in the face, but it would be EVEN BETTER just to disappear them like in the banana republics.

    Government control of speech!
    It’s not like we don’t already have global historical experience with this idea.
    We can see for ourselves how well it has worked out for populations that have brought this down on their own heads.

    So bring it on!
    What could go wrong?
    ——————-

    In other words, Jim, your balanced and temperate reasoning is 100% correct.

    In a way, the bias in social media (and news) is a self-correcting problem.
    People are perfectly free to seek out platforms that express their minority or unpopular points of view.
    The more people who have those views (in other words, the less they are “minority” or “unpopular”), the more viewership these platforms will get, and the more they will prosper.

    So for those offended by the bias in Facebook, or The Washington Post, or whatever — go support a venue that promotes your viewpoint.

    • Thanks Ann, I always appreciate your comments. I’ve said in the past on this same subject that those so offended by the current policies of these platforms are always free to delete their accounts. But instead, why not have the user base itself insist that they apply their rules equitably, whatever the ideology may be? Government regulation would be a last resort and as I said, depending on the administration, would vary over years. Not anyway to run a business.

      • Yes, that’s a good idea.

        Offended members should agitate from within, and also expose this kind of corporate censorship as it occurs.
        Many readers don’t support bias even if it reflects their point of view, and would in all fairness disapprove of social media’s biased acts.
        ——————–

        But even as a “last resort,” government regulation can never be tolerated.

        The Communists monitor you and imprison you in the gulags; the banana republics send squads to disappear you; the Nazis had concentration camps to exterminate you; Red China sends you to pig farms for re-education (if you have survived the “struggle”).

        Militant Islam is over the top too. They assassinate opposing views, murder them, shoot them in the face, burn them alive, stone them to death (or just stone their heads, which are left poking out when the dissenter is buried).

        The inevitable end to speech control is thought control too.
        The Communist brutes recognized that bad behavior was caused by bad desires (not just political, but criminal deeds too.)

        They desired to have the citizens be well-behaved members of the utopian collective of their own free wil l rather than because of the inefficiencies and cruelties of law enforcement.
        This desire was the reason they supported Lysenko’s ideas about evolution. They hoped that when enough generations of cooperative citizens had reproduced, the following generations would be Commies by genetics.

        The realization that bad deeds are the product of bad thoughts sends you on a hunt to detect and extirpate wrong thinking.
        At this point, no monstrosity is forbidden.

        The need to control even THINKING is what causes ISIS atrocities like this:
        (Graphic content)
        https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcS0Iu0yq866Q6Pm8miASQxJ5fSJV3wDYNaVrtASF4mamC2Kruo0YA
        ——————

        It would be FAR BETTER for all of us to have social media be 100% unfair and biased forever than to prevent it by resorting to the extremes that must be taken to uncover and delete disapproved thoughts.

        • Who said (parapharsing) Ignorance of the past leads to the oppression of the present? Although I’m one of those awful SO’s spending 30 years of my adult life defending my country, I was also privileged to have the oppotunity to become educated. I am an absolute defender of the Constitution. I absolutely believe that you, me, anyone else should have the right to speak their minds without being censored by anyone. I am one of the few that actually understand this, having witnessed the other over so many years.

          • Jim, you and Vjack have your heads on straight.

            Of course, when we disagree, I am right and you both are wrong, and that’s just something you guys will have to accept gracefully.
            ——————

            I too am a firm believer in the Constitution — so much so that I believe in tolerating speech that advocates destroying it.

            (With false modesty) I don’t know about you, but speaking for myself, I NEVER explode IEDs to blow up those who disagree with me, no matter how wrong they are.

            Well, hardly ever.

            • Gonna have to say, right now, your “joke” concerning exploding IEDs is offensive to me. Been there, have you? Witnessed the awful tragedy. Not a joke. Wouned, dead soldiers are not in anyway some sort of “joke” by someone that has no idea to what these sacrifice on a daily basis.

  2. I don’t want to see government regulation of social media. As far as I’m concerned, there is already far too much government regulation of speech. What I would like to see is government regulation of access to the Internet so that more people can afford to use it. I think it is becoming increasingly difficult to function in modern society without Internet access. But as long as we refuse to treat things like electricity, safe drinking water, and basic health care as necessities, I’m not going to hold my breath.

  3. I agree with you, Jack.

    Here are three suggestions for things that the government could do, but I don’t know enough about the internet to know if my ideas would work.

    1) Sort out the posts on the internet into categories using separate log ins or whatever
    > all the content that is FACTUAL ONLY (PubMed, History.com, dictionaries, encyclopedias, Wiki)
    > Professional news, editorials, reader reactions (The Times, ABC News, etc
    > Professional journals (Oprah, the New Yorker)
    > Entertainment (movies, professional performances)
    > Advocate sites (left and right wing, religious sites, atheism — stuff like that)
    > Whatever other categories seem useful
    People have complete and unlimited access to anything they want, but we would be able to sort out what we’re looking for

    2) Find a way to compensate sites that currently have to use a paywall.
    This should be limited to sites that genuinely offer content of public interest (not a guy doing amateur magic tricks, but the Boston Globe or whatever)
    Entertainment sites can still get along by charging users, just like selling movie tickets

    3) Put EVERYTHING in the cloud in order to eliminate most of the functions of the the computer
    I don’t know how to phrase what I mean.
    No more software that keeps some stuff stored on your own PC
    No more using software to get access to specific sites
    Just a stripped-down software device that doesn’t need Google or Chrome or whatever to access the Internet

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