In the wake of Facebook’s decision to permanently ban former President Donald Trump from the platform, a majority of voters now favor ending legal protections for social media
companies and lack confidence in the fairness of social media censorship.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that only 35% of Likely U.S. Voters who regularly use social media are at least Somewhat Confident that social media can censor questionable content in a fair and unbiased way, including 14% who are Very Confident. Twenty-five percent (25%) are Not Very Confident in the fairness of social media censorship and 36% are Not At All Confident.
A Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey also found that 59% of Likely U.S. Voters believe operators of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are politically biased in the decisions they make. Twenty-six percent (26%) disagree and believe social media companies edit their content in a fair and balanced way. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who is threatening to take the party’s leadership from Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., lambasted them online.
“BIG TECH on the MOVE!” Stefanik tweeted on another company that bans former President Trump from its platform. “Twitter just suspended my Communications Director. An unconstitutional overreach SILENCING our voices and freedom of speech. Republicans are united in fighting back against Big Tech’s tyranny. Millions of Americans will not be silenced!”
As the Mountaineer reported, Stefanik’s rhetoric echoes that of many Republicans in both the House and Senate. In April, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced legislation to restrict companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google.
“Woke Big Tech companies like Google and Amazon have been coddled by Washington politicians for years,” Hawley said when announcing the bill. “This treatment has allowed them to amass colossal amounts of power that they use to censor political opinions they don’t agree with and shut out competitors who offer consumers an alternative to the status quo. It’s past time to bust up Big Tech companies, restore competition, and give the power back to the American consumers.”
Hawley’s legislation would lead to major changes in how the tech giants do business and prevent some future acquisitions, significantly slowing their expansion.
However, Democrats remain an exception to the rule.
A Pew Research survey found the vast majority of Democrats and Democratic leaners (89%) say the bans of Trump were the right thing to do. However, just 21% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say social media companies’ decisions to ban Trump’s accounts were the right thing to do, while 78% say they were wrong. By contrast, only 11% of Democrats think it was the wrong decision for social media companies to ban Trump’s accounts.
As the editors of the Wall Street Journal observed in “The Censorship Party” a Feb. 25, 2021 editorial:
Progressives seem to believe that they are in a position to dictate the terms of what is acceptable speech in a more controlled media environment. As committee witness Emily Bell of Columbia Journalism School put it, “there has to be a will among the political elite and the media elite and the technology elite to actually do the right thing, as it were.” That means tightening speech restrictions. To borrow another progressive cliche, this is a dog whistle for tech companies and other businesses to censor or block conservatives if government can’t.
This thinking is dangerous at any time, but especially so now as the Democratic Party runs both Congress and the executive branch with the power to punish companies that don’t oblige. The danger is worse since most of the media are abdicating their role as defenders of the free press because they aren’t the political targets. The First Amendment dies in media darkness.
Part of a broad, 1996 federal law on telecoms, Section 230 generally exempts internet companies from being sued over what users post on their sites. The statute, which was meant to promote growth of the internet, exempts websites from being sued for removing content deemed to be “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable” as long as the companies are acting in “good faith.”
We have long argued that the social media giants do not meet the “good faith” test set out in Section 230, and it appears that a majority of Americans agree with us. It is time for Republicans, and fair-minded Democrats, to take action to rein-in the tech oligarchy before free speech and the free interchange and debate of ideas are a distant and fading memory of how politics, science and civil society used to work.
Rep. Elise Stefanik
Break up Big Tech