The long slog towards government regulation of social media is snaking its way towards reality. The House and Senate hold hearings this week on bills enacting rules on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube.

Many of these proposals revolve around Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a rather innocuous 1996 law protecting online platforms from civil liability for hosting and moderating third-party content. Section 230 includes language praising “the vibrant and competitive free market” existing for the internet and tech companies, without state or federal government rules. It’s all about to change twenty-five years later, with both major parties seeking to get their pound of ideological flesh from Big...

The long slog towards government regulation of social media is snaking its way towards reality. The House and Senate hold hearings this week on bills enacting rules on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube.

Many of these proposals revolve around Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a rather innocuous 1996 law protecting online platforms from civil liability for hosting and moderating third-party content. Section 230 includes language praising “the vibrant and competitive free market” existing for the internet and tech companies, without state or federal government rules. It’s all about to change twenty-five years later, with both major parties seeking to get their pound of ideological flesh from Big Tech.

Congressional Democrats are hoping to enact rules due to their concerns over so-called misinformation and “harmful content.” Their anger over the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the bogeyman of Russian interference fueled the original push for new regulations. The coronavirus pandemic and 2020 presidential election fallout poured rocket fuel on the ideological pyre, as did the QAnon conspiracy and discussions around alternate Covid treatments, masks and vaccine efficacy.

Vermont congressman Peter Welch promoted a new five-member commission with civil penalty power making sure Big Tech is “unbiased” and doesn’t promote harmful content. The Democrat used the infamous “for the children” crusade as reasoning. Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar desires Health and Human Services control over the internet where public health is involved. She believes more lives would be saved if Section 230 protections for Big Tech were removed. New Mexico senator Ben Ray Luján took it a step further, saying that the spread of misinformation ended up “fueling distrust in public health officials, promoting conspiracy theories and putting lives at risk.” To paraphrase Frank Herbert: he who controls the information, controls the world.

Republicans are just as censorious — but they shroud their urge to regulate Big Tech under the guise of protecting free speech. The Florida and Texas legislatures passed rules requiring large social media companies not to remove users from their platforms if they express dissident viewpoints.

Proponents of both laws claim that large social media companies are now common carriers or the new town square because of their popularity. Their “solution” involves requiring Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to lay out clear reasons why a user’s post was suspended or banned, with the Florida law going so far as to require companies to list which accounts viewed said posts. Texas’s law requires Big Tech to explain twice a year how many accounts were removed, who flagged the post and whether they worked with other companies to ban or delete content. Florida governor Ron DeSantis complained about Twitter’s and Facebook’s decisions to remove Trump from the platforms even though the Ayatollah of Iran remains on the platform. Texas governor Greg Abbott cited Twitter’s dumb decision to temporarily restrict the New York Post’s Twitter account over their Hunter Biden laptop story as reason for the state’s new regulations. These are, remember, the same governors who believe individual businesses should make their own decisions regarding coronavirus restrictions.

Federal judges found the new laws unnecessarily harsh and in violation of the First Amendment. Texas US District Judge Robert Pitman correctly noted that social media companies aren’t utilities, but publishers who use editorial guidance on who and what content they want on their platforms. He was particularly worried about a clause giving ultimate power to the Texas attorney general via civil lawsuit, since it included the vague phrase of “potential” violations of the law. Pitman saw that as infringing on Big Tech’s speech rights. Florida US District Judge Robert Hinkle wrote in his own preliminary injunction, “Balancing the exchange of ideas among private speakers is not a legitimate governmental interest.”

Those who yearn for government control over Big Tech forget an important thing: politics. Governments change political philosophy from one administration to the next (and sometimes during administrations), no matter the occupant. Republicans and Democrats don’t care about free speech. They just want to be the ones controlling who gets to see what online.