I didn’t cover this yesterday when discussing the Supreme Court ruling to not muddy the waters. Quoting Protocol:
In his concurrence, Justice Thomas agrees with the decision, but argues that, in fact, Twitter’s recent ban of the @realdonaldtrump account suggests that it’s platforms themselves, not the government officials on them, that hold all the power.
“As Twitter made clear, the right to cut off speech lies most powerfully in the hands of private digital platforms,” Thomas writes. “The extent to which that power matters for purposes of the First Amendment and the extent to which that power could lawfully be modified raise interesting and important questions.”
Thomas argues that some digital platforms are “sufficiently akin” to common carriers like telephone companies. “A traditional telephone company laid physical wires to create a network connecting people,” Thomas writes. “Digital platforms lay information infrastructure that can be controlled in much the same way.”
Why do we care?
It’s the references to being a utility that are why we care. I’m not sure I agree with Justice Thomas about these platforms as a utility. I’m more in favor of the creation of true public spaces instead.
However, the Courts looking at pieces of technology as utilities is of note. I’m making the case about broadband as a utility – here Justice Thomas is looking at communications. There’s a healthy debate to be had here – the point is not about the debate itself yet, but the fact that it’s happening. When I say regulation is coming, here’s more of it.