Social Media Platforms are not Public Utility Companies
As you may have recently heard, Twitter and Facebook are in the news due to their recent grilling on Capitol Hill. What is interesting to me about this, regardless of how you feel about the companies and the services they provide, is that not being public utilities they are not susceptible to government regulation.
Rather, they are private companies who have Terms of Service (ToS) people agree to when signing up that state they can ban or remove any content or users they find don’t meet their community standards. This is the same idea that companies all across the U.S. embody when they say they can refuse service to anyone. This is their freedom as a company and has nothing to do with individual rights. You do not have any first amendment rights except for in the presence of GOVERNMENT censorship. It has nothing to do with privately owned spaces including social media platforms. The fact is, social media platforms are for-profit companies who make money when people post their own opinions to them and they make a LOT of money when those opinions are contentious. It is in their own best interest NOT to censor their users when their users are operating within their ToS.
Thus, none of this makes sense for Congress to step into. There are several legal precedents for the government staying out of media-related industry censorship, which is why entities like the MPAA, CCA (now defunct), and ESRB exist – all being industry self-regulating bodies. That said, maybe it’s time social media platforms establish their own so there are standards and regulations across them and content can be rated rather than completely removed. This would certainly help people avoid content they didn’t want to see and could allow for space where more objectionable content could exist within its own bubble that people could venture into at their own risk.
What SHOULD be of concern is personal data privacy. But, we all know that isn’t going to get anywhere. Those of us who do work in this space