The world was shocked to learn that the Silicon valley social media monopolies have ganged up on Alex Jones and Info-Wars, denying them service and removing all videos and messages from Info-Wars from their networks.
Let’s preface this analysis by saying that many have already argued that Jones is a loose cannon and doesn’t deserve all the attention he has received over the years. However, the social media have allowed much worse. Neocons and neoliberals and their supporters are allowed to say – not only on social media but in the msm and the halls of Congress and the White House --inflammatory things that are clearly intended to win public support for potentially disastrous military intervention in Russian/Chinese ally Iran and foment irrational hatred of all things Russian – things that would be considered racist if aimed at US minorities, and aside from that, could easily trigger a world war – indeed they seem designed to do just that. In fact, though perhaps not demonstrably racist (depending on one’s definition), this hate-filled propaganda does indeed threaten the safety of Russian Americans and Iranian Americans, and yet is gleefully supported by the Establishment. The absolutely false and fabricated accusations and allegations against Russia are no less irresponsible than anything that Jones has said about the Establishment, which Jones, in his sometimes flawed way, opposes. Thus the selective banning of Jones and voices like his is patently unjust and ways must be sought to effectively oppose this injustice.
Of course, there are alternatives to all the social media that have manhandled Jones. However, they do not have nearly the power and coverage as the ones that have banned Jones. Yet it can now be hoped that they will gain traction at the expense of the offending media.
What legal recourse is available?
There are federal and state laws against denial of internet service. For example, the Reuters site westlaw.com states:
“…DDoS [distributed denial of service] attacks may be subject to civil and criminal liability, including fine and imprisonment, under state and federal law.”
Of course, these, like most laws, are intended to protect the Establishment – big companies and the government – from the people, not the other way around. However, I cite this example to establish that at least the concept of legal constraints on denial of internet service does exist, and such denial can rise to the criminal level. Therefore, this concept can and should be expanded by further laws and legal decisions that protect not only the powerful but also the powerless, like you and me. And Jones and his followers.
Of course, while the average American might well support the rights of all people to state their opinions, almost no politician will back the freedom of speech supposedly protected by the 2nd Amendment. To illustrate this, Trump said in his campaign that Ed Snowden was a “traitor.” He also supported the extradition of Julian Assange to the US – despite the fact that Assange had not been charged with violating any US laws. Trump is joined in his opinion by the run of the mill US politician. Politicians will vigorously support free speech that tends to support them. But to allow unfettered free speech would be a threat to all of them. So while the grassroots across the board wants it, the political class is scared to death of your freedom to express yourself on a visceral or spiritual level. Your innermost thoughts are its most-feared enemy.
So how can the public protect itself from its natural enemy, the Establishment – ie, Big Business and Big Government?
Antitrust law would seem to lend itself as a potential remedy.
The Fordham Law Review writes:
“The goals of antitrust law continue to be debated because there is no single goal that is unambiguously correct. There is one goal, however, that now commands wider support than any other: protecting consumers and small suppliers from anticompetitive conduct…” [my emphasis]
While antitrust law has probably never been applied to protect internet consumers, the concept of consumer protection from anticompetitive conduct is germane to our discussion.
Antitrust law has been evoked, for example, by President Reagan, to break up AT&T into smaller independent companies. Protection of the consumer was the main argument. In that case, the cost of service to the consumer was at issue.
But how much more important than cost to consumers of internet service is their freedom to express their opinions and present facts? Americans consider this freedom a God-given right.
If a social media provider is the most popular in the US, or indeed in the world at large, and if it presents by implication as a medium available to the public everywhere, and if there is no viable alternative to it, then to deny service to one particular group is inherently and intuitively unjust and an affront to good people. It also qualifies as anticompetitive inasmuch as it denies the public fair access to competing political views.
After all, Russia is constantly accused of interfering in US elections. Yet the same group bringing these absurd accusations supports the muzzling of conservative, libertarian and anti-Establishment voices. The successful censoring of these voices undeniably has the effect of supporting liberal, neoliberal and neocon politicians – clearly an influence on US elections infinitely more powerful than any influence that could be exerted by anyone in a country halfway around the globe that the voters supposedly affected are constantly being indoctrinated to hate and mistrust.
Thus, under the principle of consumer protection, each of the censoring social media companies could be justifiably broken up or forced to supply service to each and every political voice, regardless of the excuses used to deny service to dissenters.