President Donald Trump has long complained about what many call anti-conservative bias on social media but had never threatened to outright intervene in a more direct manner. Now, CNN reports that an executive order Trump might sign would put the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in charge of policing what companies like Facebook do with their content.
In other words, Trump is doing exactly what he shouldn’t be doing by using the government’s power to control what content can and cannot go up online.
According to CNN, the order’s draft puts the FCC in charge of coming up with regulations that would make it clear to social media platforms whether they can be held liable when removing or blocking specific content. While Trump said that he would “explore all regulatory and legislative solutions to protect free speech” during a recent meeting with conservative activists, this draft would pressure the FCC to effectively enforce the new regulations, restricting companies like Facebook by keeping it from blocking what they consider to be unacceptable content.
This plan, which may seem like a step in the right direction to supporters, is far from a solution. As a matter of fact, anybody who criticizes the president will see this as nothing but an attempt at censoring left-leaning organizations.
In the end, if Trump puts this plan into action, he might as well have turned the tables on conservatives who look up to him. After all, he will be doing the exact type of thing honest conservatives would see as an attempt at hurting one political group in order to benefit another.
Free Speech or Property Rights?
America is proud of its speech protections, and Americans in general seem to agree that limiting speech does little to counter violence. But what is exactly the freedom of speech? And why are some groups so confused as to what it means?
As Austrian economist Murray Rothbard once explained, the right to say whatever he or she likes isn’t a right per se, as it depends on a number of factors.
“[T]he neglected question is,” Rothbard said, “Where? Where does a man have this [freedom of speech] right? He certainly does not have it on property on which he is trespassing. In short, he has this right only either on his own property or on the property of someone who has agreed, as a gift or in a rental contract, to allow him on the premises.”
In other words, a freedom to speak depends on what platform you’re using to make your claims. And if Facebook, Twitter, and others have an incentive to block content that doesn’t go along with what they prefer to hear, then it is their right to restrict content.
While there is an argument to be made that popular culture’s prevailing attitude toward conservatives and anyone who disagrees with the left for that matter is, indeed, toxic and rooted in the ideology of statism, we simply cannot fix an issue borne out of tyranny with more tyranny.
Unfortunately, there’s also another problem that Trump isn’t addressing with his executive order targeting social media and that is crony capitalism.
It is because government gives companies twisted incentives to keep “investing” on lobbying politicians and the legislative that we have powerful firms that are able to help the federal government regulate competitors out of existence.
If the president wants to truly help conservatives who feel that their voices are being kicked out of popular online platforms, he will act on deregulating the internet and content-based platforms, giving entrepreneurs the chance to come up with heavy-weight competitors to Google, Twitter, and Facebook.