Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas takes aim at big tech companies
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has said that big tech giants do not have the right to ban protected speech and that the companies should not be protected by section 230.
In a 12 page opinion Thomas wrote,
“Today’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors. Also unprecedented, however, is control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties,” Thomas wrote. “we will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.”
Thomas called out Google and Facebook by name saying that although they are public companies, they are controlled by just three people, adding that the owners of the platforms have too much power.
“Although both companies are public, one person controls Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg), and just two control google (Larry Page and Sergey Brin),” Thomas wrote.
Thomas talked about big techs unrestricted power to delete accounts, and social media posts quote “at any time for any or no reason.”
Big tech companies Facebook and Google, Thomas pointed out, have vast and largely unchecked control over online marketplaces.
“It changes nothing that these platforms are not the sole means for distributing speech or information. A person always could choose to avoid the toll bridge or train and instead swim the Charles river or hike the Oregon trail,” Thomas wrote. “but in assessing whether a company exercises substantial market power, what matters is whether the alternatives are comparable. For many of today’s digital platforms, nothing is.”
And, he said, that some courts are abusing section 230 – which protects the big tech giants from lawsuits – to immunize “bad-faith” decisions and remove content”
Justice Thomas also said that the first amendment rights of big tech could be limited as much as business owners can be forced to accept customers regardless of race or religion.
“It seems rather odd to say that something is a government forum when a private company has unrestricted authority to do away with it,” the Justice wrote. “any control Mr. Trump exercised over the account greatly paled in comparison to twitter’s authority, dictated in its terms of service, to remove the account ‘at any time for any or no reason.’ twitter exercised its authority to do exactly that.”