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Justice Thomas shows how we can end Big Tech censorship for good

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Justice Thomas shows how we can end Big Tech censorship for good

On Monday, Justice Clarence Thomas announced that the Supreme Court soon will have to put an end to Big Tech tyranny. Amen. If the high court fails to act, it could mean the end of free speech in the 21st century and the shriveling of our constitutional rights to mere “paper rights” — still there on paper but functionally hollowed out.

Thomas cited the crisis problem of social-media platforms like Facebook and Google wielding unlimited power to censor users whose views they don’t like. His opinion offers hope at a time when Democrats controlling Congress are demanding that tech giants censor more. On March 25, Democrats on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce ordered tech CEOs to silence views that “undermine social-justice movements.”

Thomas’ announcement came in the context of a case involving former President Donald Trump. In office, Trump occasionally blocked his Twitter critics, and some of those critics sued, claiming the president’s Twitter account is a public forum. The high court ruled the case is now moot, because Trump is out of office. Thomas concurred — and agreed with a lower court holding that Trump had violated his critics’ First Amendment right to be heard.  

But Thomas said “the more glaring concern” isn’t what Trump did to a few critics, but rather the power of tech giants to censor or ban users entirely, even the leader of the Free World. The justice expressed astonishment that Facebook and Google could remove Trump’s account “at any time for any or no reason.” 

Wrote Thomas: “One person controls Facebook . . . and just two control Google.” Three people, in other words, have the power to disappear any of us from the digital public square, even a commander in chief. The Supremes, Thomas concluded, must rein in this unaccountable tyranny.

Big Tech apologists argue that private companies are free to censor as they please. And it’s true that the First Amendment prohibits only government from silencing viewpoints. But private ownership is never the beginning and end of constitutional analysis, not when there is so much at stake.

As Thomas showed, these companies are more like common carriers or public utilities than private companies. And they must be regulated as such: AT&T can’t refuse to open a phone account for you or limit your conversations based on your worldview. Likewise, Southwest Airlines can’t pick and choose who rides its aircraft based on their opinions about transgenderism or #Russiagate. Yet the tech giants get to do exactly that. Why?

Thomas also likened Big Tech to “public accommodations,” such as hotels and baseball stadiums, which are legally required to serve everyone and not discriminate.  

Nor did Thomas buy free-market absolutists’ argument about competition limiting Big Tech tyranny. He pointed to the “substantial barriers to entry” facing newcomers. The fate of Parler proves the justice’s point. When the Twitter alternative offered a censorship-free platform, Big Tech colluded to crush it.  

We’re facing a new form of censorship, in some ways far more sinister than the state-directed variety. Democrats and their media allies are happy to deputize Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to censor the deplorables; there is no recourse or appeal, because the people doing the censoring are nameless, faceless Silicon Valley operatives.

And don’t count on President Joe Biden. A staggering 14 of his picks to serve in the transition or in his new government are Big Tech alumni, according to a Daily Caller tally. Indeed, Biden probably owes his presidency in part to Big Tech — which rushed to censor this newspaper’s reporting on the Hunter Files, on the patently false pretext that The Post had peddled “disinformation” or “hacked material.”

It’s salutary, then, that Thomas believes the high court can apply his reasoning without waiting for Congress. Until then, the public will hear only what Silicon Valley wants, and the place is awash with wokesters more dangerous than any college campuses — because these people control the levers of information.

Last week, Lara Trump posted an interview with the former president on Facebook. Immediately, Facebook took it down, explaining that “further content posted in the voice of Donald Trump will be removed.”

Only the high court will restore uncensored discourse, an American ideal. Thomas’ opinion illumines the way. 

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York.

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Opinion

NY’s mad criminal ‘reforms’ are now claiming the lives of babies

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NY’s mad criminal ‘reforms’ are now claiming the lives of babies

Let’s start with a truth: Neither the police nor our other criminal-justices institutions are perfect. Their imperfections are worth the attention of those in a position to address them. But that effort must be undertaken without losing sight of another truth: Imperfect though they may be, these institutions are also essential to protecting communities from crime, particularly violent crime.

In recent years, New York leaders have turned their focus almost entirely to reforming the system’s imperfections, and they have lost sight of their public-safety mission. This has constrained the ability of the system to protect the public safety, which has dramatically declined the past year, judging by rising shootings and homicides across the state.

The price is high. Heartrending recent stories involving young children here remind us that, too often, it is the most vulnerable among us who suffer the burden of increased violence.

Take Dior Harris, an 11-month-old baby who had her life snatched from her this week in a drive-by shooting in Syracuse, where homicides are up again so far this year, after a 55 percent spike in 2020. The shooting also wounded two other girls, ages 3 and 8. The police have made an arrest in the case: Chavez R. Ocasio, 23. In addition to murder, he’s been charged with a parole violation, according to The Post.

