The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Social Media Common Carrier

Channeling Your Inner Dissenter from Your Inner Majority


A commenter on one of my Social Media Platforms as Common Carriers? posts suggested (not positively, I think) that I was "discovering my inner Noam Chomsky" in my criticisms of social media platform power. Well, I wouldn't go so far as that—but of course in one of the posts, I was quite expressly channeling my inner Justice Stevens, writing in an opinion (Citizens United) in which I actually disagreed with him on the bottom line.

And I think all of us need to have an inner Justice Stevens and Rehnquist and Brennan and Scalia (all at once) and more. Even if we mostly disagree with them, some of the time they might well be right. Or even if we disagree with how their arguments play out in a particular case, the arguments may still be well worth considering in other cases.

As the blog subheading notes, we're "Often Libertarian." But I'm not always libertarian, and I certainly don't want a precommitment to libertarianism to keep me from seeing where liberals or conservatives or someone else might have a better view. (I hope the same is true of our liberal and conservative readers as well.) In particular, liberals have long had some important observations about the dangers of private power, and the need to use government power to restrain such private power. I tend to disagree with them in many situations; but some of the time (perhaps with regard to some of the most powerful of private entities), they're likely right.

Some commenters have also suggested (or outright asserted) that I'm departing from the libertarian approach here because it's people on the Right (and thus generally on my side of the political aisle) whose speech has been blocked most prominently by some social media platforms. And of course that's certainly possible, human nature being what it is. Maybe my reaction would have been different if Big Tech had been most prominently blocking people from the Left. Maybe the reaction of some of the current defenders of Big Tech blocking decisions would have been different, too. I try hard to avoid such biases, but I'm sure I fall prey to them some of the time; who doesn't?

But that's why I wrote 75 pages explaining why I think my position is correct. "Show all work," my math teachers said, and I listened. Either my arguments are right, in which case it doesn't matter whether I might have been biased. Or my arguments are wrong, in which case it doesn't matter whether I might have been scrupulously objective.  So have a look at them, and tell me where I've erred, or how I can make my analysis more sound.