Sean Gabb is one of the UK’s leading libertarians. In his new article “State Censorship Corporate Censorship” he argues that even though the UK and US protect “speech about alleged matters of public fact,” these protections are inadequate and eroding. Though no fan of Alex Jones, Sean Gabb says that “his being swept from large areas of the Internet is worrying.”
Perhaps the biggest threat to free speech, Gabb suggests, is corporate censorship. And while some libertarians join the apologists for censorship who argue that private corporations such as YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, and Google have the right to censor anyone they want, Sean Gabb disagrees. He argues persuasively that limited liability corporations are not private, but quasi-governmental entities, and should therefore be required to follow the same norms of free speech and transparency as the government does.
I agree, but I think Sean Gabb doesn’t go far enough. It’s obvious that these internet fora are today’s equivalent of the “town square.” OBVIOUSLY they must respect the First Amendment and other free speech norms and protections! Additionally, they are monopolies, which are supposed to be illegal under American law. If they don’t want to be seized by the government and either broken up or run as public utilities, they need to rigorously respect content neutrality and honor—not censor—controversial speech.