Beto O’Rourke wants to shut down free speech online in the name of combating “white nationalism”.
The Democratic presidential candidate’s plan, which would include holding tech companies legally liable for failing to take down offensive content in a “timely” manner, would make it impossible for people to use social media sites or even personal blogs
O’Rourke isn’t the only Democrat who thinks that First Amendment rights pose a dire threat to the nation. Others, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, are eager to revoke existing laws that enable websites to allow third parties to express opinions and thoughts without fear of being held legally liable for the content posted by others.
O’Rourke’s internet censorship plan has three parts. The first involves blocking “terrorist” content online by putting pressure on website hosting companies to remove offending websites. The second would require large social media sites to remove content that could be construed as intimidating, harassing, or threatening. Even defaming someone based on their actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation would not be permitted. The third involves amending Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act to allow the U.S. government to hold social media platforms liable for the content posted on their sites.
Needless to say, the plan is alarming on a number of levels. As the Supreme Court has affirmed on more than one occasion, people have the right to hold and share offensive opinions. But Beto wants to change that. O’Rourke’s plan isn’t just about preventing future mass shootings, which the Democrat claims. It is about forcing everyone in the nation to adhere to a politically correct agenda.
It’s also important to note that social media websites have already implemented plans to remove “offensive” content, and these plans almost never work as planned. Facebook, for instance, once attempted to ban nudity on its site, and wound up blacklisting reputable museums in Europe for the “horrific” crime of showcasing Renaissance-era art. More recently, a progressive journalist was banned from Twitter because his book, which criticizes the alt-right and President Trump, happens to show KKK hoods on the American flag. Parody Twitter accounts have been banned on more than one occasion, and even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was blocked by Twitter for some time because he posted offensive threats he received from other Twitter users.
Bear in mind that these occurrences took place even though the platforms in question are not legally liable for content posted by third party users. If this were to change, there is no telling just how draconian sites such as Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter would become.
Mass shootings are certainly horrific and it is certainly important to look at the causes of these shootings and take measures to prevent them. However, turning American into a totalitarian state that doesn’t allow people to express opinions online is not going to solve problems.
Sadly, many believe that restricting the rights of “white nationalists” or the “alt-right” will make everything better. Anti-immigrant, conservative nationalists aren’t the only ones to commit mass shootings. While such people may be the first to face the consequences of Beto O’Rourke’s proposed law, they won’t be the last.
Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter may ultimately decide that it’s just too risky to host sites that allow users to post third-party content, thus making it impossible for anyone to use social media. Just like that, years of progress and innovation are gone.