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Why Do Apple, Facebook and Twitter Oppose Internet Deregulation?

Another multi-national corporation has fallen in line with Facebook, Twitter and Google, admonishing the Federal Communications Commission to drop plans to deregulate the internet. Apple has come out in favor of so-called net neutrality, warning the Obama administration regulations represent the last bulwark against censorship by big internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

It’s the talking point used by liberals and their allies to preempt discussion of an issue that in many ways boils down to this: Do you want more or less federal government regulation of the internet? Twitter apparently has it out for anyone not towing the line of immigration and other policies.

But in reality, Joseph Epstein points out in the Wall Street Journal that the big social media companies–not service providers–are the ones engaging in censorship on the world wide web.

One problem: No one has presented a single credible case of any major internet provider censoring web content based on political beliefs. But you know who does? The very companies calling for net neutrality. Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Google, PayPal and other tech firms are engaged in increasingly strict political censorship through vague and subjective prohibitions on “hate speech” and “fake news.”

Twitter apparently has it out for anyone not towing the line of immigration and other policies. “fake news.”

Twitter outright banned the conservative provocateurs Milo Yiannopoulos and Anthony Cumia. Although these men could be caustic online—Mr. Yiannopoulos has embraced the label “troll”—social-media companies also blocked controversial but sober political arguments. Twitter allows paying users to “promote” their tweets, but last month it refused posts from the Center for Immigration Studies, including one that argued “illegal immigrants are a large net fiscal drain.”

Facebook, YouTube and PayPal have also retaliated against conservatives online.

Facebook reportedly removed a post last year that merely argued “what Trump is trying to say is that Homeland Security can not differentiate which Muslim is radical wanting to cause harm and which is a harmless refugee.” Google’s YouTube restricted access last year to dozens of videos from PragerU, a project of conservative talk-radio host Dennis Prager, including lectures by prominent experts on subjects such as “Israel: The World’s Most Moral Army.” PayPal canceled service this summer to dozens of accounts labeled as “hate groups” by the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center. Apple Pay soon followed suit, and CEO Tim Cook announced his company would donate $1 million each to the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League.

Net neutrality supporters reject any comparison between internet service providers and “platform monopolies” like Facebook for a variety of reasons. At the same time, Epstein says they want to have it both ways.

For years, Facebook denied it was a media company in any sense of the term. Then in December, when it began restricting fake news, Mr. Zuckerberg claimed it was “not a traditional media company.” The legal difference here is important. Traditional media companies like newspapers can be held liable for the content they publish. But online platforms are given a safe harbor under law to avoid liability for their users’ content. The statute setting up this immunity explicitly states that Congress believes “the Internet and other interactive computer services offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.”

This is not to say that social media companies should be subject to the First Amendment or “common carrier” regulations, as some have recently begun to advocate. But if Apple, Facebook and Google want to prevent big corporations from suppressing free speech online, then: physician heal thyself.

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