Glenn K Beaton: Facebook should be regulated as a public utility

Glenn K. Beaton
The Aspen Beat

My column two weeks ago was entitled “Democrats are no longer hypocrites.” For posting that column, Facebook suspended me from posting privileges for 24 hours.

You might ask, as I did, why?

In my column, I noted that in the old days Democrats hypocritically held themselves out as the party of love and compassion while they opposed the Civil Rights Act, while their KKK members lynched blacks and Jews, while they rioted at their own national convention in 1968, while they promoted unlimited abortion that has killed half of black fetuses in the last generation — about 20 million of them — and while they pursued a war in Vietnam that killed over a million people.

All of that is factual.

But the Dems no longer hold themselves out as the party of love and compassion. They instead hold themselves out as takers. They candidly admit — nay, they boast — that they will take money from those who earn it and give it to those who vote for them.

And anyone who stands in the way of their money-grab is not worthy of their love and compassion. Anyone who stands in the way is worthy of only shout-downs, name-calling, censorship and sometimes violence.

So Dems may be rude, violent and intolerant but, I had to admit, they’re no longer hypocritical.

I posted the column on Facebook, as I typically do. Facebook then notified me that it had suspended me for 24 hours. The reason they gave was not that I’d been untruthful, but that I’d violated unspecified “community standards.”

I asked for an explanation of which community standards I had violated, and how. I received no response.

Weirdly, however, Facebook did not delete my posting of the offending column. They only blocked me from posting anything else for 24 hours.

Censorship is common on Facebook. In another recent example, Facebook has repeatedly deleted inspirational quotes from Saint Augustine on the grounds that it’s “hate speech.” As is typical, the media has mostly buried this story, but Google “Facebook censors Augustine” if you doubt me.

Facebook apparently defines “hate speech” as speech they hate, even if, or maybe especially if, it’s by one of Christianity’s towering figures.

My purpose in relating this story is to pose a question. Should Facebook should be regulated as a public utility?

An economist would say that public utilities are regulated on the grounds that they are natural monopolies. The electric utility company has a network of electrical lines to every house and business in its service area. It’s nearly impossible for another electric company to compete, because the newcomer would have to set up its own network of electrical lines just to serve a few customers at the outset.

Even if the newcomer were able to weather the initial financial losses of setting up a network of new electrical lines to serve just a few customers, the end result would be two sets of electrical lines, one for each company. That’s very inefficient and costly. Those costs are ultimately passed on to the public.

To avoid that, we regulate electrical service by allowing just one provider, which constructs one efficient set of electrical lines. Same with natural gas service and telephone land lines.

In exchange for this monopoly, the provider is prohibited from discriminating among customers.

Facebook is something like this. If a person wants to be on social media to share information or pictures with friends, there are few real choices. As a practical matter, Facebook is the only game in town.

No less than Bill Gates recently acknowledged this “network effect” where the first to establish the network wins the monopoly. People won’t sign up for a competing social network when all their friends and potential friends are on the first one.

One more thing. Facebook routinely shifts millions of votes to the Dems side by manipulating its network messages. That was the testimony of a liberal professor, Harvard Ph. D. and former editor in chief of Psychology Today, named Dr. Robert Epstein who recently appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Unsurprisingly, this was largely unreported by the media.

Sometimes, as in my case, Facebook accomplishes its manipulation by clumsily censoring criticism of the Dems. But they also can subtly bury the offending message way down in the users’ news feed while highlighting stories complimentary of the Dems or critical of the GOP.

So maybe Facebook should be regulated as a utility like the electric, gas and land line telephone companies. We don’t allow the electric, gas and telephone companies to suspend services to customers on the grounds they don’t like the customers’ politics. Nor do we let them utilize their service monopolies to manipulate elections by tilting the playing field.

So why should we allow the natural monopoly called Facebook to do that?

By the way, I take it all back. Democrats are still hypocrites. There, Facebook, are you happy now?

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