Updated: Jan 18
By now everyone knows that Trump was banned from Twitter, along with the censorship or shadow banning of many others on the right. These actions even went so far as to result in Facebook blocking Ron Paul’s account, a curious move since Ron Paul has shown no love for the authoritarian right-wing.
Are these actions truly in opposition to the first amendment, as so many are claiming? The answer to that question is a little more nuanced than a simple yes or no. To begin with, we must consider the fundamental principle that no one has a right to the goods or services provided by private companies or individuals, this applies whether those goods and services are being offered by a bakery, a doctor, or a social media platform. Where the conversation gets more interesting is whether these social media platforms are truly private.
The most recent information on this topic extends through 2018 and shows that between 2010 – 2018 Facebook received $333 million in government subsidies, Google has received $766 million since 2000, and Apple has received $693 million since 2009, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s almost impossible to find a thorough breakdown of these subsidies, highlighting one of the many issues with government intervention, its lack of transparency. However, based on what information is available, much of these subsidies appear to be in the form of tax breaks rather than money being directly funneled in from the federal government. Tax breaks are something that I can get behind, perhaps we should extend these tax breaks to all corporations and individuals.
But I digress.
The idea that such large corporations are receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies should inspire bipartisan outrage. Democrats, especially those of the socialist variety, are constantly crying out for rich individuals, and large corporations to pay their “fair share”, in fact I seem to recall a recent incident where President Donald Trump was berated for not having payed what those on the left felt was a suitable amount in income taxes. Offering tax breaks of this magnitude to these tech giants would then seemingly be counter productive to this effort. Yet, to date I have not heard a single word on this topic from anyone on the left.
Similarly, Republicans who are justifiably angered at being silenced on these platforms would seem to want to ensure that these companies no longer receive special favors. Yet, I have not heard anyone from the supposed party of fiscal conservatives speak up about this matter either.
If there were ever an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to reach across the aisle and work together to accomplish some small, but meaningful action this would be it. Democrats could satisfy their constituents by showing that they are serious about their rhetoric of holding large corporations responsible to contribute to the social contract. Republicans could show that they won’t placate those who seek to silence them, and while pulling a *very* small rug out from underneath these tech companies, also create freer market conditions which would better enable competition.
Yet this topic has been conspicuously absent during the discussion of the behavior of these companies. Instead, politicians are posturing to their base, with Democrats suggesting that the government needs to rein in the media, and Republicans falsely claiming that our 1 st amendment rights are being stripped away, leading us down an inevitable path towards an Orwellian dystopia. More likely than not, they will continue this grandstanding until the next hot button issue comes into the public arena, at which point everyone will forget their anger over social media censorship and focus on the new flavor of the day, much like a dog who has just seen a squirrel.
While this predictable sequence of events plays out, inflationary spending will continue to rise, individual freedoms will continue to be regulated out of existence, and large corporations will continue to receive favors.
Perhaps government is good at something after all…