Private Business Can Decide What's Best For Their Users | Opinion

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

I'm a conservative. I teach at Antonin Scalia Law School; I'm an originalist. And as a conservative, I oftentimes get frustrated by the content moderation decisions that technology platforms make — when they remove content that I think they should keep up. But then, I recognize that it is their constitutional right to decide what is best for their users and their platforms. And it's not just me saying this into the ether: this is based on conservative court decisions, like Hobby Lobby, Masterpiece Cakes, and Citizens United, which are all predicated in the simple notion that a private business can decide what's best for their users and their advertisers.

So Netchoice's [current litigation] is centered on one simple thing: the First Amendment. The government cannot force me, you, or Newsweek to say or host something that we don't want to say. And this is steeped in 100 years of First Amendment jurisprudence. That is why we've won at virtually every level of the court system, even having the Supreme Court suggest that we're in the right.

The U.S. Supreme Court Building
The U.S. Supreme Court building on October 3, 2022 in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

This is all about the First Amendment, and whether a private business is required to host horrible content that they just don't want to host — stuff that we like to call "awful but lawful" content. Let's presume the government comes out and says "this information is dangerous, this information is threatening, you shall not repeat it..." You can quickly see the danger in having the government come out and declare what is or is not information, what is or is not disinformation, what is or is not allowed to be said. And whether it is the Biden administration, or in [our litigation], the states of Florida and Texas, it's all the same thing. And that's what our founders worried about. And that's why they wrote the First Amendment to protect us from this type of compulsion.

Carl Szabo is the Vice President & General Counsel at NetChoice.

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