Tech Giants “Are Private Firms and Can Do Whatever They Want” Is the Stupidest Thing I Ever Heard
They empathically aren't doing what they want and it wouldn't have mattered if they were
Ironically the argument that online censorship by private companies can not be argued against originates with the “bake the cake” brigade that does not accept this argument in any other case. Only when it comes to censoring their ideological and cultural enemies the property rights of companies suddenly become absolute.
But let’s test that proposition. Is it really true that tech behemoths can do whatever they want? Can Facebook change its logo to the Confederate flag, deny NSA and FBI access to data of its users, move its servers to Russia, and flood its users with suggested articles explaining Assad fought US-boosted al-Qaeda in Syria? Yes, it can do that. If it is looking to get nationalized by Tuesday.
Your local car repair shop is a private company and can do whatever it pleases. A globe-spanning corporation is empathically not at liberty to do the same. Especially a communications firm, with all its enormous potential power, has to read the tea leaves not to run afoul of governments formal and informal (such as the Red Guards of the mainstream press).
It is true that Zuckerberg and Dorsey are conventional left-liberals and might, left to their own devices, be tempted to censor here and there on their own. But the scope of censorship we are seeing does not originate with them, and Zuckerberg, in particular, is at times visibly uneasy with it.
The incredible volume of the censorship is an offering to a lesser extent the Congress and to a much greater extent to the regime press (the 4th and, in a liberal oligarchy, the most powerful branch of the government).
An offering which they had been tacitly (Congress) or openly (the MSM) demanding, and to actors which together have the power to ruin Facebook as surely as the CCP can ruin any firm in China.
So you have a situation where the very people who are making Facebook censor more than it ever wanted to, are the people telling you it’s okay for Facebook to censor because it’s just doing what it wants to.
If it actually only ever did what it wanted to, what would ever be the point of the flood of MSM decrees commanding it what to do next?
Users Have Property Rights Too
That on your property you can do whatever you want is a level of property autism that has not yet been reached even by libertarians and finds no backing in law.
Can a shoe store go through the pockets of its customer? Can it take out his phone and delete all his photographs? Why not? Is a shoe store not a private company?
No landlord can throw a tenant out without notice, and certainly not without allowing the tenant to evacuate his belongings with him.
Even squatters can have certain rights under Common Law. A landowner who knows of a squatter on his property and does not intervene for years, but then decides to, owes the squatter compensation for improvements to his land the latter made, or perhaps even forsakes ownership wholesale. That’s not according to communist fantasy but according to the law as is already on the books and practiced.
But Facebook users are not squatters. Facebook will invite you to create an account. It will then invite you to create a page for your “brand”. It will then invite you to labor on that page as part of your business strategy. And it will also advertise to you to fork over thousands of dollars to it for ads promoting your page.
It will then, sometimes after many years of cooperation, bar you access overnight and erase the entire page without explanation.
What other private business is permitted to — nay, commanded to — behave in this way??
If you kept a trailer at a holiday camping ground only to find one season that the ground has suddenly barred you entrance and pushed your trailer into a ditch… Would you then say that was okay since the ground is private and can do whatever it wants? Or would you say they, at the very least owed you a call to get your trailer, and clearly owe you compensation for just destroying it instead?
What if Vox ran an editorial today demanding camping grounds run all the trailers belonging to “Nazis” into a ditch?
But actually, it’s worse than that.
It is really the equivalent of a farmer who sets aside a field to rent out to city dwellers to create vegetable gardens on, promising them they can maintain the leases for however long they will want to, as long as they follow some basic gardening etiquette of course.
The city slickers then over the years proceed to add fences and sheds and barbeque ovens to their rented tracts (or perhaps contracting the farmer to do it for them) and to build family memories connected to them.
The farmer then suddenly one day burns down their sheds and prevents them access to the gardens, citing vague provisions of the deal he only added after the tenants had already built some of the structures, and even then without really being able to explain what they had done that went against it.
Would we say the farmer was in his rights here, or would we say he owed some major compensation here?
If a private company wishes to disassociate with you (for example because it is under enormous pressure by people who hate you) it should be allowed to, but that does not mean it gets to commit arson.
It is a private entity, it may disassociate with anyone it pleases, for any reason, good or bad. But there is a major difference between turning someone away at the door, and booting someone that you had initially opened the door for. The latter is a far more delicate matter as the patron likewise has certain rights.
Imagine bouncers who forcibly took out a patron for holding political views that were not against nightclub rules when the patron entered. Who in the process of chucking him out also wiped his phone data. And who did not return his reservation fee despite the arbitrary removal. Far from the bar exercising its private property rights that would rightfully be called assault, destruction of property, and theft.
