Vol. 56, No. 3

In this edition

The latest edition of The Ripon Forum examines the effort to combat fake news in America and what the appropriate role of the federal government should be.

To Confront the Global Food Crisis, Quiet American Diplomacy Will No Longer Do

We are now in the midst of the biggest food crisis the world has seen in decades. The U.S. has led the response to this crisis. Now, it must convince other countries to do more, as well.

How Ukraine is Impacting the Transatlantic Relationship

Russia’s war in Ukraine is transforming Europe’s neglect of energy and defense policies into a dangerous wedge dividing the United States from the European Union.

Building Trust and Enhancing Performance

To rebuild the public’s faith in government, those who run government need to take on the challenges people care about in a way that gets results and makes a difference in their lives.

What Does It Mean to Be a Centrist Today?

America needs Republicans to provide a responsible alternative to the Democrats. GOP centrists can meet this need by advancing an alternative different than the radical left and authoritarian right.

Progressive Conservatism: How Republicans Will Become America’s Natural Governing Party

With the GOP well positioned to regain control of the House and possibly the Senate this November, a discussion about a governing philosophy to guide the party’s course in the coming years.

Fake News and the Federal Government: Should Washington Step In or Step Aside?

Today, misinformation and its malicious sibling, disinformation, permeate U.S. society so thoroughly that citizens have no way of knowing which information is accurate.

Where Bipartisan Opportunities Exist for Tech Reform

While Congress debates partisan tech agendas, the EU is passing laws that put them in the driver’s seat of data privacy and how our tech companies operate abroad. It’s time for both parties to put politics aside.

Protecting Our Kids in the Age of Social Media

There is a mental health crisis amongst America’s youth which many place squarely on the shoulders of technology in general, and social media in particular. It’s an easy enough correlation to make.

The First Amendment Protects Freedom of Speech, Not Your Right To Someone Else’s Megaphone

To Protect Free Speech, Social Media Platforms Must Stop their Overreach

Ripon Profile of Stephanie Bice

The Representative of Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District discusses an issue facing American that is not getting enough attention and outlines the biggest challenges facing her District.

The First Amendment Protects Freedom of Speech, Not Your Right To Someone Else’s Megaphone

When it comes to speech, the internet is more like a grocery store than like Main Street—and it’s in our collective interest to keep it that way.  

No one has a constitutional right to march up and down Harris Teeter’s produce aisle yelling racial slurs or harassing customers, just as no one has a constitutional right to be on Twitter doing the same thing. Why? The First Amendment protects us from the government impinging on our speech rights, but it doesn’t give us the right to say anything, anywhere we want. 

America has a robust free speech tradition that we should celebrate. Crucially, it’s a speech tradition that stops short of limiting others’ speech in private spaces. While the government cannot limit your speech rights (beyond limiting illegal speech), plenty of private services and organizations can and do. Apartment buildings have as much a right to post a “no soliciting” sign as online platforms do to enforce strict policies against misinformation, spam, or calls for violence. 

While the government cannot limit your speech rights (beyond limiting illegal speech), plenty of private services and organizations can and do.

This tradition has been upheld time and time again by the courts. For example, in a majority opinion from 2018, Justice Kavanaugh wrote “when a private entity provides a forum for speech, the private entity is not ordinarily constrained by the First Amendment because the private entity is not a state actor. The private entity may thus exercise editorial discretion over the speech and speakers in the forum.”  

As this opinion (and, notably, the minority opinion in the same case) makes clear, attempts to regulate the speech of private individuals acting in private run squarely up against the Constitution. Indeed, two recent attempts to regulate speech in this way from Florida and Texas failed spectacularly. 

When someone—whether a former president or an average citizen—claims their or another individual’s “First Amendment” rights to speech on any online platform are being limited, they’re mistaking their right to say something with their right to say it on someone else’s platform.  

Often, they’re decrying the removal of “lawful, but awful” speech—misinformation, spam, and threats that fall short of a crime. And this is exactly the kind of speech that most people want platforms to moderate. Imagine a world where Alex Jones has a right to post his false claims that the Sandy Hook shooting never happened and to harass grieving parents on Instagram. Or imagine if Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar was able to falsely accuse a trans woman of being a school shooter on Twitter with impunity.  

While this speech may be constitutional, it’s despicable. No service should be obligated to carry it. 

It’s not as if there aren’t spaces that would be happy to carry Jones or Gosar’s vitriol. A host of platforms have cropped up in recent years that boast lax content moderation standards, including social media sites and message boards, not to mention offline options. 

In the U.S., we’re afforded freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach. No one is guaranteed a megaphone.

Constitutionality aside, it’s also important to note that a “must-carry” requirement would create a fundamentally worse experience online for everyone and a terrible coarsening of our national discourse. The First Amendment is simply a poor standard for what should or shouldn’t be allowed on any given service. In many cases, hate speech, misinformation, and spam are all legal speech. 

Our country and our national conversation would be unequivocally worse if shop owners couldn’t eject a customer for spouting racism or QAnon conspiracy theories. The same should hold true for online platforms.  

In the U.S., we’re afforded freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach. No one is guaranteed a megaphone. And that holds especially true in private places. Fundamentally reversing the tenets of the First Amendment exclusively for online speech would flood the national conversation with hate, conspiracy, and spam. 

Adam Kovacevich is the Founder and CEO of Chamber of Progress.