Say the wrong things and you might get kicked off of your favorite social media platform.
Tech titans Apple, Facebook, and YouTube have wiped out talk-show host Alex Jones’s social media presence on the Internet. But the social media crusades weren’t over.
Facebook recently took down popular pages like Liberty Memes and hundreds of other prominent libertarian-leaning pages . In the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, social media network Gab was on the receiving end of suspensions from payment processors like PayPal and Stripe and cloud hosting company Joyent. Although these companies did not provide clear explanations for their dissociation with Gab, the media had a field day when they learned that the synagogue shooter, Robert Bowers, had an account with the social media network.
Should libertarians fear social media de-platforming? Or is this a case of private actors exercising their legitimate property rights by excluding those they wish to no longer do business with?
The Blurring Lines of the Public & Private Sector
Since the question of de-platforming has popped up, some conservatives have proposed state-based solutions to solve this problem. In a role reversal, conservative commentator Ann Coulter suggested that the governmentpass anti-discrimination laws to prevent social media platforms from de-platforming conservatives. Ideological consistency is a lot to ask for from seasoned veterans of Conservative Inc these days.
Nevertheless, Coulter expanded on why the 1st Amendment protections must be extended to social media:
We need to apply the First Amendment to social media companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google, because it is a public square, and there is precedent for that and it’s gotta be done, because this is really terrifying, and talk about chilling speech when they’re just throwing people off right and left.
Although private entities are within their rights to decide with whom they do business, libertarians should not completely dismiss concerns about social media censorship. The first question we must ask: How separate from the State are these social media giants in the first place?