From unexpected quarters

On April 5 the Supreme Court reversed a previous lower court decision per a suit filed by the Biden Administration. The decision had to do with the use of social media and freedom of speech on Twitter. The decision was actually just a matter of cleaning up loose ends but the surprise came from no less than the most conservative Justice, Clarence Thomas.

In a separate response to the case Justice Thomas suggested a different remedy for the conflict between first amendment rights and private intentions to abuse truth or otherwise promote special interests not intended by the users of social media.

Justice Thomas suggested that social media be tightly regulated similar to communication companies and utilities in general. Sound theories for managing social media have not emerged, notable because of the obvious free rein by Google, Zuckerberg et al to use private information for corporate gain and to otherwise ignore negative uses that in any other business area would be subject to unending liability suits.

Justice Thomas wrote that just as electric, gas, water and telephone are stiffly regulated, so too, should social media be regulated in all aspects of public consumption. For example, the water utility is subject to regulations about water quality, equal rights to distribution, even the manner in which pipes are laid and the materials used. As an example of abuse, search the Flint Michigan ‘lead in water’ situation. Is conspiracy theory the same as lead in our social media product?

It’s too early to tell how this will emerge but with the republicans growing increasingly wary of social media, they and the democrats may find something mutually compatible that will defend freedom of speech as a delivery product without lead, profiteering, and disregard for public fairness included in the product.

Dealing with the abuse of speech is a deep and wide issue that may never be completely resolved but let’s give Clarence a chance – it’s better than what we have.

Ancient Mariner

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