Bill Moore: The Public Square: Social media and the First Amendment

21 Aug

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Bill Moore:  Author and regular contributor to Free State Patriot

August 21, 2018


 

At the dawn of our great country, the town crier, broadsides, pamphlets all were different ways of spreading both news and opinion beyond the publication of a newspaper. Newspapers at the time of our American Revolution numbered around 38 spread across all the colonies. They were generally 4-page editions published weekly and the information could be days, weeks, or months old. These papers averaged a circulation of 600 making their reach about 1 percent of the estimated population in 1776. Each different way of disseminating information was necessary to the keep the population informed of events and to rally the patriots around the goal of independence.

Standing in a well-traveled public area shouting the news to passersby the town crier effectively was a news anchor.  The town crier read legal notices, local bylaws and even advertisements. The town crier would ring a bell to gather attention, shout “hear ye, hear ye” (actually “Oyez, oyez”) and commence reading the notifications of the day.

Printing a broadside and posting it on trees, lampposts, exterior walls and other highly visible areas is exactly what the public at large does on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube today. Broadsides contained current information more so than the newspapers, as well as advertisements and legal notices. Nothing more than a print version of the town crier. Broadsides were designed to be discarded or removed as new information came available.

Pamphlets on the other hand are more detailed and designed to persuade rather than inform. Making them more like a personal blog website in the present era. In fact, many of the pamphlets of the late 1700’s were written under pseudonyms, or screen names if you will.  Many of the heroes of our country used pen names such as Samuel Adams (Candidus, Populus, A Son of Liberty and 22 more), and Alexander Hamilton (Publius, Americanus), Benjamin Franklin (Silence Dogood, Richard Saunders), Robert Livingston (Cato), and James Madison (Helvidius).

Each of these methods of information dissemination was integral to the freedom we now enjoy. In our current society and speed of light news reports we still need each and everyone of the different methods (albeit the modern equivalent listed). We, as a society, must stand and fight against the systemic silencing of voices that don’t follow the leftist dogma promulgated by legacy media and their corporate sponsors.

Facebook, et al. hide behind the “we are a private corporation and don’t have to subscribe to the protections of free speech” facade. As with most laws and court decisions a connect the dots game is required to gain an understanding of how to apply them to a specific situation. Going back to 1980, in Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a California Supreme Court decision recognizing that California’s Constitution protected the right of high school students to gather signatures at a privately-owned shopping center for a petition objecting to a United Nations resolution that said Zionism was a form of racism.  In other words, the public square had shifted. The public no longer gathered in the town square but moved to privately owned shopping places with common areas for the public. These common areas were viewed as the modern town square.

Fast forward to 2017 and a case involving restricting a registered sex offender from the internet in general. In that case the Court declared the Internet to be one of the traditional “quintessential forums” of public exchange of ideas, such as streets or parks. Keeping the sex offender off the internet deprived him of information like learning of a job opening or even applying for a job. He could not register a product for warranty, educate himself, check his bank account or any of the other mundane tasks done via the internet. His offense took place in 2002 and he had long paid for his crime by serving time but because of North Carolina’s laws regarding a sex offender the internet was off limits. While acknowledging the depravity of the crimes committed by any registered sex offender, the US Supreme Court concluded that “to foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights.” Of course, this prevention was at the behest of the NC state government. However, it is not a far leap to conclude a ban from social media by a corporation is also designed “to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights.”

We now have, thus far, created a dot of ‘private business property can be considered public square’ and a second dot of ‘state governments cannot prevent an individual from accessing and using the internet under the First Amendment’. The final dot that will make a complete picture is not legal ruling or written law bit something that is unfortunately in short supply – common sense. Facebook and Google (owner of YouTube) have in the past pitted one state against another for the best tax breaks and other tax considerations when they look to build server farms and other corporate infrastructure. This year Facebook was granted $150 million in tax breaks over twenty years for employing a whopping 50 people in a new facility in Utah. Just as a reminder, in the first quarter of this year FB had $12 BILLION in revenue.

Let’s connect the dots and finish the whole picture. If a state government grants tax breaks and other considerations to encourage a business to build within their specific state couldn’t a savvy lawyer point out that those tax breaks and considerations mean the government by default supports the operating guidelines and disciplinary actions of said corporation? By allowing Facebook to ban a person that has otherwise broken no laws the government effectively has done two things. They have passed on their authority to discipline (arrest, fine, ticket etc.) citizens based on a corporate decision rather than law AND the state has allowed this action without benefit of due process.  Corporate tyranny, anyone?

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube have banned over a dozen right and far-right voices in the last three weeks. A few days ago, MasterCard has joined the fray refusing to process donations on Patreon for JihadWatch.org. The owner for JihadWatch.org has written 18 books and led seminars on Islam for the FBI, the United States Central Command, United States Army Command and General Staff College, the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), the Justice Department’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council and the U.S. intelligence community. Obviously not a “hate filled nut case”. This decision effectively makes MasterCard a tyrannical dictator basing a decision on half-truths and out and out lies. The aim of the ban is to prevent donations that support the website. These bans have little to with hate filled rants or dangerous ideas. They are designed to cut off cash flow and cripple voices that lean to the right. If an outright ban can’t be rationalized, then strikes or other slaps that curtail views and thus ad revenue. Underfunded sites then self-censor content hoping not to get completely banned. For the liberal left only two things matter power and money. Anyone that states opposing views must be a fascist and a Nazi and therefore must be silenced, no proof necessary.

The midterms are around 10 weeks away. In that time there will more attacks on conservative voices, liberals specifically are harassing known conservatives. Antifa and other harassment orientated groups are flagging conservative content in mass. (Facebook’s Zuckerberg admitted this in the case of Alex Jones and admitted he made the decision to ban Jones anyway) We, as conservatives, can’t wear a MAGA hat without fear of physical abuse. We can’t state opposition to liberal positions without the threat of losing our platforms on social media. We can’t even eat in a restaurant if we are recognized as Trump supporters. Candice Owens and Sarah Sanders can attest to that.

Think about those folks and the patriots that fought for our rights when you whip out that MasterCard branded debit card to pay for your Starbucks Latte. Be thankful you aren’t wearing a MAGA hat. Keep your conservative light under the bushel at least then you won’t have to wonder who will shove a bull horn in your face and scream like a banshee hoping to goad you into taking a swing. For me I’ll follow the advice of Captain John Parker when he was at the Battle of Lexington in 1775.

 

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