Sen Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) Spoke out against the Twitter ban of the former President Donald Trump yesterday. Sanders expressed his discomfort with Big Tech’s role in censorship, a sharp departure from his Democratic counterparts who have called for more such corporate censorship. In a Tuesday interview with New York Times columnist Ezra Klein, Sanders said he was “not particularly comfortable” with the ban, despite believing that Trump was “a racist, sexist, xenophobia, pathological liar being an authoritarian … a bad “news guy.” “He said,” If you ask me, I feel especially comfortable that the then President of the United States could not express his views on Twitter? I am not comfortable with it. “
I would hope Sanders shares the same view of an absent president or an average citizen. You should all be able to speak freely. Sanders does not go as far as this “internet originalist” position, but at least he recognizes the danger of such censorship. He noted, “We have to think about it because if someone thinks yesterday that it was Donald Trump who was banned, and tomorrow it might be someone else who has a very different point of view.” He said there was a danger of having “a handful of high-tech people” controlling the language in America.
I have long commended Sanders for his principled stance on many issues, and this dissenting view is most welcomed by members of the free speech community. It is in sharp contrast to its democratic counterparts, who celebrated the ban and called for more censorship. One of the leading voices of censorship in the Senate is Senator Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), Who punished Big Tech for waiting so long for such bans: “The question is not, why did Facebook and Twitter act, but what it took long and why did others not? “
As we discussed earlier, the Democrats have abandoned long-standing values of free speech in favor of corporate censorship. You clearly have a different “comfort zone” than Sanders. What worries many democratic members is the ability of people to speak freely on these platforms and to spread what they see as “disinformation”.
When Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey came before the Senate to apologize for blocking Hunter Biden’s pre-election story as a mistake, the Senators pushed him and other big tech executives to be more censored.
In this hearing, members like Senator Mazie Hirono (D., HI) urged witnesses like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey to assure that Trump could still not speak on their platforms: “What are the two of you willing to do regarding Donald Trump’s use of your platforms, after he ceases to be President, he will continue to be classified as current and will he continue to be able to use your platforms to target misinformation spread?”
Rather than addressing the dangers of such news censorship, Senator Chris Coons urged Dorsey to expand the categories of censored material to prevent people from sharing what he sees as “climate denial.” Likewise, Senator Richard Blumenthal seemed to be taking the opposite meaning from Twitter, admitting that it was wrong to censor the Biden story. Blumenthal said he was “concerned that your two companies are actually falling behind or pulling back, that you are not taking action against dangerous disinformation”. Accordingly, he asked for an answer to this question:
“Will you commit to the same kind of solid game books for changing content, including fact checking, flagging, reducing the spread of misinformation, and other steps in the upcoming election, even for politicians in the upcoming runoff?”
“Robust content change” has a certain appeal, like a kind of software upgrade. It is not a content change. It’s censorship. If our representatives want to take action against freedom of expression, they should admit that they are advocates of censorship. In fact, leading scholars recently had the integrity to declare that they believe “China is right” about censorship.
Sanders clearly doesn’t believe that “China was right,” at least about a seated president. Hopefully Sanders will continue to speak about freedom of speech and build on that principled standpoint to counter relentless pressures from Blumenthal and others for corporate control over freedom of speech on the Internet.