Conservatives Are Going to Have to Build a Better Internet

It’s no secret that social-media companies lean left.

In the beginning, many conservatives believe, there was a free Internet. A paradise of forums unfettered by content guidelines or curators was available to anyone, of any opinion, and all day and all night robust dialogue flourished. But then came Mark Zuckerberg.

Something like this myth is the only way to account for the spasms of outrage that overtake conservatives when it comes to social-media censorship, and the aftermath of the Orlando terrorist attack has provided spasms aplenty. Earlier this week, Facebook removed Pamela Geller’s 50,000-member “Stop Islamization of America” group, saying that it violated the company’s policy against “hateful, threatening, or obscene” forums. Breitbart provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was briefly suspended from Twitter, as was videogame developer Mark Kern, who tweeted: “I don’t see why mosques with radical leanings should be excluded from surveillance when the rest of us get our emails collected by the NSA.” And Reddit users reported that threads addressing the ideological inclinations of Omar Mateen were locked, posts deleted, and some users banned. The crackdown comes just two weeks after Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, and Microsoft pledged to the European Commission that they would ban “hate speech” on their platforms.

There’s all sorts of right-wing seething, and why not? There’s an unseemly impulse among liberals to reflexively silence people who express opinions with which they disagree. But the myth of a prelapsarian Internet is steering the Right wrong, and it’s time to think differently.

It’s ironic that, as conservatives rage against the overlords of their preferred online realms, they are also, in another context, fighting to shield business owners’ right to free association in the marketplace. Jewish bakers should not have to bake cakes for Skokie’s swastika set, &c. We should permit similar liberty to Mark Zuckerberg, or Twitter’s elusive “Jack.” After all, social-media sites, like the neighborhood deli, aren’t charities. They have certain principles and interests, and they set up rules to forward those principles and interests. Perhaps the rules are dumb, but they’re still the rules, and if you want to play the game, you have to follow them — and if you don’t obey, you’re out. Conservatives seem to have forgotten this. If Twitter does not want Milo Yiannopoulos on Twitter anymore, it does not have to allow him to tweet. Maybe Twitter’s mind can be changed for mercenary financial reasons, but there’s no recourse for Twitter users otherwise.

If Twitter does not want Milo Yiannopoulos on Twitter anymore, it does not have to allow him to tweet.

Owners of social-media sites can rule with an iron fist, and, because of this, conservatives are wasting their time trying to make them change the rules. There are no neutral spaces, and there never will be. Whether the forum is public or private, certain people are going to be in charge, and they’re going to impose certain parameters. The goal should not be to create neutral spaces; it should be to create non-neutral spaces more attractive than existing non-neutral spaces.

That is the success story of conservative media. National Review in the world of print, Fox News in the world of television, and the Drudge Report online carved out spaces that were not in the least neutral, but which handled their “prejudices” in a way that was more attractive than the alternatives.

That’s the solution to the hegemony of the current social-media powers. Facebook is not going to change. Someone who is tired of Facebook imposing its opinions on its users will have to create a better social-media site that is based on conservative principles, and uphold those principles in a way that gives users more freedom.

Conservatives will never make the existing social-media open up to their satisfaction. But they can create their own space in the social-media world and provide a counterweight to the existing ideological monopoly. It won’t be easy. But other conservative media show that it’s possible.

Most Popular


Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots

The American flag’s place in our culture is beginning to look less unassailable. The symbol itself is under attack, as we’ve seen with Nike dumping a shoe design featuring an early American flag, Megan Rapinoe defending her national-anthem protests (she says she will never sing the song again), and ... Read More

The Plot against Kavanaugh

Justice on Trial, by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino (Regnery,  256 pp., $28.99) The nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was the political event of 2018, though not for the reasons anyone expected. All High Court confirmations these days are fraught with emotion and tumult ... Read More
Politics & Policy

He Just Can’t Help Himself

By Saturday, the long-simmering fight between Nancy Pelosi and her allies on one side and the “squad” associated with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other had risen to an angrier and more destructive level at the Netroots Nation conference. Representative Ayanna Pressley, an African-American Massachusetts ... Read More
White House

On Gratitude and Immigration

Like both Rich and David, I consider it flatly inappropriate for the president of the United States to be telling Americans -- rhetorically or otherwise -- to “go back where you came from.” In consequence, you will find no defense of the president from me, either. What Trump tweeted over the weekend was ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More

Gender Dissenter Gets Fired

Allan M. Josephson is a distinguished psychiatrist who, since 2003, has transformed the division of child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology at the University of Louisville from a struggling department to a nationally acclaimed program. In the fall of 2017 he appeared on a panel at the Heritage Foundation ... Read More