There is a new, unprecedented, and very toxic phenomenon in U.S. politics.
Privately-owned businesses have become blatantly partisan and willing to lose customers and profits by discriminating against and outright banning conservatives. See, for example:
- Chase Bank denies service to conservatives & Trump supporters
- Chase Bank says they won’t do business with Trump supporters in Project Veritas undercover audio
- New York Times calls for war against President Trump using mafia Godfather tactics
- CBS rejected this patriotic ad for 2019 Super Bowl
Among those corporations are the information tech giants — social media and WordPress — which have been censoring conservatives, including this blog, Fellowship of the Minds (FOTM), for some time now. See:
- U.S. tech giants are waging a war against free speech
- Who’s behind the tsunami of social media and blog censorship?
- Bonfire of the Tech Vanities
- Facebook took down FOTM just in time for Nov. 6 mid-term election
- WordPress canceled FOTM’s Jetpack Premium software
- The NZ mosque-shooting post that got Tony Mead banned from Facebook, again
The latest social media censorship took place four days ago on May 2, when Facebook and Instagram, with no warning, banned a number of so-called “far-right extremists,” including Alex Jones, InfoWars, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, and Laura Loomer, ostensibly for “safety” reasons to remove individuals who promote “hate and violence.”
But as Clash Daily points out, neither Facebook nor Instagram cited how or what the “far-right extremists” had posted that violated their “community rules” or “terms of service,” which makes their banning and take-down entirely arbitrary.
As usual, President Trump did some huffing and puffing with this tweet:
I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms. This is the United States of America — and we have what’s known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH! We are monitoring and watching, closely!!
Instead of empty threats, Texas is doing something about the social media censorship.
The Texas Tribune reports that on April 25, 2019, in an 18-12 vote, the Texas State Senate approved SB 2373, a bill that would hold social media platforms accountable for restricting users’ speech based on personal opinions.
SB 2373 was introduced by state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), who said the bill applies to social media platforms that advertise themselves as unbiased but still censor users. In the Senate State Affairs Committee hearing, Hughes said:
“Senate Bill 2373 tries to prevent those companies that control these new public spaces, this new public square, from picking winners and losers based on content. Basically if the company represents, ‘We’re an open forum and we don’t discriminate based on content,’ then they shouldn’t be able to discriminate based on content.”
CJ Grisham, the founder of Open Carry Texas, spoke at the hearing in support of the bill. He said Facebook has shut down 16 of the organization’s local groups and did not explain why. Grisham said Open Carry Texas is a conservative gun rights platform and is “routinely targeted” for pushing gun rights on Facebook.
Opponents to the bill maintain SB 2373 violates a federal law that protects social media platforms under a “good Samaritan” policy that allows them to moderate content on the platform however they want.
Harvard Law School lecturer Kendra Albert, who specializes in technology law, said the federal law would likely preempt SB 2373 because “The federal law contains what we would call a ‘subjective standard. It’s based on whether the provider thinks that this causes problems, whereas the Texas bill attempts to move it to an objective standard.” Albert said it would be difficult to determine what is “objectively” offensive, which is why the federal law leaves it up to social media platforms and their users to determine what is offensive. Sometimes there’s not a particular reason why content is removed; it’s flagged by an algorithm.
But Sen. Hughes, who’s an attorney, says he and several other lawyers had looked over the bill and agreed that SB 2373 wouldn’t contradict the federal law because the bill would apply the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Consumer Protection Act, which protects consumers from bad or misleading actions in the trade industry. Users on social media platforms who believe they are censored for their views would be able to file a consumer complaint with the Texas attorney general. The attorney general could then decide whether to bring a public case against that social media platform.
Texas isn’t the only state that is doing something about social media censorship. As an example, lawmakers in California filed a bill that would prohibit anyone who operates a social media site in the state from removing content from the site based on the political affiliation or viewpoint. But given the dominance of Demonrats in the California state legislature, that bill is unlikely to pass.