Throwing his arms around a far-right provocateur whose shtick includes labeling political adversaries “queers” and “fags,” Senator Ted Cruz on Thursday tweeted a rebuke of YouTube over the company’s belated decision to take action against Steven Crowder, a man whose years-long campaign of harassment against a gay journalist invariably culminated in a barrage of death threats.
Complete with an ironically deluded metaphor about a 15th century court dissolved over its tendency to politically oppress its subjects, Cruz, a prolific homophobe in his own right, portrayed YouTube’s decision as an attempt at “playing God,” while further casting the incident (to be largely forgotten a week from now) as a foretoken of something deeply sinister.
“This is ridiculous. YouTube is not the Star Chamber -stop playing God & silencing those voices you disagree with,” tweeted the Texas Republican, adding: “This will not end well.”
Cruz’s words are ironic if not acutely hypocritical. He’s one of the leading conservatives to champion a doomed-to-fail movement against platforms like YouTube because, in his view, they don’t promote his own personal political views vigorously enough.
Relying on a blatant and intentional misinterpretation of what’s considered the most important law protecting internet speech-Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act-Cruz’s thinking is that, legally, all websites have to remain politically neutral, or else be held liable for any of the offensive or libelous content generated by their users. (The law itself, which any 8th grader could interpret, says absolutely nothing of the sort.)
If that were the case, as Ted would have us believe, the internet as we know would simply cease to exist. Virtually no company would ever risk being inundated with lawsuits to the point of bankruptcy if legal action could be brought over every little comment posted by its users.
Without the safe harbor provisions afforded website owners under Section 230, many experts believe that no law would exist to protect them from being held liable for user-generated content. Imagine, if you will, Ted Cruz suddenly armed with the ability to file suit against Facebook for millions of dollars because a single Facebook user suggests he’s a notorious serial killer.
Steven Crowder is objectively a homophobic dirtbag with the intellectual range of a deer tick. In fact, the shirt he’s wearing in the photo tweeted by Cruz, which Crowder himself designed, reads: “Socialism Is For Fags.” Whatever the reader’s opinion may be on the topic of socialism, this is clearly not an individual whose personal problems warrant the attention of a U.S. senator, whom, one might presume, has bigger fish to fry. (Try an algorithm that’s helping pedophiles find videos of kids.)
Cruz’s remarks about YouTube “playing God” is, to use his own term, “ridiculous,” when it’s he who is out to hold YouTube’s feet to the fire over what he perceives is a political bias. In his mind, every website should have a proverbial gun to its head forcing it to elevate his political views at least as equally the next guy’s (regardless of how unpopular they may be).
And all of this from a guy who will tell you that corporations are people with rights to free speech identical to his own-at least in cases that involve filling his campaign coffer.