TR Daily Wicker Decries Big Tech ‘Censorship’; NHMC Urges YouTube Action
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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Wicker Decries Big Tech ‘Censorship’; NHMC Urges YouTube Action

The debate over social media platforms’ content-moderation practices—especially with respect to restrict President Trump’s access in the wake of posts related to his supporters’ violent attack on the Capitol last Wednesday—continued today.

In a statement responding to restrictions and terminations of "conservative users’ accounts and content" but did not mention President Trump directly, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R., Miss.) said, "Big Tech’s denial of access to users and selective decision making about online content is further dividing our country during a time when we should be fostering unity." He said, "Social media giants are using their market dominance and exercising politically biased censorship over what content users can access. These companies are adversely affecting the lives of real people, but they need to know they are playing with fire. I will fight to hold them accountable."

In remarks before the departure of Air Force One from Joint Base Andrews this morning, President Trump said, "I think that big tech is doing a horrible thing for our country and to our country. And I believe it’s going to be a catastrophic mistake for them. They’re dividing and divisive, and they’re showing something that I've been predicting for a long time. I’ve been predicting it for a long time, and people didn’t act on it.

"But I think big tech has made a terrible mistake, and very, very bad for our country. And that’s leading others to do the same thing, and it causes a lot of problems and a lot of danger. Big mistake. They shouldn’t be doing it. But there’s always a counter move when they do that. I’ve never seen such anger as I see right now, and that’s a terrible thing. Terrible thing," he added, according to a transcript of his remarks released by the White House.

"And you have to always avoid violence. And we have—we have tremendous support," he said.

Jennifer Huddleston, director–technology and innovation policy at the American Action Forum, issued an analysis criticizing the idea that tech platforms are violating the First Amendment by limiting President Trump’s access and by refusing hosting services for Parler and its apps.

Revoking the content-moderation protections in section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and increasing antitrust enforcement of tech firms "could ironically stifle more speech rather than promote free expression," she said, according to an AAF press release.

"Even more than the typical user, the president is far from without a microphone. More easily than any other American or policymaker, he could directly address the American public through traditional media means. This is not a case of Big Tech violating the president or other users’ First Amendment rights, but better understood as their decision to exercise their own," she added.

Public Knowledge President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Lewis said that it is "essential" that Americans understand that Twitter, Inc.’s and Facebook, Inc.’s suspension of President Trump’s accounts do not violate his First Amendment rights.

"As many legal experts have noted, these social media companies and other digital platforms are private companies, not the government, and that distinction makes their content moderation decisions and actions free of any First Amendment concerns. While we as Americans have a constitutional freedom from having the government inhibit our speech (with some fairly clear limits on the extent of that freedom), this is not a license to use any platform to speak without restriction, nor is it a freedom from criticism or consequences for that speech," Mr. Lewis added.

Public Knowledge Director–competition policy Charlotte Slaiman said, "Platforms make mistakes all the time, but banning or limiting President Trump’s access is long overdue. But, just because we want platforms to make choices about speech that we don’t let the government make, doesn’t mean that we can’t expect safeguards. It is perfectly reasonable to expect due process, transparency, and consistency from platforms as they exercise their editorial discretion. But the most fundamental safeguards are competition and choice, so that no one platform has too much power."

Meanwhile, Brenda Victoria Castillo, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, called on YouTube to follow other social media platforms in suspending and restricting President Trump "and his followers who violently sieged the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.

"NHMC is dissatisfied with YouTube’s decision to amplify disinformation and fuel the ongoing planning and organizing of domestic terrorist acts of insurrection. At NHMC, we know that words can be dangerous—particularly words of hate and violence. Online hate and conspiracy theories manifest into in-person hate, violence, and domestic terror. YouTube’s continued delay in action on this matter speaks volumes. Lives and the democracy of the United States of America is at stake," she added. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews Congress InternetIoT

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