Eric Peterson argues against recent conservative calls to counter a perceived left-leaning bias in the media with government action. He likens such calls to the 1949 Fairness Doctrine, which required equal air time of opposing political views in broadcasting. Peterson finds that the first Fairness Doctrine was abused to silence political opposition and dull political commentary before it was repealed in 1987, and any successor would like do the same.
Today, many on the right seem to want a Fairness Doctrine for the Internet. Creating one would demean one of Reagan’s great achievements and give government yet another tool to crack down on its critics.
While President Trump may not like CNN coverage or Google search results of his name, granting the government the power to control search results is asking for a whole host of unintended consequences. Do Diamond and Silk want the government to mandate that they provide time for opposing views on their YouTube channel? Would Lou Dobbs jump at the idea that his online content be paired with videos promoting an opposing view? Would supporters of President Trump (or the president himself) want a Democratic president to have the power to police the Internet?
Even if a platform did bias their algorithm against conservatives, a company has every right to edit the content on its platform. What’s more, a solution exists outside of government regulation: If Google isn’t giving the results Trump supporters want, they can easily switch to Bing, Yahoo!, or DuckDuckGo in seconds and at no cost.
The freedom and choice the Internet provides have allowed for an explosion of different opinions and content available to people around the world. Empowering the government to provide “balance” is not only impractical, but a mistake that could massively backfire — likely against the very people pushing for it.