Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appeared on Fox’s Sunday Morning Futures, hosted by Maria Bartiromo, over the weekend. The two discussed Big Tech’s alarming censorship power and Florida’s efforts to combat that power.
Recent government emails obtained through Freedom of Information Act lawsuits suggest that Dr. Anthony Fauci and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg coordinated what should and should not be dispersed through social media platforms regarding COVID-19 and its origins.
“Do you believe Fauci colluded with Mark Zuckerberg? Does this expose Facebook to legal action?” Bartiromo asked DeSantis.
DeSantis answered by calling Facebook “an arm of the state”:
Here’s an example of working with Fauci where Facebook, you can argue, is essentially acting as an arm of the state, because they’re suppressing what the government wants suppressed. And so I think this issue with Big Tech is unlike anything we’ve seen. They have massive amounts of power. These are monopolies that are much stronger than the monopolies of the early 20th century. They control in effect – a handful of companies – a huge percentage of political speech in this country.
U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) recently authored The Tyranny of Big Tech, in which he connects the monopolistic power of Big Tech to the robber barons of the 20th century, calling Big Tech “the natural successor” to the Gilded Age corporate capitalists.
“These modern-day robber barons threaten to centralize power in the hands of a few, while undermining the independence, economic standing, and cultural influence of everyone else,” he writes.
Hawley proposes a breaking up of Big Tech monopolies (such as requiring Facebook to sell Instagram and WhatsApp). He has additionally called for reform of Section 230 – the portion of U.S. code that protects Big Tech from lawsuits for what others post, while still giving them editorial power. In essence, social media companies are granted editing powers without any avenues open to the American people for editorial accountability.
Governor DeSantis recently signed legislation that would curb that editorial power by giving Florida citizens a route to sue Big Tech for engaging in discriminatory censorship. The law would also fine a social media company for de-platforming Florida politicians upwards of $250,000 a day.
Bartiromo also asked DeSantis about this most recent legislation:
Our bill was the first of its kind. It really tracks what Justice Clarence Thomas laid out in one of his concurrences a few months ago, where these companies really are more akin to common carriers, and so they should be treated as such. Our view is yes, you can have certain…guidelines or however you do it, but you gotta apply it evenly. And if you don’t, you’re advertising as an open platform, you’re saying you’re not publishers, but then you’re acting as publishers by stifling speech you don’t like. That’s a fraud on the consumer and people deserve to be able to vindicate their rights in court.
Days after the legislation received the Governor’s signature, technology trade companies representing Facebook, Twitter, and Google filed a lawsuit, arguing that the law violates the free speech rights of private companies.
Dr. Karl Stephan at Engineering Ethics recently provided some insight into why finding solutions is so difficult:
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects social-media firms from being sued as though they themselves originated the stuff that their users post. If we began treating social-media companies as common carriers like the telecommunications firms, and insisted that they let anybody post anything, we would need a more effective legal means to go after the individuals who would exploit this new freedom than what we now have. But if we simply shrug our shoulders and let Mark Zuckerberg and his friends suppress anything they don’t like, we have handed the keys of democracy to a bunch of billionaires, and that is likely to turn out badly too.
You may also wish to read:
Florida Governor Signs Bill Reigning in Big Tech. The bill Governor DeSantis signed is the first in the nation to ban social media companies from deplatforming political candidates. “It’s my firm belief that someone’s viewpoints and ideas should not have any weight on their place in the worldwide web,” Rep John Snyder told Mind Matters News. (Caitlin Bassett)
Texas Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Big Tech Censorship. The bill seeks to reign in Big Tech power and protect the principle of free speech for Texas citizens. The bill’s proponents call social media “the new town square”, arguing, “a small group of people in San Francisco can’t dictate free speech for the rest of us.” (Caitlin Bassett)
How Much of Your Income – and Life – Does Big Tech Control? Erik J. Larson reviews the groundbreaking book Surveillance Capitalism, on how big corporations make money out of tracking your every move. China’s total surveillance and Big Tech’s monopoly power raise the question: Is human freedom still viable? Will we fight for it?