Pollak: Big Tech, establishment media crush free speech through a form of prior restraint
08/01/2020 // News Editors // Views

Big tech and mainstream media have joined forces to crush free speech and press freedom. Not only are they censoring alternative medical views on coronavirus, but they are also censoring news outlets that happen to cover those views.

(Article by Joel B. Pollak republished from Breitbart.com)

On Monday night, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (owned by Google) took down video from a Facebook live stream of a press conference on coronavirus in Washington, DC, by a group of doctors that was covered by Breitbart News that day.

The press conference was held by a group called America’s Frontline Doctors, which was organized and sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots. The press conference featured doctors talking about their own views about the treatment of coronavirus or COVID-19, sometimes presenting perspectives that are not featured by the “experts” making policy for the country. Some talked about hydroxychloroquine; others touted the scientific case for reopening schools.

One doctor, Stella Immanuel, a Nigerian immigrant, argued passionately for hydroxychloroquine (plus zinc and azithromycin), saying she had personally treated hundreds of patients with it. She called hydroxychloroquine a “cure.” The video went viral.

New York Times columnist Kevin Roose drew attention to the video, noting: “Breitbart could claim it was just covering a newsworthy press conference.”





CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy tweeted a report that Roose’s tweets were “driving people at Facebook absolutely crazy.”


Subsequently, Facebook and Twitter took the video down, with Facebook responding directly to Roose, saying the video was taken down for “sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19.”




When President Donald Trump retweeted someone else’s version of the video, Twitter removed it. It was the latest example of Twitter interfering in a message posted — in this case, indirectly — by the President of the United States.

Twitter then limited Breitbart News’ Twitter account on Monday evening.

Breitbart News was therefore punished for a live stream of a press conference that contained information to which mainstream media outlets objected.

Even if that information was wrong — and claims about a “cure” are hyperbole at best — there was no way for Breitbart to know in advance what would be said at the press conference, which also included a question-and-answer session.

The logical implication of Big Tech’s behavior in this case is that any news outlet, or any individual, can be censored merely for covering live speech expressed in the public square.

This is a form of “prior restraint” — preventing the press from covering news events without approval by those in charge. Because journalists cannot anticipate everything that might be said at a press conference, the only way for them to protect their outlets from being silenced is not to cover such events.

This has a chilling effect on press freedom and free speech.

Governments, particularly third world dictatorships, regularly use prior restraint to silence dissent and free speech. But governments are not the only entities that can use prior restraint. It can also be done by the tech monopolies who control much of the flow of information in our society today. That is what is happening here. Big Tech companies, cheered on by establishment media, are engaging in a commercial form of prior restraint to withhold dissemination of dissenting views.

One might expect outlets like the Times to object to this abuse. After all, the Times and other establishment media fought the great 20th century legal battles against prior restraint. But the Times and other establishment media outlets, which are never penalized for their inaccuracies, have learned that they can use prior restraint to suppress their competitors.

CNN has perfected the technique: under the guise of asking “questions,” they contact advertisers to ask whether they have joined a boycott — in the most recent case, a boycott of Facebook. The advertisers, thus pressured, join the boycott. (In the latter case, the boycott is intended to pressure Facebook to censor “hate” speech — defined to include conservative media.)

The Times‘ own report on the video, and its removal, is inaccurate. It claimed Tuesday: “The video did not appear to be anything special. But within six hours, President Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. had tweeted versions of it, and the right-wing news site Breitbart had shared it.” The “nothing special” video had gone viral many hours before President Trump tweeted a clip of it, and Breitbart News had live streamed it first. The Times obscures that essential fact.

The implication is that any news outlet — more precisely, any conservative news outlet, since the rules are not applied to the Times or CNN when they cover dubious medical claims — must avoid covering live press conferences unless they know beforehand whether the information presented (on COVID-19, voting, or other subjects) is accurate and acceptable.

By punishing Breitbart, Big Tech is effectively using a form of prior restraint, and it would be regarded as an violation of the First Amendment if the government did it. Any such restriction would have to pass the legal test of “strict scrutiny” to survive. In this case, however, the left has outsourced the job of censorship to Big Tech and the establishment media.

All of this is happening in the middle of a public health crisis in which policy responses are a topic of legitimate debate, and prior to a presidential election when free speech is more urgent than ever.

And, shamefully, instead of opposing Big Tech’s actions — instead of protecting the freedom of the press and the importance of public dialogue and debate — the establishment media are supporting an effort to censor not just alternative views, but media who happen to cover them.

Read more at: Breitbart.com

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