It seems today’s Republican Party worships at the altar of the private sector until a privately owned entity does something they don’t agree with. Then they are ready to exercise the heavy hand of government. The latest manifestation of this phenomenon is Montana Senate Bill 391, proposed by Sen. Theresa Manzella of Hamilton. (“Lawmakers consider policing social media”, Billings Gazette, April 4, 2021).
SB 391 proposes to hire a couple dozen bureaucrats to “regulate” social media via the PSC. The senator and her supporters have a faulty understanding of free speech and social media. You are free to say whatever you like, but I do not have to let you stand on my front porch while you say it. Twitter and Facebook are privately-owned platforms, not some extension of the government like the BBC. They are not obligated to allow content they view as false or harmful on their platforms any more than The Billings Gazette is obligated to print every crack-pot letter to the editor it receives.
A common misunderstanding is that free speech is consequence-free speech. Nothing guarantees that. You may use your right to free speech to spew lies and venom, but you have no cause to complain if you are ostracized by your neighbors, or your business is boycotted or you are kicked off privately-run social media. So far, cooler heads have prevailed. As of April 4, the bill was tabled in committee by a vote of 8-5.