Big Tech Wants To Eat Their Cake, and Have It Too | Opinion

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by Samantha Fillmore during a Newsweek episode of The Debate about free speech on the internet. You can listen to the podcast here:

Tech has this propensity to want to eat their cake, and have it too. Tech is currently insulated from liability through Section 230, claiming that they are simply a bulletin board or a conduit for speech, and that they are not akin to a publisher, or a radio station, or a television station. All of those entities exist as publishers and editors, and tech [companies have] always maintained that they exist outside of that realm.

I agree… the jurisprudence is there. But it's only there if you're a publisher or you're an editor, which these companies vehemently claim that they are not. So on our side of the issue, we're simply asking for tech to decide what they are. If you are a publisher, by all means, then you can maintain those First Amendment rights that are granted to expressive acts that editors have through editorial discretion. But in that case, forfeit your Section 230 liabilities — you can't play both sides of the field.

Elon Musk on Twitter
Joe Biden's critics accused him of going after the controversial section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code in response to Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter. Musk has long championed online free speech, which some fear would be curtailed if the law was repealed. Photo illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images

For better or worse, technically, hate speech is legal right now. That does not make it right. But many on the side of my organization err to the side of allowing these people to have the means to express themselves.

The First Amendment protects what is called expressive acts, and that is, obviously, expressing ideas [and] pushing forward values. If these viewpoints and opinions are entirely stifled and never make it to see the light of day, based on arbitrary decisions that these big tech companies make behind closed doors, then those aren't protected under the First Amendment.

There should be consequences to [hate speech], but allow society and allow people to get to that point. Big Tech is not the arbiter, they are not the parents, they are not the judge, jury, and executioner in that decision. And that's why we err toward allowing these this free flow of ideas.

Samantha Fillmore is a State Government Relations Manager for The Heartland Institute.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.