By L. Neil Smith, The Libertarian Enterprise
Something that I wrote totally disappeared from Facebook yesterday. One minute it was there, and the next minute it had vanished. I had been officially disapproved of, without notice or explanation.
Facebook, Google, Twitter, Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube, the entire noxious gaggle of them. Something most individuals — on every segment of the political spectrum — agree needs to be done. Simply breaking up the so-called “tech giants” into dozens or hundreds of smaller companies could turn out to be a disaster — like using a nuclear weapon to defend the Earth from an oncoming asteroid,turning a single huge bullet into a lethal shotgun blast. Imagine a hundred thousand politically correct idiots controlling communications on this poor, battered planet.
And it worked so well for network television.
A far simpler, more effective approach is just to recognize reality: that any company, having humbly petitioned the government for special powers and immunities (that you and I don’t have) through the process of incorporation, has become, in effect, an arm of that government. As such, it is fully subject to exactly the same limitations, under the Bill of Rights — and in particular, under the First Amendment — as any other arm of the government is supposed to be. The “Masters of the Universe” can no longer be permitted to control what you say or see online. That’s what they all agreed to under the deeply-flawed Communications Decency Act.
As far as your privacy is concerned, a simple statute restoring absolute ownership of your name, your vital statistics, your other data, and your speech and writings, to you — and mandating that (A) you have the right to opt out of the data-cpllection process, or that (B) whenever social media sell that information to somebody else, you get a healthy cut (I would suggest at least fifty percent; Facebook alone has over 2,000,000,000 users; they can afford it) — would go a long way toward protecting your personal space. It would be an effective deterrent: these creatures are nothing if not skinflints — ask their employees.
What’s missing here, of course, is official government oversight committees, commissions, blue-ribbon panels, and books of complicated regulations. Everything politicians touch turns to crap. And the laws that govern this sort of thing already exist and simply need to be enforced.
As to those who claim (mostly my fellow libertarians, I’m sorry to say) that dealing firmly with the nasty little orcs and goblins who want to control your brain would be a violation of their private property rights, consider the legal principle of “implied warranty”. Years ago, the drivers of these systems went out of their way to give us the impression that their “platforms” would be open fora for public discussion, the “marketplace of ideas”.
And so they damn well ought to be. In a sense, they already belong to us. The government (not Algore) created the Internet in the first place, with our parents’ tax dollars, not a happy fact, but a fact
nevertheless. It’s also said that various “spook” agencies played a role in establishing some of these platforms (look up “DARPA LifeLog”). When we call them to heel, their high-flown owners and operators should no longer be permitted to bloviate like Foghorn Leghorn (look him up) and obfuscate like the Kingfish (ditto). Forget complicated, mysterious, and essentially meaningless “algorithms” and other cyberbabble. What is important is individual liberty, the right to privacy, and to freedom of speech.
And what is needed, in the absence of decent behavior by these spoiled brats, is something resembling a revolution.
Award-winning writer L. Neil Smith is Publisher and Senior Columnist of L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise and author of over thirty books. Look him up on Google, Wikipedia, and Amazon.com. He is available at professional rates, to write for your organization, event, or publication, fiercely defending your rights, as he has done since the mid-60s. His writings (and e-mail address) may be found at L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise, at JPFO.org or at https://www.patreon.com/lneilsmithHis many books and those of other pro-gun libertarians may be found (and ordered) at L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE “Free Radical Book Store” The preceding essay was originally prepared for and appeared in L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE. If you like what you’ve seen and want to see more, he says, ”Don’t applaud, throw money.“
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.