Social Media and Free Speech

Social Media

            New Orleans       I don’t use TikTok, but I know it’s hot.  I’ve watched one video that one of our nephew’s children put together.  It was cute.  Supposedly, it was a riff on something else, but I didn’t get the cultural connection, so I was clueless.

Here’s what I know from boomerville.  For all the heavy breathing and fist-on-the-table slamming by politicians from local school boards to state legislators and governors to members of the House of Representatives to I’ll-sign-it-if-it-gets-this-far President Biden, a ban is just not going to happen.

First, there’s the fact that TikTok has almost 150 million users in the United States.  For all their huff and puff, they can still count, and they aren’t going the blow the house down on 150 million people, even if a bunch is not yet old enough to vote.

Secondly, these same big bad wolves are clearly pushing for a deal.  The first gambit was moving all the US sensitive data to US-based servers and control.  TikTok has supposedly spent about a billion dollars on its so-called Texas Project, a joint venture with Austin-based tech company Oracle working to implement that workaround.  The other shot for a deal was trying to force Bytedance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, to sell the US franchise to an American.  Not surprisingly, the Chinese government has said clearly:  not on my watch.  TikTok has made accommodations, so I’m betting when the chips are down, that will count for something, even if there is an additional level of governmental surveillance of their data collection and security operations.

Finally, there’s the whole free speech and social media thing that can’t be ignored or shoved down a hole.

Red staters, led by the Republican attorneys general from Louisiana and Missouri are now arguing a case before the Supreme Court on whether or not there was an infringement on free speech when the government lobbied Twitter, Facebook, and the like to take down misinformation about Covid-19 and vaccinations.  The justices haven’t ruled, but early reports indicate that they aren’t buying.  The government argued they had the right to free speech as well in talking to the companies, and the justices’ questions focus on the issue of coercion.  If the government wasn’t threatening, but just lobbying, what’s the harm?  Face it, if the government allows Elon Musk to be Mr. Crazy Man on all kinds of issues on his X-Twitter, so they are certainly not opposing free speech.

When it comes to the bottom line, TikTok will argue free speech as well, and they will have an excellent chance of winning.

This is really all about China fear mongering.  If you start tallying up all the products in hand, house, and business that say “Made in China,” where will this end?  They have been everywhere for years, and even though US-imports are down, they are not out.

Eventually, business will beat politics, like it usually does.  The only difference is this time is flying its freak flag with a free speech slogan.  It will only be a matter of time, before the politicians line up and salute.