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I have been particularly interested in First Amendment issues regarding private platforms since I was unfairly deplatformed by Wordpress and demonetized by YouTube for no given reason. (For my on-air account of the situation, listen here.) As a libertarian, I am a proponent of strict property rights so would not require private property owners to guarantee First Amendment rights, but there are two nuances to this question in regards to social media that must be considered.
One is that some of the larger social media platforms cannot be considered strictly private. Since the inception of the Internet in the computer labs of DARPA, it has been used for surveillance and censorship and may actually have been created to transform the public square into precisely what it has become. (This quartz.com article is a good place to start down that road: Google’s true origin partly lies in CIA and NSA research grants for mass surveillance.)
The other is that private property is not considered an absolute bar to First Amendment rights if the government facilitates the way the property is used, which could be relevant here based not only on the origins of google et al, but also because their patents, logos, etc, are protected by the government. (See Burton v Wilmington Parking Authority.) Beyond that, First Amendment protections are usually over-read rather than under-read and have even been protected from tort law (see Snyder v Phelps)—though in my opinion tort remedies are (and should be) the natural counterpoise to absolute freedom of speech.[*] In addition, the government, by its own admission, has intentionally and successfully co-opted various social media to control free speech for ends-justifies-the-means designs that must be heard to be believed: watch here, starting around 48:00.
Am I missing anything? I know you fellow deep divers will help me plumb the depths!
[*] For example, may you yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater? Yes you may, but if it is untrue, you are likely intentionally causing emotional distress, causing or exposing stampeding people to injury, costing the theater-owner refunds or reputation, and for these torts (and maybe even crimes) you should be held to account.
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