In his recent FrontPage Mag article, “Fighting Political Segregation with a Digital First Amendment,” Daniel Greenfield argues in favor of passing legislation to protect free speech specifically on the Internet.
Using an argument that even a radical liberal could love, he compares the recent silencing of alternative and conservative opinions online to racial and economic segregation.
Greenfield is careful to point out that the Constitutional First Amendment is limited to protection against abuses by government, not private enterprises.
For this reason, he writes, “…when those enterprises have more power over speech than governments, when their scale is such that they can sweep away entire categories of ideas across the world with the press of a key, a digital First Amendment is needed to maintain the relevance of the Bill of Rights in a new technological era when government censorship is outsourced to corporate partners.”
You could, of course, point out that at this stage, governments are owned by the corporate partners they serve. And you’d be right.
Death, Incorporated. The Internet is a sprawling virtual continent that out-scales every country and corporate media monopoly on the planet in terms of influence and viewership. (Greenfield supports this with multiple statistics – just read the article.)
For the various behemoths currently profiting from this limitless opportunity to claim that they are “private companies” is like the bubonic plague calling itself a cold sore. Big tech can inflict a lot of death on a lot of opinions and facts with a few clicks.
Unforeseen consequences. Imagine yourself a citizen of such an unlikely place from the viewpoint of those who drafted the Constitution. They never foresaw it, but here you are.
You establish your virtual domain and quietly busy yourself furnishing it with windows and doors that open onto unique views. You furnish your domain with as many books and news sources as you can find on the subjects of your choosing and go to work drafting your own articles and essays, inviting comments from the outside world.
And suddenly, you have visitors: Messrs. Madison and Hamilton knock on your door with the intention of hearing what you have to say about something as arcane to them as the Internet: Crisis actors.
“What manner of masque or, to wit, black comedy are such actors engaged in?” asks Madison. Hamilton stands there with a puzzled expression.
Before you can answer, your windpipe is blocked by a sudden gust of ones and zeroes and you and your domain are sucked into the virtual back of the bus — to a dark outer dimension.
And you see at last what the Lords of the Internet intended for you all along: Disconnection. Isolation. Silence.
But as you blow away, you can see Madison and Hamilton down there shaking their capacious heads, wondering what the devil that was all about.
“It must be the return of ignorance and barbarism,” says Hamilton. “Witchcraft,” says Madison.
I agree with them, as I agree with Greenfield: What we need is a digital First Amendment to retain the relevance of the Bill of Rights.
Without it, everyone* will eventually be silenced.
*Even NPR, according to this article.
H/T: A Sweet Dose of Reality; Anne Berg