Clarence Thomas, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, wrote in a court statement this week that social media companies should be treated like utilities to require Big Tech to relinquish its censorship powers.
“As Twitter made clear, the right to cut off speech lies most powerfully in the hands of private digital platforms,” Thomas writes. “The extent to which that power matters for purposes of the First Amendment and the extent to which that power could lawfully be modified raise interesting and important questions.”
The case involved the claim that the Twitter account @realdonaldtrump was a public forum of the president and served as constitutionally protected free speech. Thomas noted in his response that the platforms currently hold all the power regarding such communications.
Just as phone carriers do not have the right to exclude those whose speech they do not like, social media companies, Thomas argued, should not hold supreme power over personal speech. The suggestion, if applied, would remove the authority of companies like Facebook and Twitter from the ability to censor views they do not approve.
The statement comes at an important time. Facebook’s reach now includes approximately three billion users. Google dominates more than 90 percent of search, as well as most online video through its YouTube platform.
It’s not only social platforms, either. Amazon web servers proved those who offer web hosting services are also a concern. In January, Amazon shut down Parler’s website, claiming the free speech social platform did not sufficiently moderate its content following the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol building riot.
Apple and Google both removed Parler’s app from their app stores. The coordinated efforts, all taking place within 72 hours, revealed Trump was not the only voice targeted. Big Tech now can now silence entire networks.
In addition, Facebook and Twitter both announced it would delete content related to questioning the 2020 presidential election results. Facebook has even silenced the VOICE of Donald Trump, recently removing an interview on his daughter-in-law Lara Trump’s page.
Twitter claimed it removed 70,000 accounts after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Many popular conservative accounts lost thousands of followers or were completely deleted.
Amazon has now take an additional step, offering a digital version of book burning. In March, reports arose that the publishing behemoth removed a popular book on the issue of transgenderism by a conservative author for alleged violation of user policies. As Amazon accounts for approximately 80 percent of all e-book sales, the decision is more than a business move. The decision blatantly disregards free speech.
Thomas noted it would eventually be up to “a legislature” to impose such a restriction and that the Twitter-blocking case before the court this week did not permit an opportunity to rule on these issues. He wrote, “We will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.”