I never got involved with Twitter, Facebook and other social media. However, as a lifelong believer in the concept of a marketplace of ideas as deriving from our First Amendment, I have viewed and even welcomed social media as another form of the marketplace of ideas.

Similarly, I have always valued the freedom of all expression guaranteed by the First Amendment and have been attentive to governmental attempts to deprive us of that right.

Yet deprivation of First Amendment rights need not be by government for the effect to be a great harm.

As one whose television experience was formed during the “fairness doctrine” era, I accepted at that time that broadcasters using scarce U.S. government-allocated frequencies should be required to present or host all sides of an issue.

For the moment, we appear to be reasonably safe from governmental censorship but we are being deeply affected by a kind of unprecedented technologically based non-governmental censorship.

The rise of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Google and others presented a particular situation since they were not licensed by the government to use an allocation of a scarce electromagnetic frequency. Yet, by becoming monopolies or near-monopolies they have become the primary and sometimes the only way that many citizens participate in discourse. They became monopolies by buying up or driving their competition out of the marketplace.

So long as these entities acted as non-judgmental providers of arenas for the diffusion of various ideas, there were not acting as censors. In recent years, however, they have all begun to act more as publishers and censors than as non-judgmental providers. Increasingly we learn of those who have been suspended, demonetized or otherwise censored.

This cannot continue if we are to have a free and fair election this fall. I believe, as Voltaire said, that although I might not agree with a word you uttered, I would defend to the death your right to say it.


retired professor

Baton Rouge