“Modern technology companies have enabled misinformation to poison our information environment with little accountability to their users, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said at a White House press briefing on July 15. “They’ve allowed people who intentionally spread misinformation — what we call ‘disinformation’ — to have extraordinary reach.”
In follow-up questions, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki revealed that the Biden administration is “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation. … Facebook needs to move more quickly to remove harmful, violative posts .”
The single most on-point response to Psaki’s disclosure I’ve read so far comes from Glenn Greenwald via Twitter (the whole thread is worth a read): “There is no circumstance — none — in which it’s acceptable for the White House or any other agency of the government to be providing lists to Facebook of ‘problematic’ content it wants removed.”
Over the last few years, we’ve watched as politicians and bureaucrats of both major parties lean hard on social media platforms to act as, at turns, their unwilling soapbox providers and proxy censors.
Having spent decades browbeating and bribing the “mainstream media” into remaking itself as a stenography pool which reliably parrots every “official” pronouncement as indisputable fact, the American political class is beside itself over Internet freedom. That freedom frustrates the state’s near-monopoly on shaping public opinion. If there’s one thing politicians can’t stand, it’s competition.
What can we do about it, though?
While Facebook, Twitter, et al. are theoretically “private” companies, they’re vulnerable to retaliation through regulation or even prosecution should they defy their would-be masters in government. And the biggest players also seek the prize of “regulatory capture” — getting government on THEIR side in ways that prevent new competitors from cutting into their market share.
Short of abolishing the state itself (which I’m all for), there’s only one way to get the Donald Trumps, Joe Bidens, Josh Hawleys, and Adam Schiffs out of the social media bullying business.
We need to take away their social media access. Completely.
For obvious reasons, Facebook and Twitter aren’t going to do the right thing, which would be to ban all government officials and government employees and block access to all government IP addresses.
I’m surprised to hear myself saying “there oughta be a law,” but I guess there’s an exception to every rule.
The law I have in mind would impose a long prison term on any public official or government employee caught accessing social media.
Collecting a government paycheck? No social media. Not at work, not at home, not on your smartphone, not on your kid’s laptop. If you’re caught looking at Facebook or tweeting, you’re not just fired, you’re going to jail.
Like most of my great ideas, this one won’t happen. Such a law would have to be passed by the politicians themselves, and politicians never willingly limit their own power or their own freedom, only yours.
So I guess we’re back to abolishing the state, or at least looking for social media platforms that operate beyond the politicians’ reach.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.