July 13, 2021

GOOD IDEA, BUT BAD EXECUTION: JustTheNews has a report about Wisconsin state Sen. Julian Bradley (R-Franklin) proposing a new piece of legislation that would force the tech companies to show their algorithms and explain the policies that decide who gets blocked and who gets to post freely.

I’m all for it in concept, but Bradley makes in part, a fundamental error in saying:

“Bradley is quick to point out that judges have ruled lawmakers and other elected officials cannot block or ban people from commenting on their posts, even if those comments are negative or ugly. The courts have ruled, essentially, that social media is the new public town hall and some online speech is protected.”

Bradley’s error is reading the caselaw a little too broadly. The courts have not ruled essentially, that “social media is the new public town hall.” What they have ruled is that when public officials (be they Trump or AOC) use these platforms, their accounts are “official” government business and Freedom of Information or “Government in the Sunshine” laws, as well as the First Amendment prohibit blocking any segment of the public from reading those communiques. That’s not the same as declaring social media a “public square.”

Unless and until Congress drafts a law (or the Supreme Court rules, I suppose) declaring these platforms a “public square” the Tech Barons will still have filtering control. Given the current make-up of Congress, it inures to the Dems’ benefit to keep letting their donor Tech Barons filter out contrarian voices, so I would not look for this kind of law soon. For the record, I do think these platforms are already a de facto public square.

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