FRANK KUCHAR: The First Amendment and social media

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Lately there has been much criticism levied at social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., and companies who have censored certain postings or statements made by individuals (or employees in the case of employers).  I have heard many conservatives claim that these sites and employers are violating the first amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech and think that the government should step in and do something about it because those being censored are political conservatives. Such criticisms and allegations regarding violations of the first amendment are completely off base.

Do I like that conservatives are censored in this manner?  Absolutely not. Do I think such censorship is a violation of the first amendment? Again, absolutely not. The first amendment states “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” This guarantee is unambiguous – it is a prohibition against Congress from censoring speech and the press, not private companies such as social media sites and employers.

Conservatives who make this charge need to pause and reflect upon what they are asserting. They are in effect appealing to the government to force a private company and/or employer to allow individuals who use the companies’ services or who are employed by them to permit their preferred form of expression. Constitutionalists should understand that the government has no authority under the Constitution to do any such thing.

It is hypocritical for conservatives to make this complaint and appeal to the government while at the same time arguing that the government has no authority to tell bakeries they must provide a cake for a gay wedding or that the government has the authority to tell a company or individual what they can or cannot do with their private property, and so forth. You cannot argue on the one hand for the government to interfere with a private entity’s business operations when it goes against your preferences while at the same time telling it that it has no authority when it interferes in matters that go against your principles. That old adage of “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” comes to mind, does it not?

Again, please do not think I applaud the censorship of these firms; I do not. I find them to be hypocritical as well and cowardly as they cannot handle honest dialogue and debate. However, as one who believes in trying to consistently adhere to our constitutional principles of limited government and individual right to self-determination, appealing to the government in this case is a slippery slope we as conservatives and constitutionalists do not want to go down. The solution is to turn to other venues of service, if possible, and if not, to not use them. Difficult to do and most likely not a successful alternative, but if you cherish the thought of limited government as well as non-governmental interference in your private affairs, this is the position you must regrettably take.

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