I recently listened to a snippet of a Ben Shapiro interview with Amy Peikoff, Parler’s chief policy officer, wherein the de-platforming of the site by Amazon was discussed. This, on the heels of listening to a legal-issues analysis that affirmed my belief that there are substantial contractual issues at play, and that the more libertarian way forward would be in the courts rather than via Congress or the bureaucratic leviathan.

Peikoff, toward the end of the interview, opined that a new standard was being imposed by Big Tech, one of “mandated moderation” wherein they’d only act as platforms for sites if those sites engaged in an aggressive and pre-emptive form of content curation. Parler, per Peikoff, relies on post-facto human moderation, i.e. an employee or a user flags a post, instead of AI “sniffing” every post the moment it’s published.

AI, if it’s been tasked to filter out the sorts of things that Big Tech alleges Parler failed to stop, has been doing a really shit-tastic job of it. Death threats abound, as does incendiary rhetoric. Gregg “Opie” Hughes called Twitter “the worst place in the world,” a decade ago, and it has only gotten worse. Only a blind naif can honestly conclude that Parler’s under-moderation was so egregious in comparison to all else that it deserved such an abrupt and universal defenestration, and not recognize that the action was deeply rooted in partisanship and the tipping of political scales.

Thus, I fully support Parler’s going to court over breach-of-contract and other legal remedies, and I hope the company prevails. Furthermore, I condemn Big Tech’s selectivity in such matters, and won’t argue that, simply because they can, it’s OK that they do.

What I don’t support is the call for the government to dive into this mess, at least at this juncture and given what I know. For it is a dive that will almost certainly not splash us all with a wave of liberty, but produce a contrary result instead.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has been in the news a lot lately, with Trump wanting its repeal (a ham-fisted action) and thus clouding the question of whether it can be improved. But, even a surgical nip-tuck is fraught with peril, the climate being what it is, the Democrats (who don’t give a flying rat’s ass about free speech) coming into power as they are, with the progressive caucus suggesting a Ministry of Truth, and with Big Tech awash in progressive-woke.

Peikoff’s “mandated moderation” could easily become a public sector policy, with 230 protections only applying to entities that ‘sufficiently’ control what gets published. This stands the notion of being a disinterested conduit of content on its head, and obviates the argument that one should not be liable for third-party product that passes through one’s portal. This is what I most fear about the government stepping into this fray: that we end up with the illiberal policies and practices we hate being institutionalized rather than rejected.

Libertarians have been called to task for arguing against government coercion in this matter, as if we like what was done. Rejection regulatory coercion is not, however, the same as condoning the behavior in question, and few will cry if Amazon is held to the letter of its contract with Parler (which includes a 30 day notice requirement for violations, a requirement that’s been ignored out of some pretext of necessity). The courts, and the Supreme Court should it get that far, are a far better venue for sorting this out than a Congress controlled by a party that has routinely shown a sniffing disdain for the parts of the Constitution that get in its way.

Keep this in mind as this all unfolds: The bullies are buddies. Big Tech and Big-D are birds of a feather, suffused with leftist thinking and drunk with power. You’re not going to get some pro-liberty slap-down of Amazon, Apple, and Google out of this. Far more likely, you’ll get a bunch of rules that solidify Big Tech’s dominance, create higher barriers for entry than already exist in that market segment, and require affirmative and pre-emptive “mandated moderation” for the 230 protections that serve a good purpose.

To reiterate: this tech-oligopoly censoring is a problem. It won’t be fixed by our incoming government.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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