It's Apparently Bipartisan To Threaten To Punish Companies Via Antitrust Law For Speech You Don't Like
from the not-how-any-of-it-works dept
A little over a week ago, we wrote about how Senator Elizabeth Warren clearly went over the line in threatening to punish Amazon for its speech through the use of antitrust laws. As we noted (pretty clearly, though many ignored it) at the time, there may be plenty of other reasons to use antitrust laws against Amazon, but no government official should ever even jokingly suggest that he or she would use the power of the government (via antitrust) to punish an entity for speech.
In response, many Warren supporters got incredibly mad at me, insisting that because (1) Amazon is big and (2) Warren has supported this position before, then it’s perfectly fine for her to have said what she did. It was not.
On Friday, we got to see the same thing from the other side of the aisle. After Major League Baseball announced that it would move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of Georgia’s new voting law, Rep. Jeff Duncan from South Carolina, stated out loud on Twitter that he intended to punish the company by drafting legislation to remove MLB’s somewhat infamous antitrust exemption.
As we said with Warren, there may be very good reasons to remove MLB’s antitrust exemption. In fact, I’d argue there are compelling reasons to do so. But, announcing plans to do so as punishment for MLB’s clear protest over Georgia’s voting law is pretty clearly an affront to the 1st Amendment. Rep. Duncan is stating directly that he wants to punish a company for protesting a law that he agrees with. This creates a real chilling effect. It may not chill MLB directly, but it likely would chill many other companies from speaking out for fear of retaliation from Duncan and his colleagues in Congress.
It was wrong when Senator Warren did it, and it’s just as wrong with Rep. Duncan does it. It’s also wrong for Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee to do it, jumping on Duncan’s new bandwagon.
Punishing companies using antitrust laws (even if there are good underlying reasons to explore those antitrust issues) for their expression should never be supported, cheered on, or allowed. Just as we called on Warren to take back what she said, we now are saying Duncan, too, should take back his direct threat of punishment for speech. Unfortunately, since everything in politics these days seems to be it’s okay to punish “enemies” and to support “friends” this will never happen. But it sure would be nice if we had politicians with principles who knew that it’s wrong to punish anyone for speech, even if you disagree with their speech (and agree that the “punishment” is warranted for other reasons).