Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has provided a roadmap for those who want to see "Big Tech" reined in through the courts – and a media expert says it's a timely opinion from the conservative justice.
The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a First Amendment challenge to President Trump after he blocked a few users from his Twitter account when he was president. They argued he was infringing on their free speech. But the high court decided since he's no longer president, the case is moot.
Justice Thomas (pictured) agreed with the rest of the court, but used the opinion to offer his ideas on the best way to corral massive tech companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter that are doing the same thing – censoring free speech.
"As Twitter made clear, the right to cut off speech lies most powerfully in the hands of private digital platforms," Thomas wrote Monday. "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."
He continued: "When a user does not already know exactly where to find something on the Internet – and users rarely do – Google is the gatekeeper between that user and the speech of others 90% of the time. It can suppress content by deindexing or down listing a search result or by steering users away from certain content by manually altering autocomplete results."
Dan Gainor of MRC TechWatch says it's a significant opinion. "Justice Thomas is very clearly raising the question 'When does the Supreme Court rein in Big Tech?' – and that's a shot across the bow," he tells One News Now.
Thomas writes that the big tech companies are the greatest threat to free speech, and that the court cannot put off weighing in on the issue much longer. Gainor says the problem has reached critical mass during the pandemic.
"Almost everything we do following a year-plus of COVID is done online – and we're being restricted more than ever," the MRC spokesman notes, "and [the tech companies are] trying desperately to get global regulation of speech."
According to Gainor, it's no longer just an issue of free speech. He points out that almost every interaction individuals have is online – going to church, running a business, interacting with government … and Big Tech, he argues, is actively working against fundamental freedoms by setting up rules and regulations that conflict with free speech, a free press, and/or freedom of religion.