Friday, September 16, 2022

Common Carrier Status Bites Antisocial Media

NetChoice v. Paxton (5th Cir. 2022) struck down a district court's preliminary injunction against a Texas law that prohibited antisocial media from viewpoint-discrimination and free speech with several minor but completely defensible exceptions.  In brief they decided that being common carriers under federal law (which protects them from responsibility for libel or slander) means that they cannot violate the free speech rights of Texans (which in practice protects the rights of anyone because Texans have the right to speak and read the opinions of others). Repeatedly, the decision emphasizes that this law does not deny the antisocial media companies' freedom of speech but their freedom of censorship.   The companies are free to speak freely in opposition to crimethink but they may not prohibit it except in three very narrow categories.

I know many libertarian organizations defend censorship because these are private companies and besides many libertarian organizations are really more sympathetic to suppression of anti-LGBT speech than any real support of free speech.  (They might start sounding conservative if they supported the right to say icky things about an important libertarian affinity group.)

This is pretty major.  Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are going to need to allow awful people like former President Trump, the New York Post, and the rest of the "semi-fascists" to share the modern public square with BLM, Antifa, and the Democratic Party.

This is not the final decision but at least it is not a slam dunk by the world's most powerful and richest corporations to maintain control of acceptable speech.

For some reason, I am unable to reply to comments.  If a group wants to meet in a restrained environment, do not use antisocial media.  Under the current rules, the hypothetical group mentioned would likely be prohibited anyway for homophobic content.  The Texas law does not prevent free speech (what the 1st Amendment protects), it prevents censorship.

1 comment:

  1. What should a bible study group be able to do if it becomes overrun with activist gay atheists disrupting every mention of gender or marriage? Should it make a difference if the group owns its own site or is using a social media platform's resources?

    I don't see libertarians "defending censorship", rather we recognise that some level of moderation is necessary, there isn't a clear line between moderation and viewpoint censorship and we don't want the government involved in that decision. There are a lot of activities that we celebrate or at least tolerate when done privately that we strongly oppose if done by the government.