Google has deplatformed, or banned from its environs, numerous articulate and high profile conservative spokesmen such as Alan Dershowitz, Andrew Roberts, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Heather MacDonald, Steven Harper, Robert Florczak, Dennis Prager. This is the merest tip of the iceberg in this regard.
But does not this private company have a right to say “Yea” or “Nay” to all who would utilize its property? This, at least, is the libertarian view.
Consider this counter argument. Suppose Delta, American Airlines, Southwest and United Airlines were all to prohibit access to its flights to anyone carrying on board a copy of any given newspaper. Should we support such a policy?
Speaking as a libertarian, I would. I would defend the right of these airlines to engage in such barking-mad behavior since I uphold the sanctity of private property rights, and they own these modes of transport (I abstract, here, from numerous government regulations that give them an unfair advantage over actual and potential competitors).
If ever these airlines engaged in this “google-like” behavior, competitors would soon enough arise and take many of their customers away from them. Suggestion: instead of inveighing against “censorship,” why not support competitors of google? These alternatives could announce their full adherence to free speech, banning, only, threats of violence, and speech of that sort. They would be open to ALL shades of political opinion. They would offer a true “open forum.” As it happens, there are already some available: Microsoft, Facebook, AOL, Horizon, Ask, Bai, Alibaba, Apple, Amazon (source: http://eskify.com/10-googles-biggest-competitors/ ). It cannot be denied that none of these exactly fit the John Stuart “On Liberty” bill, but they are not nothing. However, there are also smaller more open Google competitors already on the market such as MeWe and there are more to come on the horizon.
There is however a danger that this competitive alternative to the communication powers that be I am proposing might be way too inward looking. Since the major players now favor the left, and make things difficult for the right, the alternative might be seen by the uncommitted as solely a preserve of the latter.
It might well be that this is still the next best option for those of us who favor an open John Stuart Mill (“On Liberty”) type debate.
Right now, those who favor free enterprise, and limited government, are losing the communications war. Excellent videos and op eds from world class people are being shunted aside on the ground they are “offensive” to the “wokesters.” At least men of good will who favor open dialogue should have a plan “B.” There are none better than competition.
Yes, Google improperly wants to have it both ways. It does not want to be a publisher, lest it be susceptible to libel suits. Instead, it takes cover as an “open forum,” but leave much to be desired in this regard (understatement of the year).
However, this company does not engage in “censorship.” Only the government can forbid speech. This company merely exludes material it considers offensive (emanating from only libertarian and conservative, not left-progressive, sources). But they no more engage in censorship than I would were to forbid Mr. Trump from giving a speech in my home.
Walter E. Block holds the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University, New Orleans