‘Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one’

By Christopher Harper

Sixty years ago, famed columnist A. J. Liebling wrote: “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

Liebling was describing the powerful media families: Sulzberger, Graham, Scripps, Chandler, and others.

Twenty years ago, it was hoped that the inexpensive transition to ones and zeroes would break the corporate hold on the press.

Instead, the media magnates of old have been pushed aside by the tech giants: Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others.

As a result, freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own a portal.

In a critical essay in the Wall Street Journal, journalist Alex Berenson writes: “Information has never been more plentiful or easier to distribute. Yet we are sliding into a new age of censorship and suppression.”

Berenson has been writing about the problems with lockdowns, mask-wearing, and other government policies that he argues are not based on science.

He’s not a conspiracy theorist. He’s a well-known writer who worked for The New York Times. But Amazon has suppressed his self-published articles that questioned the measures used to control COVID-19.

“Google-owned YouTube censors even more aggressively,” Berenson notes. “The company disclosed in October that it had pulled more than 200,000 videos about the epidemic—including one from Scott Atlas, a physician who was advising President Trump. Facebook has not only censored videos and attached warning labels or ‘fact checks’ to news articles but removed groups that oppose lockdowns and other restrictions.”

I can attest that one of my columns here ran afoul of the Facebook “fact-checkers,” and there was no way to remove the “fact check” other than by deleting the entire column.

Here is the way to end the censorship and control of the tech companies over content.

You may have heard that President Trump wants to eliminate what’s known as Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. On this subject, Trump and Joe Biden agree.

Originally, Section 230 was designed to help websites moderate online porn. But that’s not what’s happening now.

Section 230 guarantees that websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube cannot be sued in U.S. courts because of what users post. The law states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Alternatively, the tech giants cannot be sued for moderating the posts, which they do continually. Without the law’s liability protection, all of these U.S.-based platforms could be subject to massive lawsuits.

With the massive interference and editing of materials posted on the websites, however, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have become publishers and should be treated as such. 

But the considerable clout of the tech giants has stalled the elimination of the protection. Liebling should be rolling over in his grave.

One thought on “‘Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one’

  1. Removing Section 230 does not solve the problem. It does not, actually, even address the problem. Removing Section 230 would make the problem worse.

    Removing Section 230 would mean that internet companies could be sued for what the DO allow to be published, but they could not be sued for what they DO NOT allow to be published.

    The New York Times is certainly not subject to Section 230. If you send an article to the NYT, do they have to publish it?

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