Deplatforming the Platformers: Why Antitrust Legislation Is the Way to Go
Having failed to impeach President Trump on grounds of collusion with the Russians, the Democratic left and its allies have turned to other weapons in their arsenal to obstruct his re-election. Their instruments can be very potent: a media blitzkrieg, the raising of the dead (the cemetery vote), multiple vote counting, newly franchised illegal voters, massive vote harvesting, and social media censorship—all of which constitute a campaign of monstrous voter fraud.
Evicting dissident voices from social media platforms may be the most effective device of the left. How can such high-tech despotism be challenged or negated? Citizen journalists, who can be seen as liberal democracy’s samizdat warriors, are to be applauded and supported for trying to counter a significant bias, but far more is required to thwart what amounts to an organized campaign to commit doxa violence—a modus operandi perhaps even more effective than the practice of totalitarian terror.
There are many ways to eliminate opposing voices, from police oppression to mass slaughter to the stifling of the means to acquire salient information. The coercive method eventually engenders resentment, revolt and ultimately political collapse. Data suppression works better, not only muzzling people from expressing their views and convictions but preventing many common folk from even knowing they have been erased from the public conversation. Big Tech, in collaboration with the Democratic left, may well be President Trump’s most powerful enemy—and, indeed, the gravest threat to freedom and the life of a viable democracy.
One possible remedy is for Trump to seek anti-trust legislation in order to break up the public monopoly on information enjoyed by the social media giants. Not everyone would agree. Political cartoonist and ex-Muslim Bosch Fawstin, for example, is skeptical of such measures. He makes the libertarian argument that Facebook—and so by extension Twitter, Google, Instagram, et al.—“is a private company that can do as it pleases (it’s not in a ‘public domain’)” and he is therefore “not calling for government interference in the private sector.” He believes that a corrupt social media will actually “galvanize... more people to vote against [D]emocrats.” Unfortunately, this seems unlikely if people are not sufficiently aware of such unscrupulous and manipulative practices, especially as more and more whistleblowers find they have no whistles to blow with.
Making pushback even more difficult, Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code protects an internet service provider, blog host or online forum operator from liability for “any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”
The issue that immediately arises involves the definition of “good faith,” stirring a hornet’s nest of juridical interpretations and disputable findings. The arbitrary removal of both the audience and the solvency of conservative bloggers and prominent internet figures seems obviously contestable as acts not of good faith but of tantamount bias, which of course will be vehemently denied by Big Tech CEOs protesting their moral virtue and social conscience. Though some observers believe that these platforms could lose their 230 liability protection if they are shown to discriminate against potential users, such charges would be hard to verify and Section 230 functions as a nearly unbreachable firewall.
The problem, however, can be circumvented by redefining these large social media systems with vast market share as public utilities to which federal regulations could apply. Additionally, telecom companies that make up perhaps over 90 percent of all web traffic clearly operate in tandem to shut down speech based on opinion they deem objectionable. Author Robert Arvay is keenly aware of the danger. “A common feature in medieval fantasy movies is the wizard,” he writes, “the character whom no one understands and whose powers everyone needs to fear. In real life, the wizards are CEOs of high technology companies, including well known social media platforms and search engines. Their money has been able to buy legislation that allows them to control the public square, to censor those with whom they disagree.” Presumed heretics are thus excommunicated from the debate by the Church of Political Correctness.
Although there may be no documentary proof of insider collusion, the practice and effect of collaborative deplatforming is unmistakable. These companies are all on the same page. This is a form of racketeering, whose social repercussions are glaringly evident. Just ask Laura Loomer, Milo Yiannopoulos, Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, Bosch Fawstin, Faith Goldy, Gavin McInnis, and Tommy Robinson, among others who have been banned or suspended, some intermittently, some permanently. Meanwhile, these same sites are rife with crackpots, conspiracy mongers, anti-Semites, and Muslim jihadists preaching hate and violence.
Antitrust legislation is the way to go. It exists for a purpose: to prevent fraud, racketeering, and anticompetitive control of the marketplace. There are a series of antitrust laws and amendments dating from the1890 Sherman Act, the most salient of which for present purposes is the Federal Trade Commission Act (or FTC). The general intent according to the FTC guide is “to protect the process of competition for the benefit of consumers” and to ban “unfair methods of competition” and “unfair or deceptive acts or practices." It is crystal clear that the “acts and practices” of the major internet platforms are unfair and deceptive, prohibiting access to those whom they regard as political competitors via command of the technology and thus exercising control over ideas and opinions they regard as “exclusionary,” “extremist,” “alt-right,” “white nationalist” and—the all-purpose term—“hateful.”
Most of these terms are simply cowcatchers, meant to sweep perceived interlopers off the ideological tracks. They are shape-shifters, trickster words, empty categories that can be stuffed with random designations. “Hateful,” of course, can mean anything the skinwalkers want it to mean, anything they wish to suppress in favor of their own political message. These platforms thus exert a distinct monopoly over the dissemination of ideas and do so in order to produce a preferred electoral result. They can be regarded as cartels, defined as “a group of independent businesses whose concerted goal is to lessen or prevent competition.” Such independence may be apparent but what is common to all is the limiting of supply, which is forbidden by law. The definition is plainly appropriate with respect to restrictive measures applied to the “supply” of supposed schismatic, dissenting, contradictory or unorthodox sentiments, perspectives or beliefs.
Indeed, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has just published an article in The New York Times, arguing that “America was built on the idea that power should not be concentrated in any one person,” pointing out how a News Feed algorithm could “change the culture” and “influence elections.” “We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies,” he writes; the government should regulate the company while banning subsidiary acquisitions that help to create an information monolith. Hughes is primarily concerned with the violation of privacy, but as we have seen, the rot goes much deeper. It is not only privacy that is abrogated, it is access, which is no less effective than a judicial gag order.
In the interests of fairness and the public weal, these syndicates must be monitored and regulated to ensure equal hospitality to different and competing shades of opinion, providing they do not explicitly advocate for violence, treason or criminal behavior as defined in law. If President Trump were to avail himself of anti-trust legislation, he would not have to solicit a hostile House composed of terminally decadent Democrats and a quorum of Republican chameleons. He could, as the law permits, approach the courts, in particular, the Department of Justice, to dismantle an information monopoly serving narrow private interests rather than fair business practice and the common good. He may still lose the 2020 election to the Resurrection Men of the left, which would be a national catastrophe and would likely spell the end of the Republic. But his chances of success would improve markedly once the social media plunderbund is brought to heel.