We’ve seen an endless string of conservative personalities being “deplatformed” by YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others for engaging in so-called “hate speech.” You don’t need me to list all of the examples. Granted, there are some neo-Nazis out there hurling some seriously incendiary rhetoric, but in most cases, it’s people expressing opinions that these platforms simply disagree with. But while we may find the actions repugnant, these social media companies are not the government. They don’t have an obligation to let everyone speak freely. In that regard, conservative users are free to seek out other platforms with less restrictive guidelines. But is there a solution? The Daily Caller offers one possible path to open up the field without bringing the hammer of government down too heavily on the head of the private sector.
How do we, as conservatives, handle a group of corporations — whose rules we agreed to — who are now stepping on our right to free speech and the generation of profit? Few “solutions” have been offered, and the majority favor a big government answer that betrays conservative principles.
Do we just have to swallow the pill on this one and force these companies to allow all users and speech? Or do we acquiesce to the terms and conditions and let the new “big brother” walk all over us?
The answer may lie somewhere in the middle.
These social media companies — YouTube, Facebook, Twitter — rely on their users to generate profit. Users are the product. They sell ads and our personal data to generate revenue. Each of us signed our rights away when we checked the box to accept the terms and conditions. (Honestly, if you never want to sleep at night again, read Facebook’s terms document.)
This is an interesting concept. It relies not on the idea that private companies must honor freedom of speech, but on the premise that if they make a profit off of your content you must share in the rewards. An idea like this doesn’t put YouTube in the position of determining what is or isn’t “hate speech,” but simply demands that if they profit from your work (as execrable as they may claim to find it) that you must be compensated for your efforts.
Let’s think about that for a minute. If YouTube shuts you out of your account because you posted a video of a fetus experiencing pain the womb, but they don’t remove the video, they are still generating ad revenue from the views. How is that allowable? This isn’t a question of whether or not you believe that the fetus is a baby. It’s a matter of whether any viewers find the content of value and are willing to view it and, as a result, cause viewers to watch the associated ads.
None of this is a question of speech. The video could be of a cat stuck in a tree hilariously swatting away the woman trying to rescue it. If a ton of people watch the video, the advertisers pay the fare for the traffic. Why should YouTube be able to pocket the money while you are shut out of your account and receiving nothing? This isn’t a question of speech. It’s an issue of the free market and the revenue generated from the traffic.
This might be an area where Congress could step in and demand that these platforms pay a fair portion of the advertiser revenue generated through user content regardless of their opinion of its value. It’s at least worth taking a run at and allowing the courts to decide the outcome.