Utah lawmakers want to tax Facebook and other social media


The First Amendment does not allow the government to force anyone to say anything.

(Andrew Harnik | AP Photo) In this April 11, 2018 photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on the use of Facebook data to target voters Americans in the 2016 election and privacy data.

They first came for Mark Zuckerberg, and I said nothing, because I am not the creator of a multibillion dollar company that threatens the lives and sanity of millions of people and undermines democracy. worldwide.

But if members of the Utah Legislature move forward with their plan to punish Facebook and other social media platforms for not delivering the kind of posts our lawmakers think they should, then I will have no choice but to defend Zuckerberg. Before someone comes looking for me.

From Donald Trump to the bottom (if it is possible to be under Trump), today’s political right speaks of the belief that Facebook, Twitter, etc., ban and block the posts, tweets, messages, videos, and accounts of those who lean much more conservative than those who are on the left.

Research suggests that such a complaint is not true. That conservative voices on social media far exceed those of progressives. While it’s true that Trump being kicked off Twitter was one of the most notorious excommunications of all time.

One proposed response to this alleged problem is legislation that would punish social media moguls for blocking right-wing posts. In its 2021 session, the Utah Legislature passed such a bill. This would have forced every social media platform to spell out their moderation rules and give anyone who feels mistreated the right to sic the Utah Attorney General’s office on companies seeking fines of 1,000. $ per offense.

The bill was vetoed, for “technical reasons,” by Governor Spencer Cox and there was general agreement that lawmakers could make another pass on the idea. next year.

They should not.

One idea currently being floated around the Utah Capitol is that, if the rules and civil penalties are unenforceable, the state could go after Instagrams and TikToks around the world by taxing tech giants who don’t behave. not. By taxing them, say, 150% of all the money they make in Utah.

Which, on a global scale, is probably not much. But it could set a dangerous precedent for authorities in Florida, Texas and Russia. Utah lawmakers say the mere throwing of the idea caught the attention of tech lobbyists who previously didn’t seem very interested in our state.

Leave it to Utah to find a way to make Facebook worse, forcing it to present more lies to more people, causing more damage to democracy.

The idea is ripping the First Amendment to shreds as well.

The Constitution guarantees that the government will not generally prevent a person or an institution from saying what they think. (Unless you divulge state secrets, slander someone, or distribute child pornography.)

But Facebook is not the government. At least not yet. The government has absolutely no reason to tell a social media platform, TV network, newspaper, supermarket bulletin board, or semaphore flag waiver that they have to say anything. either, and certainly not that they have to allow a third party to use their tools to say something. .

The idea that the government could make such a request is what lawyers call “compelled speech”. And the United States Supreme Court – in rulings defending people’s right not to take the oath of allegiance, for example – says it’s not allowed.

You would think that the pro-business party would understand that the first priority for any private company is its financial duty to its owners and shareholders. If a tech giant, or dwarf, thinks having their brand associated in any way with racism, anti-science propaganda, or Donald Trump’s big lie is bad for the bottom line, then that t is clearly within the rights of this operation – if not an outright fiduciary duty – to take it apart.

Which brings us to the most important point of this controversy.

What are social media platforms trying to stop? Evil stuff. White supremacy. Incitement to riot. False allegations about how the elections are conducted or were stolen. False claims about how global pandemics are a hoax, vaccines are sticking a spoon in your face and Trump will be back in the White House by Christmas.

What is blocked is never the ideas that were once considered “conservative”. Low taxes. Strong national defense. Federalism. Judicial coercion. Free markets. You can tweet this stuff all day and never violate any platform’s terms of service.

So if social platforms ban garbage and what social platforms ban is conservative, then what passes for conservative thinking these days is junk.

Hey, I didn’t say it. The Conservatives did it.

George Pyle, reading the New York Times at The Rose Establishment.

Georges pyle, Opinion editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, will not publish letters addressed to the editor by people claiming to be emissaries from the planet Tralfamadore. It doesn’t matter what the Utah legislature says.

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Twitter, @debatestate

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