How the GOP War on Big Tech Encourages Censorship
Following the Twitter ban of former president Donald Trump, Republican political figures like Senator Lindsey Graham began almost immediately calling for the repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. While controversial in some circles, this piece of legislation passed in 1996 essentially protects online platforms from liability for posts made by their users. Section 230(c)(2) specifically provides “Good Samaritan” protection for platforms that engage in moderating or removing third-party content they find to be “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.”
Trump himself has fought to revoke Section 230, such as by his vetoing of a defense bill last year. He and many others on the right contend that Section 230 must be repealed or revised in order to stop censorship of conservative voices on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Of course, this poses two important questions worth considering. Are conservatives really being censored on social media, and how would repealing or revising Section 230 end censorship? Could it possibly have the opposite effect?
It should be noted up front that demonstrating this kind of bias carries a higher burden of proof than is frequently assumed. Pointing to an instance where a conservative was treated one way on social media and a liberal or non-conservative was treated another way is not an automatic proof of bias. Alternative explanations have to be considered in these cases, such as what one party may have done differently, if a platform was simply slow to act, what actions have been taken against non-conservative accounts in the past, etc.
It’s also not proof of bias to simply report that a lot of social media companies are populated with liberals and progressives. Even though this is true, it does not demonstrate that these businesses are actively engaging in censorship of conservatives. What is needed are converging lines of evidence showing that conservative thought is being suppressed, conservative accounts banned at a disproportional rate, and this is done for no real reason other than their political affiliation. If this cannot be shown, the claim of bias is not supported.