Recently in our Patreon group I asked the question- "Is the recent situation regarding censorship by the biggest tech companies causing you to question your 'free market fixes all' principles?"
The context of this question is obviously the situation we are seeing across social media today. Specifically, it has to do with Parler. As libertarians, we always say something along the lines of "if you don't like it, start your own app." You'll also constantly here that "Facebook and Twitter are private companies, and private companies can chose to do business (or not do business) with whoever they like."
I still agree with that last statement. I see no Government action available towards Facebook or Twitter that could be beneficial to the situation. Simply put, we do not believe the government has the authority to force you into doing business with people against your will.
Of course we'd love for those on the left to hold that as a unifying principle to be used in all situations. Unfortunately, they hold that as a weapon to be used if they so choose. The infamous "bake the cake" scenario comes to mind.. How can one make the case that a baker should be forced to do business with someone when they would rather not, but a social media company (or server host in the case of AWS) should have the choice to refuse service to people they find morally reprehensible? On the flip side, how can people who say the baker should be able to choose their customers also argue that a media company cannot?
Parler thought they did the right thing. If you don't like the media censorship, create your own app. Of course now we see that this is not where the line stops. There's the app stores on Google and Apple, and one step further, the server hosts such as Amazon.
Right now, we think that will be fixed by Parler buying their own servers, but of course there are more steps forward that have yet to be seen. A small amount of companies provide internet. What happens when those companies block Parler's URL?
Then we get to the government intervention. The ISP (Internet Service Provider) market is not free. One must obtain a government license or permit to run internet lines to people's houses. So at it's very core, the market for providing a mode of communication is not free.
I'll leave you with the comments from out Patreon supporters as a barometer for where many libertarians/liberty minded people are on this issue.
"Here is what I think... And feel free to use it if you do desire.
1. They are a company, and because I believe in free market, they can do what they want. It's up to them if they feel it is something they want to do. My choice to follow them or not.
2. However, the Government has to rescind any kind of agreement that has them as a public forum. Any kind of funding/support should not be provided outside the free market.... Which likens me back to the 'free market' altogether. It better be free... Free of government in all regards (beneficial to them or regulatory) as well as free to fail if they don't offer what the market drives."
"This is the division that will spur on a conservative marketplace, we will get a conservative Amazon to host web services and finally allow online weapon sales without the censorship of current services."
"My biggest concern is all of the big media driving people deeper into their own echo chambers. I also wonder if they are doing this for their image or if there is something in a law (that they wrote) that requires it. But they are private companies so they can do what they want."
"Ok, I think it’s easy for us to say that they are private companies they can do what they want, but the thing is they really aren’t private companies. These are companies that are essentially owned by the government, and the government can use for what they want. We’ve talked about this a lot, how instead of capitalism, we are closer to fascism in the US. The government makes it hard for other tech companies to start up, and not to mention then you now have big tech trying to stifle other venues of connectivity. If the government didn’t interfere in any of this, and this was truly the “free market”, no issue, but that’s not the case. These tech company are truly an extension of the government."
As has already been stated here these companies have government contracts, therefore, they benefit from the state. Eric July has been crushing this topic. He points out that a lot of the people who say these are private companies & can do as they please are the same crackheads who believe the state can force businesses to lockdown due to covid.
State ownership of these platforms as utilites is also not the answer. The market will come up with a solution.
"Echoing the echo chamber comment, I’ve found more and more people on social media becoming divisive and outspoken and less willing to engage in thoughtful conversation. That is my fear of this whole debacle."