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The Government Can't Fix Social Media Moderation and Should Not Try

Added 09-21-22 01:21:02am EST - “Democrats and Republicans disagree about what's wrong with social media moderation, but they agree that the government should fix it.” - Reason.com

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Posted By TheNewsCommenter: From Reason.com: “The government can’t fix social media moderation and should not try”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

Despite their increasingly bitter differences, Democrats and Republicans generally agree that content moderation by social media companies is haphazard at best. But while Democrats tend to think the main problem is too much speech of the wrong sort, Republicans complain that platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are biased against them.

The government cannot resolve this dispute and should not try. Siding with the critics who complain about online "misinformation" poses an obvious threat to free inquiry and open debate. And while attempting to mandate evenhandedness might seem more consistent with those values, it undermines the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment in a more subtle but equally troubling way.

Under a Texas law that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit declined to block last week, the leading social media platforms are forbidden to discriminate against users or messages based on "viewpoint." The "censorship" that Texas has banned includes not just outright removal of content and cancellation of accounts but also any steps that make posts less visible, accessible, or lucrative.

That means platforms are obliged to treat all posts equally, no matter how objectionable their content. With narrow exceptions for speech that is not constitutionally protected, Facebook et al. are not allowed to favor tolerance over bigotry, peace over violence, or verifiably true historical or scientific claims over demonstrably false ones.

While such neutrality is constitutionally mandatory for the government, imposing it on private actors violates the First Amendment right to exercise editorial discretion. The companies that challenged the law cited a line of Supreme Court decisions recognizing that right in a wide range of contexts, including a newspaper's selection of articles, a utility's control over the content of its newsletter, and a private organization's vetting of participants in a St. Patrick's Day parade.

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