The First Amendment, Now More Than Ever
If you follow America’s wars over Big Tech and corporate speech, you know that both sides increasingly want to use the power of government to coerce companies to change course. They agree on the need for more federal power. They disagree about how that power should be used. Broadly speaking, progressives would like Big Tech to censor more—to remove more “misinformation” and “hate” from their sites. Social justice demands more government control.
The right, by contrast, wants Big Tech to police speech less. Right-wing outlets are full of legal ideas to overcome traditional free speech protections for corporate speech so that Congress (and not Facebook or Twitter) can dictate social media moderation policies and guarantee conservative voices a place on private platforms. The common good demands more government control.
Civil libertarians understand, however, where all this leads—and it’s not to social justice or the common good. It’s to the raw exercise of power, to the use of the government to punish enemies and reward friends, with nary an underlying legal principle to be found.
To see a near-perfect example of principle-free power politics in action, I’ll direct you to the great state of Texas, where scandal-ridden attorney general Ken Paxton is putting on a clinic in legal hypocrisy. Fresh off his failed effort to overturn the presidential election through frivolous litigation, Paxton has set his sights on Twitter.