They Can’t Stop Them From Saying It; They Do Stop You From Hearing It    -   April 10, 2020

Blocking ‘Speech’ From Reaching An Audience Is Censorship – Good Idea?

The First Amendment forbids government entities from “abridging the freedom of speech ...”  But some feel it’s okay to block your access to ideas, speech, writings or images they dislike.

Communication involves a sender transmitting an idea through symbols – speech, writings, images, etc. – across a medium to a receiver.  Interfering with any element in this communications chain is “abridging the freedom of speech.”


Most public libraries, schools and universities are government entities bound by the First Amendment.  Nevertheless, increasing numbers of them block ideas they don’t like by removing books – even classics – from shelves and reading lists, by penalizing students who express other-than-approved opinions, by requiring that students speak freely only in limited spaces, and by preventing students from hearing speakers with certain views.


Non-government entities can make their own rules regarding employees and persons initiating ‘speech’ while on or using their property.  And many do.  Many also restrict selected communications from reaching certain people/audiences.  Perhaps that’s legal for many or most non-government entities, but it would seem to not be legal for certain others.


Broadcast news media were once regulated by the FCC as monopolies because they had exclusive control of a portion of public spectrum.  Most were part of a major network – ABC, CBS, NBC, etc.  For a long while they were required to grant time for opposing views, but that requirement was dropped as competition grew to eliminate (it was thought) monopoly control over communication of ideas.


Telephone and telegraph companies were similarly regulated until AT&T’s breakup was deemed to have spawned sufficient competition in telephonic communications.


Then came the internet, a complex network of competing and cooperating carriers that rent facility access to users and do not control what users transmit over those facilities.  But as with broadcasting years ago, the internet has become overlaid with a handful of social-media giants – Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. – that effectively control access to most communications over social-media networks.  Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act allows these companies to regulate content; they can block transmission of all or parts of any communication/message, to any or all of their subscribers, shielded from any liability for their actions. And they do.


The internet also has facilitated the rise of e-commerce, and some companies have gained monopoly positions; Amazon controls about 80% of book sales in America.  It’s now using that power to censor books it doesn’t like by delisting – removing them from its electronic ‘shelves’.


It’s well past time for these abuses to be stopped … by confronting offending government entities in federal courts, by amending/repealing Section 230, and by suing these monopolies for triple damages.


(For more on American freedoms, preview Rise and Decline here.)

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