For many years, social media firms like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) courted controversy over accusations that they deliberately censor or otherwise stymie conservative and right-wing voices. In fairness, I can appreciate why big tech firms have a vested interest in cleaning up their content. Frankly, bigotry is bad for business. But this year’s election cycle has only ramped up contentions over content arbitration, clouding the narrative for FB stock.
As you know, President Donald Trump garnered notoriety for his constant criticism of fake news and mainstream media suppression of conservative ideologies. Moreover, Republicans haven’t been messing around, leveling all kinds of accusations against big tech, putting the sector’s executives on the hot seat. Now, the common charge is that the underlying business model of FB stock violates in spirit the First Amendment.
I say in spirit because the First Amendment only applies to the government restricting free speech, not private corporations. And before you send me hate mail, please note that I’m using private in the sense that these companies are not government entities. I fully realize that Facebook is a publicly traded company.
Essentially, then, the argument is that social media firms are using a constitutional technicality to censor conservative ideas. But if the overall impact results in free speech suppression, wouldn’t that essentially be a constitutional violation? Because if we’re being intellectually honest, social media firms today have unfathomable influence in directing the national discourse.
Others Can Create Platforms
On the other hand, I’m not really sure if conservatives will be able to win the war against big tech, which may seem to bode well for FB stock. Here’s the deal – nothing is stopping Republican voters from creating their own Facebook or Twitter.
For instance, the alt-right (you can look this up yourself, I’m not going to give these organizations oxygen) offers dating websites for white people only. While this notion sounds like something out of the Third Reich, the U.S. government cannot prevent far-right wing organizations from creating a race-based dating site.
Since the opportunity exists for conservatives to create their own platforms, the First Amendment ruckus probably won’t work. Still, censorship is probably not in Facebook’s or big tech’s interest and here’s why.
FB Stock May Benefit from Debates of Controversy
In recent years, two stories piqued my interest. First, Tracy Jones’ article about his challenges rearing his biracial daughter in Japan, and second, the death of Christian missionary John Allen Chau at the North Sentinel Island. I found both narratives to be heartbreaking. But there are also two sides to every story.
Underlining these two seemingly disparate topics is the idea that the American foreigner has the right to assume that their permanent presence is welcome in a land not their own. In Chau’s case, the indigenous Sentinelese tribe made it abundantly clear that they did not want the Gospel message. With Jones, some Japanese made it clear (in a far nicer way than the Sentinelese) that he was not appreciated.
Mainstream media coverage was generally sympathetic toward the Sentinelese. Though the indigenous tribe murdered Chau, there was an inherent risk of spreading disease to an uncontacted people group. Further, the Sentinelese expressed their displeasure at every attempt made at contact.
Similarly, the Japanese would probably continue embracing their homogeneity and nationalism had it not been for U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew Perry. For Japan, diversity of ideas and eventually people came at the threat of annihilation.
But the raging hypocrisy is that the Sentinelese murdered Chau, whose only crime was to preach salvation through Jesus Christ. I’m sorry folks but that’s not worthy of a death sentence; you can just say, no thanks! Yet the media emphasizes that ultimately, the Sentinelese have the right to protect their heritage at any cost.
However, the mainstream media has made it clear that the Japanese do not have that same right. Here, I am deeply troubled when Americans go to foreign countries to promote American-style virtue signaling. I mean, we wouldn’t like it if Japanese commentators came to America and called us a bunch of gun-loving loons.
You know what we’d say? Our guns, our business, go fly a kite. But in turn, don’t the Japanese have the right to say the same thing about race relations in Japan?
But by censoring counterarguments and opposition speech on the faulty, reactionary notion of racism, only one side of the narrative is broadcasted. That feeds into deep resentment, contributing to characters like Donald Trump becoming leaders of the free world. And that’s why capricious censorship of any conservative idea, no matter how well-reasoned, may be unfavorable for FB stock. It not only leads to blowback in the worst possible way but it’s bad for business (just like outright bigotry and racism is bad for business).
You’re losing an audience that is actually much more vocal and voluminous than coastal liberal elites assume. Just look at how close Trump came to winning reelection, even with fake ballots.
From Slovakia with Love
I like to consider myself a world traveler, although I haven’t had much time to do so in recent years. Still, I fondly remember my very brief time in Slovakia.
I was in a rundown part of the country. Honestly, the place looked like a warzone. And scrabbled all over the walls were the numbers “14/88.” That’s code for if you’re not white, you better run.
Did I find this offensive? Of course! But at the same time, I didn’t run around to every Slovak and demand that they accept me. Look, it’s a white country and they want to keep it that way. Who am I, a foreigner, to demand they accept diversity with open arms?
I tell you this story because racial diversity is not a moral virtue. It’s merely a choice: some people embrace it, but others do not. What’s wrong is to assume that those who don’t embrace diversity – which to be clear is far different from racism or fighting words – are somehow morally flawed and must either be punished or censored.
That’s not the American way. And I would argue that it’s probably not good for FB stock. Again, you’re denying voices that have every right to speak. Further, these voices often have hefty wallets. While Facebook can censor, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it should.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.