A draft piece of legislation in Russia’s Leningrad region seeks to force the operators of social media networks to register and verify users by checking official identification documents like passports. The aim is to prevent children from witnessing perverse content and being abused by insane individuals.
Although the legislation seems well intentioned, it is also far fetched, overly cumbersome and unlikely to get off the ground.
Nevertheless, it is important to talk about how governments can regulate social media networks in the interests of the public good. I am not in favour of cumbersome regulations of small and medium sized business, but when a business becomes a monolith verging on the monopolistic, it is a government’s duty to protect its citizens from arbitrary and harmful measures propagated by corporations acting like runaway fright trains.
It is widely known that Facebook and Twitter can temporarily or permanently ban users for the most arbitrary, foolish and immoral reasons. When called up on their use of their trigger-happy ban button, they simply say that ‘they are a private corporation’ and can therefore do as they wish. Whilst they are a private corporation, so are the telecom companies in many countries.
It is virtually unheard of for a phone or internet provider to ban a customer because of the content of his or her phone conversations or emails or even the photos and videos one can now keep in a cloud storage system.
This applies to conference calls, emails with multiple recipients, etc.
Facebook, Twitter and others should not act differently. Social media is, if you will, a conference call with a wider audience; an email sent to multiple people. Some people elect to privilege and restrict their communications and others can make it fully public. If someone doesn’t like what is being said they can personally block a user just, as one can hang up a phone during an unwanted conversation. It’s just that simple.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others are telecom tools of the modern age, just as the landline was in the 20th century and mobile phones were after they became common in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Governments should force social media companies to refrain from any sort of censorship or removal of users in all instances except when criminal activity is suspected. Anything criminal such as plotting an act of terrorism or preying on children is all ready a criminal offence and it should be dealt with by police and not any private sector organisations, including Facebook middle management. Expressing views, even hateful views is not a crime. It is quite the opposite, it is protected by free speech laws. If someone is offended they can simply not look at the content, just as when one sees a unseemly vagabond on the street, they in many cases, elect to cross the road.
Not only are Facebook and Twitter using their power as giant corporations to restrict personal liberty in line with a globalist liberal agenda, they are actually putting lives at risk. Government ought to step in to protect free speech from private sector censorship. Social media is not an ordinary product whose sale can be restricted by its lawful owner, it is a conduit of communications that is now a vial part of daily life. Unlike a small business owner who ought to have the right to refuse service in all but the most exceptional cases (such as race discrimination), Facebook and Twitter should be legally restricted in their arbitrary censorship measures because of the negative effect this has on society and personal liberty.
Social media is now the first line of defence against terrorism. Before mainstream media cameras can get on site, it is social media users who are sharing information about terrorist attacks, alerting others to either avoid the area or send for help. It is also a lifeline for loved ones to communicate with one another during times of crisis, as well as a way to let others know that one is safe in the event of a terrorist atrocity or natural disaster.
Anyone banned from social media during such an event has that lifeline cut off and the owners of the social media network in question would bear the responsibility from any traumatic or dangerous issues arising because of the absence of that vital communication life-line.
It is time for responsible governments to step in and protect people’s liberty from big social media. The problem is that many in government are all too happy for social media corporations to push a liberal-left censorship agenda against the desires of their users and against the basic concepts of life and liberty which governments ought to be the guardians of.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.