Ex-congressman warns 'robber barons' want control of' marketplace of ideas'

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich. (Photo: Twitter)

A former member of Congress is issuing a warning that social media censorship cannot be allowed to continue, or else the ideas of freedom of expression and freedom of speech will be lost.

“We must not accept the new intolerance of corporate progressives,” Pete Hoekstra said in a commentary at the Gatestone Institute.

“It is time to stand up to the social media titans of our age, the new robber barons, and put a stop to their aggressive attempts to control the marketplace of ideas.”

He is a former representative in Congress from Michigan. He served as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. More recently he was U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

It is social media that has become the “dominant form of communication in our society,” he wrote.

“Sixty-eight percent of U.S. adults identify themselves as Facebook users. Statistics show that people on average spend 2.5 hours per day on social networks and messaging. Also, 49 percent ‘of consumers depend on influencer recommendations on social media,'” he said.

“Social media boosters claim that this success shows that Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other platforms are fulfilling their promise to help build an interconnected world of free expression and solidarity in diversity of thought. But is this true?”

He said in the world of political discourse, social media should be a new marketplace where “differing ideas and policy options could be promoted and debated freely.”

But that’s not what’s happened. Social media companies from Twitter and Facebook to Google and others routinely censor ideas with which they disagree. Many times the censorship is political in nature, in that the companies simply don’t want any discussion over certain issues to be allowed.

“Rather than developing into a new marketplace of open competition among ideas and ideologies, the social media space has narrowed. Thought regulation, and even censorship, whether overt or hidden, has become commonplace. Too often, only ‘correct’ opinion and the approved version of ‘truth’ have been allowed. The arbiters of online speech — faceless corporate bureaucrats — frequently display outright political bias,” he warned.

He cited recently conflicts with social media that have developed at Gatestone.

Also, the attack on freedom of speech at the campaign for Tudor Dixon, a Republican challenging incumbent Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“I was dismayed to learn Ms. Dixon was being punished for the ‘crime’ of publishing poll results that showed declining public support for Governor Whitmer,” he explained.

“How far we have regressed. When I reflect on the threat to free speech that we are experiencing today, I cannot help thinking of the debates that took place in Congress regarding the burning of the American flag. During my tenure as a member of the House of Representatives, multiple votes were held on a constitutional amendment that would have allowed legislation restricting the desecration of the flag. Majorities in both houses of Congress voted to restrict this form of speech, but it never achieved the supermajority necessary to move the process forward. Freedom of speech narrowly won,” he pointed out.

Among the arguments against the restriction were that such a law would hurt free speech, damage the idea of freedom and could provoke others into action.

“The flag desecration votes demonstrate how vulnerable the concept of freedom of speech is. America’s Founders realized the potential tyranny of the majority and that is why they made it the First Amendment. They understood that freedom of speech is essential, and that America is not America without freedom of speech.”

He said he opposes burning the flag, but “I do not have to agree with it to support its protection under the First Amendment of our great Constitution.”

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