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Subj: Here's my reply and account of how freedom of speech intersects with private social media power.
Posted: Thu Jan 06, 2022 at 03:16:13 pm EST (Viewed 311 times)
Reply Subj: An argument I'm having about free speech on the Thor board.
Posted: Thu Jan 06, 2022 at 01:26:14 pm EST (Viewed 400 times)
Here's my reply, and by the way anyone here is welcome to participate in this discussion. Freedom of Speech issues here are interesting ones because they general cut across normal political boundaries.
So who enforces your freedom of speech? God?
LGDB: This of course depends on who is the chief threat to freedom of speech at any given time, i.e. where the repression is coming from. If the government is a threat to the freedom of speech then we (in a functioning government) would enshrine something in your Constitution or legal system saying the government has no legal authority no make laws abridging freedom of speech. You know like we did. But what's less obvious and the point I'm making here is that historically the freedom of speech has been imperiled by other sectors, like I said earlier by business especially by way of your employer, by the Church, and by various communities. An employer might fire you for something you say on Twitter, the church excommunicates, and your community might stigmatize you (or worse.) And each of these sectors have their own processes and logics, but the point is each of them can become repressive to the degree that the people subsumed in them don't feel free to express themselves. And to your question who enforces it, it depends on the sector, if your community is repressive it might take the process of cultural reform; if your employer is repressive it might take organizing workers collectively and unionizing to put pressure on them. But the who is always the people in a functioning democracy.
So if you happen to live in a place where your government won't prosecute you for controversial speech, you still might feel a very credible threat from let's say people in your community. To say under this circumstance you have the freedom of speech is meaningless. I mean I remember a time in this country when you didn't feel free to speak about being openly gay, but it wasn't usually because you were afraid of government reprisal. You were afraid of what various people in the community might say or do. The point is freedom speech describes the condition of a community at any given time. At any given time the community at large can feel comfortable expressing certain potentially controversial thoughts or not, but that condition isn't the kind of thing that's only under threat by the State.
The increasing corporate control of America is a function of right-leaning policy, and statement of intent (not my opinion).
LGDB: But of course it's also a thing liberals are complicit in, at least at the level of Congress and other government institutions. While liberals might have certain kinds of commitment that gestures against corporate power, the liberal party is absolutely in bed with it. While the Republicans are at the mercy of old money like oil and coal, the Democrats are in the tank for the financial sector and Big Tech. We can get into this at greater length, but the idea that the right is the only one content to allow powerful private interests to have inordinate influence over public policy is a ludicrous proposition.
Which bring me how this relates... when we allow companies like Twitter, Google, and Facebook to more or less dominate public communication, and then say, sure you're a private business so you can censor people however you like , it is in practice a way of side stepping the first amendment. In other words, a way to side step that pesky 1st Amendment is to permit the privatization of public broadcasting and public social media, because private companies are obviously hindered by those kinds of Constitutional restraints.
Incorrect. There is no applicable legal case that could be brought against Twitter, thus its not for a court to decide. In fact, the courts would overwhelmingly side with Twitter, hence why Trump hasn't brought one.
LGDB: You're both right and wrong here. There IS no legal case for Trump or anyone to sue Twitter for kicking them off. But you've lost the plot here. The legal case you absolutely could make are violation of Anti-Trust laws. There's an absolutely clear precedent of even breaking up companies like Twitter and Facebook or Amazon or Google for just these reasons. And there are many scholars, legal experts, and political activists that propose just this. (If anyone's interested look into Matt Stoller's work. He's really good on this stuff. ) The problem that I have with Twitter banning people isn't in principle their having that control over their own business (though this gets complicated). The problem I have is the degree to which they've dominated that sector such that if a person is kicked off Twitter they have no where else to go to participate in public conversation at that level. Even when we're talking about a publicly elected official that a huge part of the American electorate wants to be in the public conversation. You can say sure they can go to the vastly smaller media entities, but the more fundamental issue here is that the public conversation which in the 21st century is invariably going to take place on line and shouldn't be primarily controlled by private corporate business.
So you're advocating for regulations of free speech and strict regulation of capitalism. You do realize that's what you're doing, right? If not, I got news for you.
LGDB: Absolutely. And yes I realize that. If anything I've got news for YOU... I am unequivocally for strict regulation of capitalism. I'm for abolishing capitalism ultimately, but in the mean time I'll settle for regulating the holy hell out of it.
As for regulating speech (1) there's a difference between regulating something and abridging it. When liberals say they want to regulate guns sales, not abridge the second amendment, they have a case a lot of the time. (2) we regulate speech all the time well in keeping with the 1st Amendment. We regulate against threats or direct implication there of. We have obscenity laws (some of which I agree with). And you can be sued in the civil courts for defamation, slander, libel, etc. And (3) the bigger issue here is that I do not equate the financial transitions, business decisions, and corporate policy with something like the individual right to free speech.
So, again, you're advocating for more of a far-left (even further than me) approach to private companies. It actually seems like you're advocating for outright government control (the only thing accountable to a democratic process). Welcome, comrade!
LGDB: See this is what can sometimes be frustrating about talking to liberals about politics when you're to their left... You can't imagine I might ACTUALLY be to your left so you're treating me being to your left as inadvertent like it's a trap I stepped into. lol My theory is that it's because the media sources that they favor and have faith in have systematically excluded any thought that is left of the corporate center or is critical of the professional managerial class or the business interests that bankroll them. So genuine progressivism, leftism, DemSocs, and socialists all seem to be this imaginary thing that exists in some distance land and isn't "serious."
