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Can You Protect Democracy by Destroying Free Speech?
By The Daily Bell Staff - February 20, 2018

Political retribution for free speech is not a conspiracy theory. It happened. The IRS targeted people who donated to nonprofits for limited government causes.

So you can understand why certain donors to non-profits want to keep their identities hidden. A non-profit sued the state of New York arguing that regulations requiring non-profits to disclose their donors create a “climate of fear” that could chill free speech.

But the court rejected their argument. They ruled nonprofits must disclose their donors.

“An individual who seeks to advance a cause might reasonably hesitate knowing that an officer of the state will see that they have done so….But totalitarian tendencies do not lurk behind every instance of a state’s collection of information about those within its jurisdiction,” Judge Rosemary Pooler wrote.

So the judge admits that this regulation could deter free speech, but approves of it anyway.

Totalitarian tendencies don’t have to lurk behind every government collection of information. It is enough that government officials could and have abused their power under these regulations.

People argue political speech in the form of donations must be regulated to protect democracy. But this necessarily comes down to destroying free speech. You can’t control what people and businesses can say through advertising, articles, and social media without infringing on free speech.

It is the same sentiment in the Russia probe. Free speech on social media networks is dangerous because some “bad actors” can game the system to their advantage.

Critics are speaking out against using endorsements such as “likes” and “retweets” to surface content on social media platforms. The criticism comes in light of special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment Friday, which cited Facebook more than any other platform as a tool used for Russian meddling.

…it’s becoming obvious that gaming social engagement was a part of the Russian’s strategy and will be something Facebook will need to address moving forward.

Just because some people use free speech for nefarious purposes does not mean the solution is regulating free speech.

Democracy is influenced by money. That isn’t going to change. Infringing on free speech may very well adjust how democracy is influenced by money. The government could decide who the winners and losers will be with their restrictive regulations.

That makes it easier for those in power to stay in power, and limit challenges from the outside.

But rest assured that money is not going away from politics. That is the whole problem with the political structure. It is not based on the consent of the governed. A majority can force their will on a minority with their votes. The influence isn’t the root of the problem, the system is.

Influence is for sale. You don’t have to appeal to customers or satisfy investors. You just have to win the votes. And anyone with any knowledge of advertising knows that the more money you have, the easy it is to influence the target.

Just think of the prize those Russian agents have won if their tiny meddling in election advertising limits freedom of speech for all Americans. Any regulations that come out of the “Russian influence” probe will be a victory for Russia, and a loss for America.

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