Wednesday afternoon I published a piece explaining why it is time for Facebook to be regulated like a public utility or even as a public utility. Since then, people have made a number of arguments against that idea. Because this is a serious (and fascinating) debate about when a corporation should (or should not) assume a larger civic responsibility, it is worthwhile to address these rebuttals specifically.
These are pulled directly from the comments on the original piece:
- What a hypocrite Breitbart News Network turns out to be. Private Christian bakers are supported in refusing contracts offensive to their beliefs while Zuckerberg … has no such right to his beliefs.
Christian bakers have not vacuumed up a near monopoly on wedding cakes. There are plenty of professionals willing to bake same-sex wedding cakes. Additionally, demanding someone use their labor and artistry to create a same-sex wedding cake is a belligerent act that forces speech from the cake artist, that uses the power of the state to compel a violation of conscience.
The Christian baker is not silencing or purging the same-sex couple. Rather, the baker is merely refusing to violate his or her own beliefs and sending the same-sex couple down the road to someone who will bake the cake. This is no different than a Muslim caterer referring you to someone who will serve pork chops at your wedding.
No one is asking Zuckerberg to do anything that violates his conscience. We are merely asking him to allow us to express ourselves freely.
Additionally, unlike the Christian baker who has not cornered a market, Facebook has monopolized a vital part of the online public square where almost all of the civilized world (two billion users!) communicate with friends and family.
And now that Facebook has trapped all of us onto its platform, thus ensuring there is no alternative, Facebook is arbitrarily censoring conservative ideas and speech.
Worse, in some cases, Facebook is violating our right to free assembly by purging us entirely from its public square — greatly restricting our right to free association and deciding what real news is.
A better question would be, Why is a monopolistic behemoth like Facebook allowed choose its customers, but not a cake shop or florist?
- If the cry baby conservatives were really that upset they would create their own Facebook.
This is part of the problem, the reason why Facebook should be regulated. As of right now, Facebook so dominates social media, so dominates our ability to spread our ideas and have them shared throughout the country, a real “alternative” is impossible.
Basically, if you were to move to an alternative platform, you would be removing yourself from the public square that is Facebook, and as a result your ideas and arguments would be at a major disadvantage.
Unfortunately, like the telephone (Ma Bell) and U.S. Post Office monopolies of 35-years-ago, there is no effective way to replace the power and reach of Facebook with something else.
Think of it this way: if 35 years ago, Ma Bell did what Facebook does now — took telephones away from those who express certain opinions — how could you possibly compete on the level playing field of ideas? How could you join the debate, effectively organize, etc?
You could not.
And this is why Facebook needs to become a public utility or be regulated like one, needs to become a place where the only rules governing our speech are the actual laws written by our elected (and accountable) representatives.
A corporation monopolizing one of our primary means of assembly and expression and then imposing arbitrary rules is un-American.
- As bad as the Facebook situation might be, the last thing we want to do is ask the government to step in and “help.”
Our government is awful, but at the very least it is our government. I wish there was a better solution than to turn this problem over to government, but it actually is the government’s primary responsibility to protect our individual rights. The one place where government does belong is in ensuring we do not lose those rights.
As of now, Facebook is unaccountableand stripping us of our rights. There is no government regulation protecting our free speech from Zuckerberg’s authoritarian whims, and there is no competition because Facebook vacuumed up this space.
Without any accountability, Zuckerberg is able to not only violate our rights by censoring our speech and even purging us, he is able to possibly affect the outcome of elections by combining those purges with algorithms that control how much a “favored” opinion is allowed to spread while stifling “unflavored” opinions.
- Facebook is a private company. If a consumer doesn’t like them, don’t use them. The solution is not to try to dictate how they choose to use their rights.
With all due respect, I find this default “conservative opinion” lazy.
There is nothing conservative (or American) about a corporate monopoly. What makes America America are things like competition and free enterprise, things that are stifled by monopolies.
In the case of Facebook, it is even worse because we are talking about a monopoly on how we as a society communicate, how we assemble to exchange ideas. With the arbitrary click of a switch, Facebook can remove our ideas and even us from the modern public square. This is intolerable.
- Oh my goodness gracious. Just imagine that. Removing hate speech. How horrible that you can’t attack people based on the above categories. What kind of a world is that?
“What kind of world is that?”
A fascist world where a corporation is not only in charge of the public square but goes even further in assuming the role of Decider when it comes to what we can and cannot say — when it comes to what is and is not approved speech.
That world is called a Dystopia.
It is madness and cultural suicide to allow a corporation to control the means by which we communicate and assemble, and to then allow that corporation to control what we say.
Facebook should be regulated like the mail and Ma Bell were 35 years ago, because Facebook is just as vital of a free speech tool as the phone and mail once were.
- There are other ways to communicate online.
Yes, but nothing is anywhere near as established, powerful, or central as Facebook.
Leaving Facebook, or being purged from Facebook, is like leaving the public square. You are at an immediate disadvantage. You can no longer address the crowd. You have been removed from the primary gathering place where important debates and decisions take place.
Here is another analogy: Facebook is the latest version of the printing press — the sleekest, fastest, most effective printing press there is. If that printing press company refuses to sell you its product, you and your ideas are in the wilderness.
Another analogy: Facebook has cornered the market on firearms and only sells to the like-minded, while everyone else scrounges. How safe are your rights in that situation?
We are talking about two fundamental rights Facebook has captured a huge chunk of — our right to speak and our right to associate.
- I think you’re falling into a leftist trap here. Any new laws to control Facebook can and will be used against the right just as soon as the lefties get control back.
At the very least, the government is accountable to voters. AND there are checks and balances in all three branches of government. This is not a perfect solution, but it is preferable to an unaccountable corporation.
Also, it is much, much harder for the government to censor its citizens than it is for an unaccountable corporation.
I do not call for government regulation of Facebook lightly. But I will not stand idly by as a left-wing Tech Tyrant captures the way in which we communicate and then arbitrarily singles my ideas out for censorship.
Yes, maybe we are idiots for handing our fundamental right to speak and assemble over to a Mark Zuckerberg, which in turn gave him the power to shape the outcomes of elections and who governs us. But it is never too late to fight for your rights.