A book written by NRB member Anne Paulk, who heads the Christian ministry Restored Hope Network, has been stripped off of Amazon’s popular book site. When questioned about the banning of Paulk’s book, Restoring Sexual Identity: Hope for Women Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction, Amazon replied that the book violated its “content guidelines,” according to CBN. The tech giant’s rules openly state that even though books containing “objectionable” viewpoints will be permitted on its site, nevertheless works exhibiting “intolerance” toward “sexual orientation” issues will be stricken.
While the intolerance by Silicon Valley companies toward Christian orthodoxy, along with their pattern of viewpoint suppression, has been established beyond dispute, questions regarding a solution still remain. Congress has held hearings on the problem of viewpoint discrimination by these large internet platforms, and another is slated for later this month in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the focus will be on antitrust issues.
It seems obvious that enterprises like Amazon and Facebook wield market dominance of monopolistic proportions. For instance, the number of monthly users on Facebook’s many platforms exceeds all the users of its seven web rivals combined, according to Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes’ recent op-ed in The New York Times. As for Amazon, Jun-Sheng Li wrote in Tech Crunch last March that “Amazon has nearly 50 percent of all e-commerce trade.” While I am a great believer in free enterprise, antitrust laws were designed to set guardrails around monopolies in order to squelch unfair, anti-competitive conduct that harms consumers. The problem with applying antitrust laws to stop viewpoint suppression by Big Tech companies is that it may be a clumsy fit, as antitrust rules are designed to benefit consumer choice and pricing, not to vindicate freedom of speech. And even if these companies were broken up, it would do little to change the worldview of Silicon Valley that has a record of intolerance toward conservative political opinions and traditional Christian views.
But aren’t these private companies? Absolutely. And aren’t they entitled to decide their own rules and censor anyone they wish? Not necessarily, for two reasons. First, they are unlike traditional businesses that sell their privately owned services and products through their privately operated avenues of distribution. Rather, they are online platforms that have both aggregated control over, and have trafficked in, a quasi-public cyber resource: the internet, which – like our interstate highway systems, navigable rivers, electric power, and radio and television spectrum – is an essential public resource that, by its nature, requires some level of government management and regulation. The internet was first called ARPANET, named after the research unit within the U.S. Department of Defense that originally developed it, aided by the National Science Foundation and a small army of computer engineers and academic institutions acting as defense contractors. It slowly opened to public use – most dramatically in 1983, when a universal Internet Protocol (IP) was established and ARPANET became the internet. While this communications phenomenon has never been clearly defined in terms of legal status, one thing is clear: Neither Amazon, nor Facebook, nor any other tech company may lay claim to ownership or dominion over cyberspace.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Craig Parshall