Internet censorship, including extorted by government, must cease.

jim bell jdb10987 at
Sat Oct 24 13:42:38 PDT 2020

 On Thursday, October 22, 2020, 11:19:55 PM PDT, Zenaan Harkness <zen at> wrote:
 On Fri, Oct 23, 2020 at 06:01:46AM +0000, jim bell wrote:
>> This article    has the headline: "Congressional Democrats Threaten Big Tech To Censor Americans Or Else"

>> If this kind of government-threat can exist, then one solution is to declare that communications over the Internet within wires (and fibers) located within the United States are governed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Private companies are availing themselves of a system initiated by a relatively small amount of government research, and developed by other designers and manufacturers.

>Unfortunately as Juan correctly points out so often, gov is usually in partnership with BigCorp.

True.  Which is why I think we need to disable BOTH the Government(s) AND those companies making up "The Internet" from colluding with each other to enable censorship, as much as we now know they'd want to do!  People could talk in the "Town Square", and now that has migrated to virtual space.  I think it's important to maintain that status.  

Keep in mind that what I am describing here is NOT the (libertarian) endpoint, but it's in fact a process that starts with today's non-libertarian world.  

>The money behind the scenes - debt based (rather than credit based) banking, and the funnelling of money to create trillion $$ companies, is a very powerful enemy of the people.

>Combine that with the Shut It Down censorship of the trillion $$ tech companies, and we have a very formidable adversary.
Under today's Constitution and laws, the Federal Government apparently has at least some authority over the Internet:  The (Interstate) Commerce Clause.  

Article I, Section 8, Clause 3:[3]

[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

What we know as the Internet crosses both State lines and national boundaries.  The Internet also crosses and passes through various rights-of-way that are Federally regulated, for example beside Interstate Highways and beside railroad tracks. (For just one example, the Sprint company got its start in the late 1970's, taking advantage of its rights-of-way in the railroad business:   "Souther Pacific Railway Internal Networking Telephony"    

  The Internet as most people knew it in the mid-1990's was only available because they used high-speed modems (9600 bps, 14.4Kbps, 28.8Kbps) and Federally-regulated telephone lines to connect to ISPs all over the country.  Those ISPs relied on telephone lines to make their business:  Without that, they would have had to make something else, but they chose not to do so.  

The First Amendment to the US Constitution says this:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I focus on this:
"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Yet, Federal law presumably controls many aspects of the Internet, at least that portion within the United States.  Federal law ("Section 230") currently grants a certain level of immunity for businesses which structure their services in some way, which those businesses have apparently requested.  "Freedom of speech" has long been exercised by people, over hardware systems and software owned and controlled by those businesses, with the knowledge, intent, and consent of those businesses.  There is nothing inherent in those businesses which REQUIRE shutting down some speech, as evidenced by how little such control and censorship has occurred until relatively recently.   
These businesses have begun to impede people's use of that Federally-regulated medium, used for purposes of exercising their 'freedom of speech", accessing "the press", and "assembling".   They have also used that Federally-regulated medium to "petition the Government for redress of grievances".   It would be astonishing if the Federal Government were claimed (at least under 'conventional' political philosophy) to be unable to act to protect against the denials of these usages which have long (well over 25 years) been exercised without substantial interference.  

All this says is that the American Federal Government COULD prohibit the kinds of censorship-by-bias that has been done by Twitter and Facebook:  It does not necessarily mean that the Feds MUST prohibit it.   But I think that is possible.  
One clue is a phenomenon, originally under Common Law, of "rights of way".   If a property-owner allows the public to pass though his property for 'enough' time, he generally loses the right to exclude them later.   It's arguable that since the "new Internet Town Square" has taken hold, and in fact has existed for a substantial time, and especially because it is made up of the hardware of hundreds of millions of people, millions of companies, and at least thousands of major corporations, it is literally the new 'highway':  Remember the term, "Information Superhighway".
Facebook and Twitter arguably got as big as they did because they accepted essentially everybody and they did so for many years.   They allowed people, basically anyway, to 'roam' through their 'property', with very few exceptions.
Traditionally, online services could have excluded content on a few bases thought 'reasonable':  'Dirty-words', threats, fraud, and libel would be the main ones.  Mere 'false statements' has not been used to justify barring content from such services.  But a study of Twitter and Facebook's recent spate of censorship extends far beyond such limits.  QANON has been banned simply for expressing 'false statements' or 'false beliefs'.  Is THAT all?!?  But if I claim that 'the Earth is flat!' is that enough to block THAT?   If that information is false, and the standard is that "false information will be blocked", why shouldn't such a claim be blocked, too?  Maybe it's because "flat Earth" isn't an opinion previously seen to be expressed PRIMARILY by 'conservative' or 'right-wing' people?  
One recent (laughable) justification Twitter gave for blocking content was to deny likely 'hacked' material.   
Oh, really?   Did they ban discussion of Trump's tax return information, which must have been illegally obtained?   How about the illegally-made and (later) illegally-released 'pussy-grabbing' video, with Billy Bush?  (California is a 'two-party-consent' state, which in practice means that ALL parties must consent to a recording for it to be legal, AND the subsequent re-release is considered a separate offense.) How about Snowden's stolen government data,    How about Julian Assange's publication of "Collateral Murder" and other secret material, including much supplied by Manning?  Evidently, all that wasn't a problem THEN!  
It is obvious that this policy is merely a convenient justification for their sudden, quite-recent decision to engage in extensive censorship.  And especially, PARTISAN censorship:  I think everyone understands that this censorship will applied exclusively, or at least primarily, to Twitter and Facebook's newly-revealed "enemies list".  Basically, Twitter and Facebook have 'taken sides', in an active and malicious fashion.  

'Fortunately' for us, those Senate Democrats have made the serious mistake of trying to threaten online services to get them to engage in such censorship.    That, and the First Amendment prohibition on "Congress shall make no law..." clearly shows that the public must be protected from the consequences of extortion committed by government people inducing private organizations to, themselves, 'take sides', and extort the public.
                          Jim Bell

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