Today the gatekeepers of meaningful freedom of speech are the social media companies. But there’s just been scandal after scandal of how these companies have abused their powers to really not serve “We, the people”, but rather to serve their own corporate interests in ways that stifle our speech, and really threaten democracy. What’s really noteworthy is that the First Amendment imposes absolutely no limit on private sector entities. So Twitter, and Facebook, and Google, and all of the social media have complete freedom to pick and choose who gets to speak and what they can say, and who does not get to speak and what may not be said. They are completely unconstrained by the First Amendment and they have just unfettered censorship power. There have been many complaints by members of racial minorities who have been subject to hate speech, that they will post to their friends and say “listen to this horrible racist message” and then that gets taken down as hate speech. There’s no ability to distinguish the context. Is it a message that is endorsing the hateful idea, or is it criticizing the hateful idea? These nuances are just lost. Censorship is an extremely blunt tool, and if we want to prevent them from exercising that vast power in ways that discriminate against certain speakers or certain ideas, we have to use other laws and other tools to constrain that power. Many experts are arguing that social media companies should function the way the phone companies do, as what’s called a common carrier, where they would be required to carry every message of anybody, unless the message is illegal, unless it could be punished consistent with the First Amendment. In the United States these discussions are at the exploration phase, but already the response of the social media companies have been to engage in more self-regulation to try to ward off actual regulation. Anybody who cares about freedom of speech has to care about what the powerful social media companies are doing, because that is where the action is today. If you don’t have free speech online, on social media, you don’t have free speech at all in any meaningful sense.