That he was charged with a parole violation tells us something important: This was someone the system chose to release. Those who make a habit of keeping up with some of the horrific stories of criminal violence in New York and elsewhere know the pattern and its lesson: It’s repeat offenders — often out on bail, probation or parole — who are frequently behind the scourge of violence.

Or consider the story of 10-year-old Ayden Wolfe, who police allege was beaten to death in Gotham by his mother’s boyfriend, Ryan Cato, who was arrested and charged in the child’s murder. Cato, it turned out, had at least one open criminal case (and multiple priors) for a December arrest involving allegations of domestic violence.

Police haven’t yet been able to make an arrest in the shooting of a 12-year-old boy in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, last week. When interviewed by The Post, the boy’s grandmother said of the gun violence in the neighborhood, “It happens all the time.” She added, “Now in this city, it’s kill or be killed.”

Bed-Stuy is where 1-year-old Davell Gardner Jr. was shot and killed last summer while in his stroller at a neighborhood park. Police haven’t been able to make an arrest in that case, either. But a recent gun-trafficking indictment of four men reveals that repeat offenders may have played a role in the neighborhood’s summer violence.

Among those indicted was a New York City MTA worker, 49-year-old Vernal Douglas, who was allegedly heard on wiretaps discussing Gardner’s murder. He seemed to be lamenting the heat the case had brought to his alleged gun-trafficking business. One of Douglas’ codefendants is another 49-year-old, named Montoun Hart, who, according to news reports, narrowly dodged a 1997 murder charge after the judge tossed a confession he had allegedly given while under the influence.

Citing an NYPD spokesperson, Oxygen.com reported that in the years since that case, Hart has racked up a number of arrests involving drugs and firearms.

It’s not just New York, either. In Chicago, Kayden Swann, a 1-year-old boy, was shot in the head on April 6 in what police say was a road-rage incident. Swann was riding in the backseat of a car driven by an acquaintance of his grandmother, Jushawn Brown, who was arrested later that day on felony gun charges but released on bond.

Just outside Houston, in Passadena, Texas, Raymeon Means stands accused of shooting a 6-year-old girl. According to local reports, Means had at least two prior convictions involving children.

While the harms associated with the crime spike many American cities are still experiencing extend to victims of all ages, children are among the least capable of defending themselves and, therefore, among the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, none of these stories seems to have caused policymakers to second-guess their commitment to “reform” for its own sake, leaving us with a troubling question: If the murders and shootings of infants, toddlers, and preteens can’t shame lawmakers into rededicating themselves to safety, what will?

Rafael A. Mangual is a senior fellow and deputy director of legal policy at the Manhattan Institute.

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Opinion

NY Times wants to defund the police — except the one in its lobby

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NY Times wants to defund the police — except the one in its lobby

Last year, The New York Times ran an opinion piece titled “Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish The Police,” as well an editorial claiming “. . . too often in recent months, instead of a balm, the Police Department has become another source of trauma.”

These were an ugly par for the course regarding the Gray Lady’s regular mistreatment of New York’s Finest.

So why is a member of the NYPD patrolling the lobby of the Times’ office building? Isn’t the editorial board worried about this cop inflicting trauma on its workforce?

Scratch an advocate who favors defunding the police and you usually find someone with private armed security. In this case, a company such as The Times writes a check to the NYPD, which pays the officer, minus an administrative fee, to provide protection in full police regalia.

As accustomed as we are these days to rank hypocrisy, this example is particularly dangerous. The New York Times has regularly thrown gasoline on the fire of “defund the police,” suggesting the NYPD is a force for bad. Yet faced with worry that someone might slip through their lobby and into the newsroom, who do they turn to?

At least the Times has finally caught up with the opinion of black and Hispanic communities as far as policing goes. Polling has shown, for example, that huge majorities of black Americans absolutely do not want diminished police presence.

And now we know, no matter what fills the pages of their paper, that the Times doesn’t want that either.

As far as the billowing broadsheet is concerned, we should consider turning our neighborhoods into a cop-free social experiment, while its employees enjoy protection their own building. Stop lecturing us.

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Opinion

Harris’ hopeless ‘root cause’ prescription for the border

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Harris’ hopeless ‘root cause’ prescription for the border

It’s worse than we thought: Vice President Kamala Harris just identified the “root cause” of the surge in illegal migrants at the southern border: climate change.

There’s “the need for economic development” and “a need for resilience around extreme climate” because “severe climate experiences” have been “dampening” agriculture in the Northern Triangle nations where most of the border-crossers come from, she said.

Not a mention of the corrupt governments that prevent economic progress — and are sure to pocket the bulk of any foreign aid meant to develop those economies or make their farms more “resilient.”

Nor did she touch on the gangs that terrorize the common people there, giving them more urgent reason to flee.

Seems like the Biden administration’s strategy isn’t to back more competent leadership and tie aid to real-world results. It will be to pour even more cash into the Green New Deal and throw another billion at bad governments. 

This isn’t an answer, it’s a recipe for burning money.

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