I AM a socialist. Btw most people under 35 have positive associations with socialism (whether they should or not isn't my point). It's not to say young people are by virtue of age correct about things, but at this point in our history, it's kind of silly to just assume you'd never meet one in conversation. And I AM outright arguing for government control, insofar as it's a democratic government run by people who are or who represent working people. I am not for a bourgeois government that's controlled by unaccountable corporate interests.
P.S. you're not being a very good comrade lol
It's public discourse on a private platform. Of course Twitter or Facebook have a right to control it. Just as someone else can start another platform and do the same thing (e.g. ban users, which the so-called free-speech right-wing platforms have already done).
LGDB: But the point is it shouldn't be privately owned. In estimation it can be a private business if it's heavily regulated by the state. Or it can be thought of as a public utility. Some of which are managed but not controlled ultimately by private interests. Yes, and they CAN TRY to start their own company, but ultimately companies like Twitter and Facebook have become so large they basically are no longer competing in the market. They control the market. Or at least have undo influence. The problem though is this isn't just some private consumer market of optional goods, where we don't really care if there are only 3 cattle companies as long as burger prices stay low. This market control is the real-estate of public conversation and who governs it ultimately the arbiter of the voices that can and cannot be heard in society.
Further if there was some competition at that level it would have to be created by some rival massive capitalist endeavor, and that's precisely the problem we find ourselves in: saying they have choices on who to buy from or who to work for doesn't mean anything if all the choices are owned and controlled by people or businesses that all have the same upper 1% wealthy class interest.
Um, yeah it does, since its foundational to what we're discussing.
LGDB: But my point is that saying that they're a private company does not somehow make them immune from public laws or social arrangements and my position is that we should in some cases change those laws or moreover enforce the laws we already have. This is the same principle of a private business saying we can pay our employees whatever we like we're a private business. If that demand were observed we wouldn't have the minimum wage or the weekend or the 40 our work week and so on. It doesn't matter if a private business wants total autonomy if it has a deleterious affect on its stakeholder, i.e. society.
A much stronger case could be made against other sectors of the economy, such as energy production or health care.
LGDB: No, it's virtually the same case to make, you just have to be willing to take the same principles applying them to Big Tech companies that have a monopoly on the public discourse.
Well, I'm not necessarily disagreeing, but your making a purely ideological point that does not exist in American reality (or most other nation's).
LGDB: Yes, but it's one thing to not have yet enough power to change the system and to acknowledge that, and another thing entirely to argue on its behalf. And the point that things should be changed isn't any more or less ideological than the point that they should remain the same. There are plenty things that do no exist in American reality, but there's nothing to say they can't. I imagine that there were people saying this making a very similar argument about slavery in the south in 1820. To them abolition of slavery must appeared like an absolute impossibility. Thank people weren't defeated by their prejudices about what could or couldn't happen politically. The better question is why don't we have certain things within our reality presently? What I'm saying here specifically is that we shouldn't capitulate to bad policy or corporate capture, because we're told it's not "realistic" by people who are paid to say that and who have every reason not to want the system to change.
Even that strained analogy has to be terribly skewed so that competing news papers cannot be created by virtue of the conditions of the argument.
LGDB: This is a similar formulation as above. The reason we have antitrust laws to begin with is BECAUSE when there's enough concentration of wealth and capture of market share it makes the likelihood of emergent competition increasingly unlikely and eventually impossible. And like I mentioned here earlier, at the current state of things, the only place competition would exist would come from OTHER large corporations. Competition is in some sense better than complete monopoly. But the idea that somehow we can have a democratic institution when things that should be public institutions are run by 3 centers of massive concentrated private interests as opposed to 1 is on its face cartoonish. If for instance all we had were CNN and Fox News, despite the fact that they're competing vehemently, we would all be utterly screwed. I mean I guess it's better if Isengard and Mordor are competing rather than aligned, but it doesn't mean Middle Earth is doing okay.
I have never visited a discussion forum that was run as a democracy. Ever.
LGDB: Being run as a democracy is different than governed by one. The military isn't run as a democracy, but the point is that it's accountable to one.
Ultimately there is regulation about the content of these forums, either by the overseeing platform or even the Internet Service Provider.
Ironically, I was banned for bickering, IIRC.
LGDB: You don't say.
So privately owned platforms shouldn't have terms of service or content moderation. That seems diametrically opposed to your view that there should be strict regulation of the economy and the private sector (perhaps even moreso than my ideology would allow). Your ideological position has not been fully thought through.
LGDB: No you just don't understand my ideological position because you either don't understand socialism or you didn't think for a moment I could be one lol And honestly you don't have to be a socialist whatsoever to agree with most of my points here, but since I am a socialist none of these positions should appear as contradictions to you. My positions are only in contradiction to ones you assumed I have.
My point is that privately owned platform shouldn't be able to regulate speech if they've become sufficiently monopolistic of the public sphere, such that their kicking you off the platform excludes you from the public square. Especially if you're a democratically elected official, even if you're a democratically elected official I disagree with. And I don't have a problem with a publicly owned utilities for that matter having terms of service. My point is if private entities become large enough that they're essentially operating as a public utility then they should no longer have unilateral autonomy over their own terms of service. The terms of service should be up to government, which is to say democratic control, review, and if someone violates said terms of service that should go through some sort of juridical public process, which implies a right to appeal the decision also publicly. It absolutely should not be decided behind close door by billionaires and boards of trustees who are far more concerned with their own private interests than the public good.
Thankfully you've opened the window to this discussion, thus inviting me to respond. You're welcome to not respond in turn.
LGDB: Oh that's okay, man. I just decided to avail myself of this public board that literally you or anyone else can look at, and where it's actually an appropriate space to have the discussion.
---the late great Donald Blake
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