Once upon a time the Federal Communications Commission implemented a “Fairness Doctrine” policy requiring broadcast licensees to present public issues that were — in the FCC’s opinion, of course — “honest, equitable, and balanced.”
This came at a time when access to information through “media” was more limited, and the purported reason for the doctrine was to ensure adequate coverage of public issues, a diversity of viewpoints and to provide time for alternative responses.
At the advent of talk radio, conservative programs dominated the market over their progressive counterparts. Liberals began squealing “no fair,” demanding they be given free response time. Today the shoe is on the other foot with progressive ideologues dominating both social and what is called “mainstream” media.
Now some conservatives are complaining social media is restricting their viewpoints. These companies are mostly immune from liability (Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act) over opinions posted on their sites. Therefore, given Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, et. al., generally can’t be held liable for content; intentionally removing conservative or other viewpoints not explicitly illegal effectively censors those perspectives.
Conservatives, however, should consider if they want government mandating free access to privately-owned platforms. That smacks of the progressive entitlement mentality where “rights” are provided by others. The right to free speech doesn’t require anyone, particularly a for-profit business, to provide a forum for that speech. There is no right to be heard.
That said, unlike traditional, competitive information sources (newspapers, radio, television, etc.), Big Tech has the ability to selectively control, filter and target information to billions of people. It has apparently been doing so with gusto — allegedly influencing recent elections to the point of rendering “Russian” meddling laughably inept.
In June 16 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee and in a Bloomberg Businessweek article, Professor Robert Epstein (self-described as a politically center/center left Clinton supporter) contends his research revealed “biased search results generated by Google’s search algorithm likely impacted undecided voters in a way that gave at least 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton.”
Epstein’s research said such bias could shift voter preferences in undecided voters by 20% and that “in the weeks leading up to the 2018 election, bias in Google’s search results may have shifted upwards of 78.2 million votes to the candidates of one political party.” Further, he asserts Google could manipulate “upwards of 15 million votes” in the 2020 election through search engine manipulation.
Because it seems Democrats and progressives are the political “beneficiaries” of this manipulation they might be less concerned about the power of Big Tech.
However, Epstein says some progressive and socialist content has been censored as well. Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard agrees.
They both see the problem — as we all should — as unaccountable private companies having “the power to determine what content billions of people worldwide will or will not see.”
While progressives argue Donald Trump is a threat to “democracy” and conservatives see that threat in progressivism, Big Tech appears to be practicing worldwide mind control, subliminally manipulating the thinking and behavior of billions without their knowledge, steering elections worldwide and engineering “ephemeral experiences to change people’s thinking” — the continuation of which will make democracy an illusion.
George Orwell, move over.
These activities go beyond censoring political speech and require public scrutiny. Epstein suggests the solution is maximum transparency and competition, through real-time monitoring and making data indexes a “public commons.”
In any case, unelected Big Tech oligarchs cannot be allowed to be the arbiters of our political future.