How much power do the social media giants have?

Monopolistic control over how information is disseminated is a bigger problem for Americans now than were such domination of the oil, steel and automobile industries a century or so ago. The problem was on glaringly bright display last week.

A story reported initially by the New York Post received at least some coverage widely in the conventional press — that is, newspapers and broadcast news outlets. The report involved a series of emails allegedly recovered by a computer repair shop from a laptop left there and not claimed by former vice president Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

Suffice it to say supporters of President Donald Trump were delighted by the report. Those hoping Joe Biden will win the presidential election were not. It has been pointed out the alleged Biden emails have not been verified.

Again, however, consumers of news from conventional outlets at least know about the controversy. People who rely on social media such as Facebook and Twitter may not.

That is because both online media giants suppressed postings regarding the Post’s stories. Twitter, for example, banned its users from sharing links to the stories. Facebook said it was “reducing” distribution of the reports.

Neither Facebook nor Twitter were guilty of the kind of censorship banned by the First Amendment, of course. It bans suppression of information by the government, not private entities.

Again, however, Facebook and Twitter are classic examples of monopolies. Theirs happen to involve information, not consumer goods.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted Friday that his company had made a mistake. “Straight blocking of URLs was wrong,” he said, adding that “we updated our policy and enforcement” to correct the problem.

How many times have we heard that from the tech moguls?

For now, anger at social media giants comes primarily from conservatives. But what if those with the power to suppress information decide at some point that liberal comments should be banned, too?

Power corrupts, it has been said. Is there any question about how much power the social media giants have?

By Paul Wager