The First Amendment vs. Terms and Conditions of Use

The last few days have seen an unprecedented level of blatant censorship targeting the conservative community. Those who dare to speak anything other than the current politically correct propaganda are being systematically silenced. Politicians, companies and users are all being targeted. But of course, your government would never write a law to eliminate your right to free speech, that would be unconstitutional. So how did they eliminate your First Amendment protected rights? Easy, they outsourced it to private companies! Enter the Terms and Conditions of Use. 

When the Founding Fathers crafted the First Amendment to the Constitution, they wanted to ensure the autonomy of the press. I have no doubt the expectation was a free and independent press would be another check and balance against the possibility of a tyrannically government. 

The First Amendment

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

But what happens when the government and the press are working together? There is no dissent, there is no critique, there is no check and balance of what the government says or does. The press becomes nothing more than a tool of the government for distributing officially sanctioned information or preventing access to it. 

Now add in the world of social media, online communities where the individuals and businesses communicate and share information, usually free of charge to the user, and the provider profits by selling access to the user’s information and habits. We don’t consider these private platforms “press” in the traditional sense and, as they argue, they are not publishers since the users are providing the content. 

A quick look at Section 230 (47 U.S. Code § 230) – Protection for private blocking and screening of offensive material – shows us the technology providers have NO liability when it comes to their ability to restrict and control content. 

(2) Civil Liability
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—
(A) 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; or
(B) any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1). 

With this protection, social media and internet content providers have unlimited and irrevocable discretion of what content they want to allow on their platforms. They can define anything they want as being “otherwise objectionable” and completely ban it and the users who share it. They don’t have to justify it any further than that and they don’t have to apply the standards equally across the board. They get to decide all by themselves what is true, what is false and what is acceptable for YOU to experience on their platform. It’s called Terms and Conditions of Use, or Community Standards or some other concoction that is supposed to make you think they are applying their ideology in a fair manner. They are not. 

Is this censorship? Absolutely! Especially when you look at the fact the rules are applied strictly against some groups and not at all against others. One political party and faction of the government gets their message across while the other does not. You can now see why the current administration was working so hard to eliminate these protections, and why Big Tech and their allies in Congress were working so hard to defend it. 

Which brings us to today. The dominant social media platforms decided to censor and ban the sitting President of the United States based on wild and unsubstantiated allegations from other politicians. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, they are the sole arbitrator of truth in their world. The masters of Big Tech have come right out and said if you don’t like it, go build your own. 

Alternative social media companies have been around for years but have yet to gain widespread usage, until now. With the largest social media platforms cutting off scores of users and eliminating content, they have started to grow. What Big Tech considered nothing more than “ankle biters” are becoming relevant and becoming a threat to their monopoly on speech and thought. We now see other Big Tech companies exerting their influence to ban and eliminate these smaller companies that don’t restrict content they want eliminated. 

If you think it will stop here, think again. A great deal of your world comes through information services and devices controlled by companies protected by Section 230. What happens when they deem certain website content as objectionable and blocking access to it? What happens when certain email content is deemed objectionable and they refuse to deliver it? What happens when certain books, magazines or political content is deemed objectionable and they start preventing you from buying or reading it? What happens when they determine that certain phone numbers belong to objectionable persons or companies and they don’t allow you to call them on their devices? 

The Second Amendment community has been a target of Big Tech social media censorship for years. Legal content has been filtered or removed, distribution strictly limited and access to the tools and programs other content providers enjoy eliminated. The broader conservative movement has only recently begun to feel the rath on a large scale. The exodus from these Big Tech platforms has begun and they are not happy about it. Those who believe as they do are calling for even more censorship and suppression across all social media platforms and the internet. They want all content they find offensive or objectionable to be eliminated. 

Like many others, my days on the major social media platforms are numbered. I’ve been on the alternate platforms for years in some cases and I’ve always maintained my own website. It will take a while for a critical mass of content providers to move to these alternative platforms, but it is happening. As we’ve seen, these platforms will be attacked and harassed, but the more users, the more content, the more communication we do there, the better off we all are. 

What we now are seeing is the United States version of The Great Firewall of China. Censorship of technology, information and speech which is not approved is blocked. Only that which is official and approved will be allowed to reach you. Big Tech may be writing the code, but it is the government who is writing the specs for it.

The First Amendment is rapidly being replaced by private companies’ Terms and Conditions of Use where you have no input, no right to object, no right to appeal. You may only think, speak and act within the ever-changing and restrictive rules and regulations or face expulsion. 

Welcome to the Democratic Socialist States of America. 

Bob

#oddstuffing, #Constitution, #BillOfRights, #FirstAmendment #SecondAmendment, #Censorship, #BigTech, #SocialMedia, #mewe, #medium, #parler, #gab, #oddstuffing.com

Addendum:

Some comments and my reply from the Odd Stuffing Facebook page I wanted to keep with the original post material.

RE: 
Jeffrey W. Hill

No Bob. It’s not censorship. If you don’t like it, buy some servers, connect them to the internet and start hosting.

Jeffrey W. Hill

Nathan Taylor Inciting violence was unacceptable long before the internet. Back then people who had interests in violent acts complained because TV news was controlled by monopolies and Newspapers could control what was distributed by thousands of paper boys across the country every morning. The Associated Press, United Press International and Reuters news services had as much control over the content of the news as Google and Facebook, and people who wanted to present their alternative views of reality complained continuously about the press services blocking them out. Bottom line, it has always taken a ton of money, vision, organization and smarts to build a big communications system, and that doesn’t change the fact that the systems are and should be controlled by the people successful enough to have built them. If “you” want “the press” to cover your alternative views, buy a printing press and get started.

—-

Jeff W. Hill, I’m going to bet the reason why you don’t feel any of this is censorship is because you and your ideology were not impacted. If it has been, you’d be screaming bloody murder like the rest of us. For heaven sakes, even the ACLU – a group who is absolutely no friend of the President or Second Amendment rights – has raised concerns about the social media censorship.

So, I tell you what I’m going to for you. I’m going to make it personal for you and ban you from commenting on my page for no other reason than you have disagreed with me.  

Truth be known, I enjoy having people disagree with me and commenting with their point of view on my posts. This is how I and everyone else gains a greater understanding of the issues we face today. I absolutely abhor blocking or banning people or deleting posts. I think it squelches the free exchange of ideas and only makes matters worse. Of the VERY few people I’ve banned from my page, it was for harassing, threatening or belligerent behavior. But for you, I’m making an exception. 

What do I expect as a reaction? After the obligatory <expletive deleted> you!, you and others with your point of view will report me to Facebook and other platforms, ISP’s, etc., for violating their Terms and Conditions of Use or Community Guidelines or whatever. Of course, nothing I have ever posted has ever violated the ever-shifting landscape of rules and regulations, but that’s not going to stop you or the Big Tech folks from punishing me for disagreeing with you and the cancel culture. After all, it’s okay to censor people who don’t think like you do, right? 

That’s the funny thing about the First Amendment, it was written to protect ALL speech and views, even the ones you disagree with. As is often quoted, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend till death your right to say it.” 

Restricting the ability of individuals or groups to freely and legally communicate, even if done by private companies, for political purposes and on behalf of a portion of the government is still censorship. And at a time when most people communicate through the Internet, it smacks of First Amendment infringement.  

Sorry you won’t be able to respond here in my little corner of the internet Jeffrey W. Hill. You’ll have to make your own opinion page, fire up your own web servers or dust off that printing press to make your thoughts known because you’ve been censored here. My apologies to others whose comments were hidden as a result of banning Jeffrey W. Hill.