Organization Trends

CRC’s Online Symposium on Tech Censorship

How should politically minded users respond to the daily social media outrages that sweep the internet? Those on the Right are of differing minds as to how best respond to decisions made by tech companies and online publishers in an effort to accommodate advertisers or maintain privately adopted community standards, standards which read as outright ideological discrimination to many.

Republicans and conservatives point to instances of genuinely biased political decisions on the part of media companies, political commentators, and tech companies, and see the need to assert their right to public discourse. Some call for a sort of “fairness doctrine” to govern social media—in essence treating online forums as a public utility. Others wish to hold social media companies financially liable for what people post on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Those who object to tech companies’ enforcement of community standards point out that they are vague and therefore inconsistently applied. What’s worse, the “purge” of unsavory internet personalities might not stop with neo-Nazis and Klan members. Shrill internet activists have been known to incite communities to report certain accounts en masse, hoping that website moderators will do the dirty work and suspend or de-verify accounts from prominent commentators with differing ideologies.

Americans prize their First Amendment rights, which among other things guarantee citizens’ right to free speech, association, and exercise of religion against government interference. At first glance, viewpoint discrimination and online censorship on public forums looks like an open-and-shut case of censorship—anti-American, bad for civic education, and fundamentally unfair. However, right-of-center folks also rightly note that companies like YouTube, Google, and Patreon are privately held entities that are also entitled to First Amendment rights, including the right not to associate with certain people or viewpoints. Those inclined to keep government small, also fear that any move to bring balance to online forums will instead empower the government to exert its own form of censorship.

These important considerations enjoy robust debate at the Capital Research Center. In the interest of furthering constructive debate and modeling civil discourse, CRC decided to host an online symposium on the issues of tech censorship and hear differing views on how best to combine concerns about free expression with concerns about free association. We hope you enjoy these considerations.

The articles and the opinions therein are the work of individual authors and do not reflect institutional views on the part of the Capital Research Center.