Is the leftist dream now within reach? If President Trump loses, we will find out.
Bring Free Speech Back to Social Media—Now
A fact-check solution to a constitutional crisis.
The war between conservatives and Silicon Valley is on. The scions of social media are no longer hiding their disdain for an entire movement. They know the outcome of this high-stakes presidential election could jeopardize their rule over the American people and unmake the oligarchy they’ve built with the rest of the ruling class. If we are to save the republic, we must realize this too—and act.
Tens of millions of individual users who dare question leftist orthodoxy are being targeted and silenced by Big Tech. There are no limits on who they censor, including the President of the United States.
That’s why the Media Research Center is fighting back with the Free Speech Alliance, which includes over 70 groups and The Claremont Institute. We also just released our database effort to document the bias at CensorTrack.org.
One key weapon being deployed to punish conservatives is the so-called “fact check.” It’s being used to censor thousands of conservatives communicating with millions of followers. It’s happened tens of thousands of times, and it’s getting worse. Facebook is one of the worst offenders.
Facebook, with 2.7 billion users, is dramatically skewed to the left in its fact-checking operation. It now has an international “Oversight Committee” dominated by George Soros-funded entities that make a mockery of unbiased review. Citizens wanting to rally in support of reopening the country have been banned because some public gatherings in some states are forbidden. Antifa, however, thrives largely unchecked and unchallenged as it riots in the streets and harasses members of Congress in their homes.
Conservatives have made good-faith attempts to resolve these many conflicts, but to no avail.
Covid-19 has sent social media sites into censorship overdrive. If you disagree with the social media prescription for the virus, you are silenced. Ask the president, or his son, or countless doctors.
Social media censorship is the most direct threat to free speech worldwide coming from the most powerful companies in the history of man. As a consequence, some conservatives are actively supporting the effort to strip from these social media giants the Section 230 protections that they certainly have abused.
Just like newspapers such as The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, these social media giants need to be held legally accountable for content on their own sites. But 230 protects companies from lawsuits when publishing the content of others. This has given Big Tech firms like Facebook the power to block conservatives from the public conversation while encouraging hate-filled, dishonest speech toward conservatives—all with virtual impunity.
U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R., MI), Lindsey Graham (R., SC), and Marsha Blackburn (R., TN) have proposed legislation that “would clarify the original intent of the law and increase accountability for content moderation practices.”
Others, including 51 state attorneys general, are exploring antitrust remedies to break the monopolies and allow competition that might embrace free speech.
These are very encouraging steps in the right direction.
But there might be an easier solution to resolve at least part of the problem: let’s fix fact-checking.
Silicon Valley, its allies in the “old” media, and the academy are the ones clamoring for fact-checking, not the public.
There’s no market demand for any corporate fact-checking. None.
This is not to suggest that social media sites shouldn’t be monitored, and restrictions placed on them. But those restrictions should be imposed only where absolutely necessary and legally required in cases of criminal activity, terrorism, and pornography.
That should be the full extent of Big Tech’s direct involvement in the fact-checking process.
Let the public make the call: allow them to opt in to fact-checking.
We offer a simple framework.
- Create a Social Media Charter: A task force would produce a simple document outlining what can and will be banned by the social media community. Every company will be asked to sign the charter.
- Demand Equal Fact-Checkers: Each social media company would recruit a set number of official fact-checkers—say, ten. These fact-checkers would run the political gamut and share in valuing true diversity of thought. For every leftist enterprise there would be a conservative alternative. Any existing “fact-checking” operations would need to disclose their true bias. Pure objectivity does not exist.
- Insist on Transparency: Each fact-checking organization would be required to fill out a Transparency Statement, to include the organization’s official mission statement and describe all other organizational activities, political affiliations, sources of major funding and the qualifications of all staff participating in their operation.
- Pay Fact-Checkers: As cable companies do with C-SPAN, so too would the social media giants fund these fact-checking organizations as a public service. Fact-checkers would be paid their salaries a year in advance, just as ombudsmen are, to mitigate against any possible interference.
- Publicize Options: Social media companies would prominently list the names of all fact-checkers and encourage their audiences to read them.
- Track Actions: Social media companies would agree to maintain a public log of all disciplinary action taken by the companies against users, be they personal or corporate.
- Impose Biannual Oversight: A blue-ribbon “Oversight Board” would be convened biannually to review these fact-checkers. If the Oversight Board determined a fact-checker’s record to be unacceptable, it could terminate the contract while recruiting a similar replacement.
- Limit Fact-checks: Fact-checks wouldn’t be used to shut down, suspend, or in any other way discipline users or organizations. They would be attached to stories for the users who opted in. They would provide additional information, not censor by dictate.
This will naturally require tweaking, but the outline ought to provide satisfaction for all parties. Social media sites will become self-policing communities; freedom of speech will be guaranteed, warts and all; conservatives will have the assurance they are no longer being targeted for censorship; and the reasons for legal or legislative action against these social media giants will be minimized, if not negated altogether.
In other words, one piece of the debate just might be resolved by the private sector, for the private sector. And maybe liberals will get back to defending free speech, as they once did.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.