Large social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have been accused by both the left and the right of censoring certain content and prominent figures. Politicians had refrained from legislating on the issue, but that changed recently with the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act.
This proposed law specifically addresses claims of online bias by imposing a rather strict and aggressive regulatory regime. However, as Senior Research Fellow Diane Katz of The Heritage Foundation argues, the adoption of such a law would be counterproductive. Her three main arguments are:
- By enacting government licensing of online speech, the Act would risk increasing censorship instead of preventing it.
- Site curation—including the right to exclude content—is the prerogative of privately-owned platforms and should not be regulated by government.
- Online bias is best addressed by empowering consumers, spurring competition through deregulation, and encouraging innovation by championing free enterprise.
To me, the issue is simple: A business should retain full control over the content it wishes to have, or not, on its own platform. Free speech applies in public spaces, sure, but privately-owned websites are not public spaces. If users are not satisfied with a service, they’re free to take their business elsewhere.
That being said, the goal should be to have a plurality of viewpoints online, so how can governments promote this? By protecting internet freedom, first and foremost. A heavily regulated internet would crystalize the social media market, making it harder for new players to compete with established platforms, ultimately restricting options for consumers.