In the beginning, big tech companies were a thorn in the side of liberals and leftists. In fact, they are fake news throwers and would privilege right-wing populist and right-wing extremist content with their algorithms – because they attract attention, make them stay longer, and therefore good for business.
Criticism changed sides
In the meantime, however, some social media platforms have started filtering out some problematic content. Former President Donald Trump has even been banned from certain platforms – most notably Twitter – after backing the storming of the Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021.
Criticism from tech companies has changed sides since then. Republican politicians suddenly complain that conservative views are being systematically suppressed. Florida and Texas have even enacted laws that prohibit Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and the company from monitoring and, if necessary, censoring content.
Their argument: social media platforms are basically nothing but 21st century phone companies. They have no right to influence what citizens upload to their channels. And they talk about the censorship of the Silicon Valley, where they see a general affinity for left-liberal problems.
No obligations to the state
For their part, tech companies argue that they should not be required to independently disseminate content that supports racist theories, recruits terrorists, denies the Holocaust, formulates hate speech and lies, or promotes Putin’s propaganda. They demanded an explanation from the judiciary.
The relevant law in Florida has been overturned by a lower court, the one in Texas now even by the Washington Supreme Court. In fact, the highest judges referred to the constitutional amendment, which upholds the right to freedom of expression and defines it much more broadly than is the case in most European countries.
According to the Supreme Court, this law also means that social media platforms – like newspapers, radio and TV stations – can decide for themselves what they want to publish and what not. No online channel can be compelled by the state to publish certain content, but just as little to censor it.
the debate continues
However, the verdict of the “Supreme Court” was narrow, ranging from five to four votes. Interestingly, this time the liberal judge voted along with three conservative colleagues who wanted to uphold Texas law.
So the debate in which the left and right want to regulate tech companies continues. But now the Supreme Court is setting the stakes. For freedom of expression and publication.
Diplomatic Correspondent, SRF
Open the people box. Close the people box
The diplomatic correspondent is the deputy editor-in-chief of Radio SRF. Before joining the radio, he was a foreign editor at “St. Galler Tagblatt, editor for the Middle East and Paris correspondent of Zeit, and editor-in-chief of Weltwoche.