Thoughts on economics and liberty

More on my TOI blog post: Time for big tech to respect liberty or be forced to do so

This post is getting a lot of flak from libertarians.

Some further thoughts:

[On Telegram]

Someone had concerns about my TOI article (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/seeing-the-invisible/time-for-big-tech-to-respect-liberty-or-be-forced-to-do-so/).

Social media is not like a private club. It must be regulated as a utility because of the sheer size of reduction in public welfare involved when people with certain views are stopped from speaking.

Just like a bus company can’t reject a person’s entry because the person disagrees with the political or scientific views of the owner, so also for utilities like social media companies – they can’t have terms and conditions that reduce (or eliminate) the free speech rights people have under the law.

Note that one is not reducing the right of the bus company to own the bus. All one is saying such companies can’t stop people from entering the bus for reasons related to their views.

Also, well said by Pankaj Das, the President of SBP:

[shared on Facebook]

SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES ARE A UTILITY (PLATFORM) AND CAN NEVER BE A PUBLISHER.
Some important points made by Pankaj Das, Swarna Bharat Party’s President, in relation to breach of trust by social media companies which has motivated even those like me and him – who otherwise want the minimum possible government intervention – to demand regulation to compel social media companies to defend the freedom of speech which is available to citizens under the ordinary law.
==
Consider a scenario, two terrorists are planning a crime over phone. The phone carrier company will not be held responsible as they have no control over what gets discussed over their network. Whereas a publisher exercises control over their content and are consequently responsible for it.

The social media companies wanted similar designation as phone carriers claiming that they don’t/can’t exercise control over content.

They got this status and were not held responsible for content.

However, having said they were platforms just like phone carriers, and advertising as such, proceeded to behave like publishers abusing the law; and confidence and terms of contract with users.

When you are a carrier you do not have a choice, unless what is mandated by a court of law. It is like a letter dropped in a post box for the postal department to deliver it to the address. The postal agency is paid to deliver. They receive money to deliver the letter, not to play a gatekeeper role as to the contents of the letter. This is the difference between a publisher and a platform.

The social media companies solicit us as their customers to provide this service, and we buy their service for them to provide us platform service. Nothing more nothing less. If they want to sell the services of a publisher then they must let the customer be told first. One cannot pack chicken when we had done the transaction for fish.

[And in this case the question of being a publisher does not arise.]

As the owner of social media company, you are not publishing. Individuals are publishing. You, as the social media company, are merely carrying that post just at the phone carrier is not talking. It is merely carrying the voice. Imagine, Vodafone inserting itself into the conversation you and I are conducting.

 

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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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