Public Freedoms in Private Spaces

I hate to subject you all to a thing the president said, but:

There’s actually something interesting here beyond his usual idiocy. Most of the conservagrifters screaming about “free speech” understand full well how the ACTUAL First Amendment works, it’s how they stay just to the right side of prison. However, they also know that co-opting a nominally liberal argument and using it to “own” the libs is where their money is, so off they go, shrieking about how they’re being oppressed by not being allowed to sell T-shirts on one particular site on God’s internet.

The interesting part of this is the way our understanding of public and private space develops at a time when three or four private companies control almost all the means we use to communicate to large audiences. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, all lean on the freedom of speech to excuse themselves from responsibility for controlling content because controlling content is expensive and sucks ass as a job.

But when you get right down to it, they don’t actually have any obligations they didn’t create for themselves, and they know it, and it’s time we started acknowledging it as well.

For all that we think of these as public spaces, they aren’t. We USE them as public spaces and we understand them as public spaces: digital soapboxes, ideologically blank platforms upon which we are free to create.

A shopping mall is not a public park. WordPress here is not me printing a revolutionary pamphlet in my basement and distributing it to my fellows on the Boston Common.

No matter how attached I am to all you nutballs on Twitter, I do not actually have any sovereign right to it (until President AOC nationalizes it, of course) and if the company decided tomorrow to ban me, sucks to be me. I own nothing that I post to Facebook, not even my, you know, face, which is why I’m there less and less (plus all the racism). YouTube owns the images of my dead ferrets.

You go into these things with that understanding or you don’t go into them at all.

The “banned” conservatives raising money off their banning know that very well. They know that nothing boosts a white Republican’s profile like being victimized by something, and they’re all eyeing that sweet, sweet Fox News gig. I almost respect it, the purity of pitch-dark soul that it requires to pull off. What I don’t respect is the ongoing and frankly dangerous con social media companies run by mouthing about the beauty of the marketplace of ideas when it’s convenient for them to get out of work.

Either be the common or don’t, but be honest about what you’re doing so we can make our own decisions.

A.

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