Following my piece over the weekend, Did America Just Lose Afghanistan Because of WhatsApp? – a lot of other people have been asking the same question. Motherboard linked to the piece, the Free Beacon published its own article agreeing with its conclusions and Facebook itself pivoted hard, announcing it would – a day late and a dogecoin short – begin aggressively banning Taliban content.
Congressman James Comer apparently agrees with the thesis:
Noting that Section 230 comes up, I would encourage the Congressman to not touch Section 230.
Section 230 is what immunizes platforms like Facebook and Twitter for legal liability for hosting user generated content including terrorist content. It is a good thing that they benefit from this protection because it means that they adopt policies which tend to promote the free speech of Americans (even though FB and Twitter do censor conservative viewpoints) and moreover it protects companies which host conservative viewpoints too, which could not exist without Section 230.
The best thing anyone can do is vote with their wallets. Congresspeople should lead a charge to stop providing content to, stop using and stop spending ad dollars with websites which host America’s enemies and start using websites which don’t host America’s enemies. The next best thing they could do is start looking at how other laws like antitrust law might be used to break up the conglomerates which are responsible for the delivery of communications services to the enemy – app stores, social conglomerates, and device makers. The next best thing after that would be to enact something like former OCC Commissioner Brian Brooks’ Fair Access Rule to banking services, which was spiked by the Biden Administration, to ensure that challenger services which cater to patriots – or anyone else, for that matter – can’t get banned from the financial system because of their politics.
Even if these companies made a serious effort to deny their services to our enemies (and to be clear, it appears at the moment that they are not doing so), law reform of Section 230 would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It is proper that our laws (Section 230 and the First Amendment) and the requirement that consumer tech requires strong privacy protections like E2E encryption means that these companies are unable to guarantee that their services won’t be provided to our enemies.
It is clear, however, that these companies’ continued treatment of American citizens as domestic enemies at the same time as they give America’s actual enemies what amounts to a free pass cannot go unanswered.
There are ways to do this without trampling on the First Amendment or compromising American users’ privacy and rights. Breaking up these firms’ stranglehold on the marketplace, such as Google and Apple’s app store oligopoly (which makes sideloading apps impractical, in Google’s case, and impossible, in Apple’s), and ending financial censorship, means that challengers to Big Tech dominance, many of whom are banned or threatened with bans simply because of their politics, will finally be afforded the chance to rise and displace their unpatriotic competition.