Democrats enjoyed a largely compliant Big Tech cartel that was eager to censor conservatives. Now that might change, at least on Twitter, they’re reacting with the grace and dignity that tinpot fascists are always known for.
Some key Senate Democrats are considering calling Elon Musk to testify on his plans to remake Twitter, amid broader calls in Congress for new regulations for tech and social media companies.
There are no imminent plans for hearings, but, “We’re thinking about it,” Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell said in an interview Thursday.
This is what’s known as intimidation. Or more relevantly, government coercion. To cite Justice Thomas, government coercion of a company can bring the First Amendment into play.
None of this analysis means, however, that the First Amendment is irrelevant until a legislature imposes common carrier or public accommodation restrictions—only that the principal means for regulating digital platforms is through those methods. Some speech doctrines might still apply in limited circumstances, as this Court has recognized in the past. For example, although a “private entity is not ordinarily constrained by the First Amendment,” Halleck, 587 U. S., at ___, ___ (slip op., at 6, 9), it is if the government coerces or induces it to take action the government itself would not be permitted to do, such as censor expression of a lawful viewpoint. Ibid. Consider government threats. “People do not lightly disregard public officers’ thinly veiled threats to institute criminal proceedings against them if they do not come around.” Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U. S. 58, 68 (1963). The government cannot accomplish through threats of adverse government action what the Constitution prohibits it from doing directly. See ibid.; Blum v. Yaretsky, 457 U. S. 991, 1004–1005 (1982). Under this doctrine, plaintiffs might have colorable claims against a digital platform if it took adverse action against them in response to government threats.
But back to Senate Dems throwing around threats of government coercion in response to the urgent threat of free speech.
Senator Ed Markey, a member of the Commerce Committee who has called for new laws regulating large tech companies, said that a hearing with Musk was necessary given Twitter’s importance.
“It’s a technology which is central to democracy and our economy and it is important for the representatives of the American people to hear what the new owners intend on using that technology to accomplish,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in an interview. “We have to understand the censorship or lack thereof, content moderation or not, that is going to be the policy for the new owner.”
Ed is a bit old and so despite the claims to having invented the internet, he slipped and said the “C” word. It’s understandable because censorship is what these folks want.