Mark Zuckerberg is right, Jack Dorsey is wrong
For those who care about free speech, the last couple weeks saw two major developments from two people who have enormous influence over our public discourse.
First, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whom I have previously criticized, gave an important address in defense of free speech. In it, he explained Facebook’s new policy that they would not censor political speech, but would instead allow the marketplace of ideas, the back-and-forth of political debate, to resolve public policy disputes.
Second, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that Twitter would now ban all political advertisements.
We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons…
— jack (@jack) October 30, 2019
Both of these developments come at a time when Big Tech companies, from Facebook and Twitter to YouTube and Google, have established a pattern of arbitrarily silencing voices – overwhelming conservative voices – with whom they disagree.
It appears that Big Tech is taking divergent approaches to address this increasingly prevalent trend. Facebook has expressed its desire to stand for free speech – and while it still has a long ways to go, these are very positive developments. Twitter, on the other hand, is moving in the opposite direction.
It should come as no surprise that leftist politicians and media influencers praised Dorsey’s announcement, urging Facebook and Google to follow suit and jump on board the censorship train by banning political ads as well.
Doing so would be profoundly harmful. Here’s why.
First, if banning political ads – from candidates, groups, or individual citizens – becomes the norm, that only stands to benefit two groups: incumbent politicians and the mainstream media.
Incumbent politicians have tons of money and a huge megaphone to spread their message. If you ban political advertising from social media, how on earth is any upstart challenger supposed to beat an incumbent?
If you think America would be better with more career politicians, in both parties, entrenched in power for life, then Twitter’s proposed ban is a good idea.
If you believe in term limits, if you want it to be possible for challengers to be able to mount grassroots campaigns with compelling messages for change, then banning political ads on social media would be a disaster, not just for public discourse but for the future strength of our Republic.
Twitter’s rule also bans you, the individual citizen, from speaking about politics. If you want to run an ad that says “I’m from Venezuela, and I’ve seen first-hand that socialism doesn’t work,” you can’t. If you want to run an ad that says “Ted Cruz is a nincompoop,” you can’t either.
What Jack Dorsey is proposing is to stop you, individually, or in a group – whether it be the Sierra Club, the NRA, Planned Parenthood, AIPAC, or a totally new not-for-profit group trying to advocate for a particular idea – from being able to speak actively about public policy.
And if citizens are silenced, then the media and politicians are the only ones left. If you trust the New York Times to speak for you, great. If you think Fox News deserves to speak more than you do, well, this policy is great for you too.
But, if you think a lot of media are really, really biased, then censoring citizens and candidates and giving the media a monopoly is a terrible idea.
Second, Twitter’s ban only further empowers Silicon Valley billionaires, who already have a stronghold on defining what is truthful or acceptable speech, to now define what is and what is not “political.” It’s up to them to determine where to draw the line – and they won’t stop here. Banning ads is just the beginning.
That’s because those in the far-left of wing of the Democratic Party are afraid to defend their ideas. Rather than engage in a thoughtful discussion based on facts, reason, and evidence, they’re urging Big Tech to simply make it impossible for anyone to disagree.
What the left defines as “false” is anything that they disagree with.
And, critically, it is only the left that is calling for censorship. I don’t want social media to silence Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. I think their socialist agenda is nonsense. But, I am perfectly happy to engage them on substance to demonstrate that socialism has proven to be an abject failure and that the American free enterprise system has been the greatest enemy that poverty has ever seen.
If you disagree with me, or anyone else, engage on the merits, don’t censor the opposition.
Although I have other real concerns about Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg is to be commended for showing the courage to defend free speech. And Jack Dorsey should step back from his embrace of Big Tech censorship, trying to silence us all.
Cruz is the junior senator from Texas and chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution.