Justice Thomas Argues For Making Facebook, Twitter and Google Utilities
Last fall, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that it was time to rein in Section 230 immunity. Now, Justice Thomas is laying out an argument for why companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google should be regulated as utilities. From a report: On Monday, the Supreme Court vacated a lower court ruling in finding that President Trump had acted unconstitutionally by blocking people on Twitter. That case, which the justices deemed moot, hinged on the idea that the @realdonaldtrump account was a public forum run by the President of the United States, and therefore, was constitutionally prohibited from stifling private speech. In his concurrence, Justice Thomas agrees with the decision, but argues that, in fact, Twitter’s recent ban of the @realdonaldtrump account suggests that it’s platforms themselves, not the government officials on them, that hold all the power. “As Twitter made clear, the right to cut off speech lies most powerfully in the hands of private digital platforms,” Thomas writes. “The extent to which that power matters for purposes of the First Amendment and the extent to which that power could lawfully be modified raise interesting and important questions.”

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homas argues that some digital platforms are “sufficiently akin” to common carriers like telephone companies. “A traditional telephone company laid physical wires to create a network connecting people,” Thomas writes. “Digital platforms lay information infrastructure that can be controlled in much the same way.” Thomas argues that while private companies aren’t subject to the First Amendment, common carriers are unique to other private businesses in that they do not have the “right to exclude.” Thomas suggests that large tech platforms with substantial market power should be bound by the same restrictions. “If the analogy between common carriers and digital platforms is correct, then an answer may arise for dissatisfied platform users who would appreciate not being blocked: laws that restrict the platform’s right to exclude,” Thomas writes.

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