Why do you think Facebook is so excited about Section 230 reform and government regulation of Big Tech – did it suddenly start caring about free speech and the rights of citizens and unicorn liberation? No. We can’t throw these aspiring dictators into the briar patch that is government-run regulation. As Admiral Ackbar, and anyone who is even vaguely conscious sees, it’s a trap.
There’s a better way, a way that will actually bring these creepy nanny statists to heel.
It’s not traditional regulation – the creation of some sort of Department of Social Media serves the interests of both Big Tech and the Democrats, and it will make the internet substantially less free. That’s not a bug – that’s the feature.
Big Tech loves the idea of some new government agency regulating the interwebs because it has the bottomless wallet to buy the people doing the regulating. Where will people running the regulation come from? Big Tech. Where will they go after they work in the Department of Social Media for a while? Back to Big Tech. See how that works?
Doubt me? Please name the agency that works differently. I’ll wait.
I’m still waiting. And I’ll be waiting until I’m Biden years old, because it always happens, every single time.
The phenomenon of industries taking over the agencies that supposedly oversee them even has a name within political science, which I somehow managed to recall from college from the din of the Replacements and the haze of Coors. It’s “regulatory capture,” and Big Tech is positively slobbering at the idea of taking charge of the chunk of government that is supposed to take charge of it.
The Democrats love it this idea – imagine, a bunch of left-leaning bureaucrats (as if there is any other kind) getting the final say of what you can say on the web. The mere notion of the opportunity to control all discourse online is provoking an 8.3 earthquake of liberal toobining in DC.
Unwoke Republican: Wait Kurt, are you saying that the Democrats would try to suppress the free speech of conservatives and other dissenters through the use of the federal government’s power?
Kurt: In a heartbeat.
It will be sold as an attempt to rein in the industry. It will be, in reality, the culmination of the leftist dream of total control over all discourse in the United States.
Republicans, for once in your lives, don’t be stupid. Don’t walk into the free speech kill zone, dummies.
But we do need to regulate Big Tech. We need to control the fascist tendencies of the gender studies grads who make up its Bay Area workforce. We need to ensure Big Tech is terrified of suppressing conservative discourse instead of being eager to do it. We need to treat the industry with a whip and a chair.
So, unleash the lawyers.
What? Aren’t conservatives supposed to hate lawyers? Well, speaking from experience, no one loves a lawyer more than a conservative who just used one to take unholy vengeance upon his enemies. Which is what we must do.
Now, you know the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ADA? All the handicapped access issues today are dealt with not by some government agency but by lawyers suing for clients denied their rights. Is it an obnoxious statute that is frequently misused? Yeah. But I can live with an obnoxious statute deployed against Big Tech. To the extent it is misused, well, here’s a concerto from the universe’s most micro violin.
Like the ADA, the Big Tech Control Act would set out a series of rights every citizen has in their social media presence against the large social media companies – the right to speak within the nearly limitless bounds of the First Amendment, the right to fair terms of service, the right to due process before any action is taken to limit their use of the platform, the right to control their data (and to have it protected), the right to full transparency of algorithms that control how an individual’s social media reach is controlled, and other rights that ensure every citizen can speak without fear.
Naturally, the statute would include something like the following language, similar to that included in many consumer protection statutes: “The Big Tech Control Act shall be broadly and liberally construed in favor of expanding and protecting the right of every American citizen to freely exercise his or her rights of free expression.” When in doubt, more freedom!
And to enforce the Big Tech Control Act, it would include the right to go into court – with priority, so cases do not languish – to enjoin violations of these rights, to recover actual damages (the Act would recognize that social media presence has real monetary value), to win civil penalties or punitive damages, and to collect attorney’s fees. In consumer cases, fees of $650/hour are not uncommon. Oh, and like with most consumer laws, the fees only go to a prevailing plaintiff. The Big Tech company never gets to recover its fees even if it wins – we don’t want to dissuade citizens from suing! Also, no anti-SLAPP law or procedure would apply to cases under the Big Tech Control Act.
Now, if the feds won’t do this, states sure can try. I love the idea of a few dozen states making Big Tech’s life hell until it conforms and stops screwing with us. I’ll roll the dice this Supreme Court would buy off on it.
Now, the objection by the unwoke conservatives will be that these are private companies and they have a right to set their own terms of service and this Act violates all our conservative principles.
My response is simple.
They have used, and are using, their power against us, and we should not be supine sissies and refuse to use our power back at them. They started it. They tried to shaft us, and this is the price. Learn, corporations. Learn what happens when you cross us.
But Muh Principles!
Again, no. There is no conservative principle worth honoring that makes us less free. I find the notion that we are somehow morally obligated to accept serfdom because the entity exercising mastery over us has articles of incorporation instead of a flag to be baffling.
Unleash the lawyers. Regulate Big Tech by letting the Visigoths of Litigation run rampant, pillaging and looting, until the mere thought of gagging an American citizen fills them with quivering, gut-gnawing terror. And then they won’t dare do it anymore. And then we will be free again.
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