Common sense dictates that if a company like Facebook wishes to terminate further cooperation it must likewise:
— Provide a download link allowing the page creator to download his photos, links and comments made over the years. This is standard when an internet hosting company terminates an agreement with a website but somehow does not apply to Facebook/Twitter. It is the equivalent of a landlord stealing or destroying the tenant’s toaster.
— Refund the payments the page made to Facebook for ads. If Facebook wants the page creator out of the partnership that Facebook proposed and lured him into, it should buy him out. Facebook sold him on spending money on a Facebook page and found no issue with his page when it was taking the money. Should what was built with that money be taken away then the investment must be returned.
— Be able to explain exactly what the page did that under the terms warrants contract termination. Failing that it also owes compensation for all the businesses’ labor that went into the page.
None of this is ever done. To the contrary, imagine the brouhaha in the regime media if Facebook provided archive download links to “Nazi” pages it booted of its platform.
The demand is not that Facebook dispassionately disassociates itself from users who are no longer politically acceptable. The demand is to conduct a Maoist struggle session against the pages, tearing them up in a performance of self-righteous anger.
This isn’t about property rights, this is about power. They have it, you don’t. They’re not interested in upholding Facebook’s property rights, they’re interested in stomping on yours.
Not allowing you to grab your toaster on the way out is exactly what makes it so fun. And hounding and vanquishing their dissident media rivals so thoroughly that the latter are no longer afforded even the protection of basic property and contractual rights enhances their power. Both of the regime over the people, but especially of the remaining press over the government.
The point is not to uphold the capitalist rights system but to excommunicate targeted enemies from it.
We Are Not Living in a Private Rights Utopia
The only system in which that “private firms may do what they want” is even true is an anarcho-capitalist utopia. But we do not live in one. We live in a world where on the one hand notionally exists a liberal property-rights order, but in parallel to it exists the machinery of an expropriating state.
Imagine that you live in Bee Village. Imagine that everyone who was anyone there kept bees. Imagine the village had some kind of Notables Council that had similar powers to our own government, but that in fact, all the actually meaningful debate took place — not in the Council — but in the halls of the Beekeeping Society.
Imagine then, that your enemy used his friendship with the Society’s president to have you booted as a member on a technicality, and then proceeded to use your absence at Society events to slander you and organize a majority for a Council vote to have you expropriated in his favor.
In that case, would you shrug your shoulders since the Beekeeping Society “is a private entity and can do whatever it wants”? Or would you recognize your ejection for what it was — the first step in a strategic campaign to put the jackboot on you?
It isn’t the case that we live in a system where you get booted off from Facebook/Twitter and things end there. We live in a system where you (or your dissident media champions) are booted from Facebook/Twitter to remove you from the conversation so that it becomes easier to jack up your tribute, make you “bake the cake”, shut down your business, keep you in house arrest, or force a face diaper on you.
And Zuckerberg, even if less than a fully voluntary one, is a collaborator to this project. A project by your political and social enemies. A class that is not contended to dine on your dime, but insists on also blackening you as a low-class “deplorable” so that its own status can be elevated further at the expense of yours. (And indeed so that an ever-tightening grip against you may be justified.)
I’m sorry, but all the while the expropriating, enserfing gangster machinery called the state exists and is being actively used against us, Zuck’s hypothetical property rights in his company that he would have in capitalist anarchy —— rights that he has anyway already largely outsourced to the Red Guards —— take a very distant second to our survival as anything approaching free people.
Worrying about Big Tech’s property rights first and foremost makes as much sense as worrying primarily about the lives of forcefully conscript soldiers of an invading army. You can lament their own unfortunate circumstance but to place their wellbeing above your own survival as a free person means your mind has been hacked.
Big Tech isn’t just exercising its own property rights, it is also riding roughshod over ours, it is doing so under huge pressure from incredibly powerful forces which do not believe in property rights for commoners, and who are doing it as a first step to ridding you of your property, rights, and status, and I’ll you’ve got to say is “Oh well, they are private, so they get to do what they want.”
How dumb are you?
If Big Tech is restrained with a classically liberal recipe that recognizes our own tenant rights on the platforms that’s great. If it instead gets restrained by an imperfect republican recipe that forces constitutional speech protections onto privately-owned platforms then that is a philosophically cruder solution, but one that functionally accomplishes the same outcome of fortifying Big Tech against its Red Guard attackers.
I don’t think we’ll see either, but neither can be argued against on moral grounds.