What would happen if your power company told you a blog post you wrote violates their TOS on discrimination and hate speech and you have 24 hours to take it down or else have power shut off to your home and business? Would free speech still exist in the US?
An interesting side point in a Market Ticker column this morning:
There has been a fair bit of digital ink spilled on utility providers (such as domain registrars and pipe sellers) pulling accounts and effectively blackballing people they don’t like. They justify this on a “Terms of Service” claim, but there’s a large and essential difference between speech claimed to be “X” (insert whatever) and speech found to be “X” under due process protections.
The distinction doesn’t matter when we’re talking about discretionary business, but when it comes to utility services it’s a different matter entirely. There I believe a very clean argument exists that barring someone without judicial process (that is, due process of law) is illegal discrimination. With the argument increasingly being made that the Internet is an “essential” service the utility argument gains sway.
We do hear it a lot, especially regarding folks affected by natural disasters, or regarding Democrat welfare blocs, that the internet must be provided to them promptly because it is an “essential” service. So is power. Do folks still live without power? Sure, all over the globe, even in some places in the USA. But the fact that some can do without doesn’t change that for the vast majority of society, it is regarded as an essential to ordinary living these days.
Congrats on the tech companies for building something that has become an essential part of society. But we might have said that to Edison or Westinghouse back in the industrial revolution. Once your product is considered essential for our way of life, it’s no longer under the same rules as other products on the market. Utilities like power and water have very strict municipal rules they must abide by prior to shutting off services to someone. What are the rules for shutting someone off the internet and ghosting their blog or business website?
But if a power company CEO wanted to wield enormous political influence, he would need only declare that he will have services suspended to anyone he disagrees with. That is essentially where the tech giants are headed right now. Used to be that these platforms treated content as neutral unless a court showed it to be in violation of local law. Now, the companies are taking action and simply removing content they don’t like. As pointed out in my previously linked article, the legal question now in court against Amazon is that either there exists a right for a business to discriminate, and so if Amazon can turn down Biblical Christian companies as hate organizations then those same companies have the same right to not provide service to homosexual weddings. Or else there is no such right, and if the Christian business cannot say no then Amazon and the tech companies cannot say no. Allowing a double standard here replaces free speech with totalitarian speech. In Soviet Russia you could say what you wanted, so long as it agreed with the official narrative.
But when we look at the reach and influence of the tech companies, it is also important to look at their political views, which The Economist provides:
The headline reads, “Silicon Valley bosses are globalists, not libertarians: They favour free trade, but also economic redistribution by governments.” Looking at the chart, turns out the Silicon Valley CEO’s are more globalist than even the average Democrat donor.
So what do you think these CEO’s will do to pro-nationalist/ pro-USA speech?