President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr trumpeted bipartisan concerns about big tech companies' protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, but striking back at social media companies has some conservatives at odds.
At opposite ends of the spectrum on the issue are Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Lee considers Trump's executive order calling for a review of stripping social media companies of their federal liability protections "terrible precedent" and a "very dangerous, slippery slope" on the executive branch's power to regulate political speech, The Hill reported.
"You keep government as far away from it as you possibly can," Lee told Fox News Radio's "The Guy Benson Show."
"Governments have force as their only real weapon. You don't want force deciding the art of persuasion or deciding the art of communication with social media," Lee added.
But the politicization and power of big tech is "the greatest threat facing our democracy," according to Cruz, who believes it is silencing conservatives and acting to "target speech with which they disagree and advance their own political agendas."
"It doesn't just stifle Americans' free speech, it shapes what Americans see, hear, and ultimately think about the major issues facing our country, including how those issues should be addressed and who should be elected to address them," Cruz said in a statement, per The Hill.
Those in Silicon Valley like Google, Twitter, and Facebook have become the primary media for many Americans, and they have decidedly sided with liberal causes.
Trump's executive order directs the Federal Communications Commission to decide which social media companies act more as publisher and editor than platform for voices. Those which act as a publisher will be subject to being held liable for posts by its users.
Among the critical views in the media are the National Review's David Harsanyi, who called it "Obama-style executive abuse," and The Wall Street Journal editorial board.
"[Twitter is] within their rights to set community standards and spike posts they deem a violation," the paper wrote. "If this feels suffocating, log off. That includes you, @realDonaldTrump."
And a free-market group, Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), sees the potential for being sued as stifling to innovation.
"Censorship is done by the government," CEI's Jessica Melugin, the associate director of CEI’s Center for Technology and Innovation, told The Hill. "Twitter can get rid of my tweet or ban me, but it cannot censor me the way the government can. The real censors are a government panel telling Twitter what it can publish or not. It weakens First Amendment rights if we allow government panels or regulators to control what private companies publish."
The balance is someplace in between, with a company like Twitter deciding its course as made clearer by the FCC, as Trump's order hopes to achieve.
"Twitter is well within its rights to censor or otherwise restrict a user's speech — even the president of the United States," American Principles Project Director Jon Schweppe told The Hill. "But if Twitter wants to engage in that censorship, they should not be receiving a special subsidy from the federal government in the form of immunity from civil liability.
"These platforms influence elections and can determine results, so there just has to be a broader discussion about these market-dominant platforms are adhering to the First Amendment public square standard."
Eric Mack ✉
Eric Mack has been a writer and editor at Newsmax since 2016. He is a 1998 Syracuse University journalism graduate and a New York Press Association award-winning writer.
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