Are Social Media Platforms Legally Allowed To Censor Users?

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok — all of these are social media platforms that are used to gather followers who are interested in certain people or subjects. They are used to reach people who buy certain products or vote a certain way. And that means that they are deeply tied to our economy overall. And that means that social media platforms have immense power when it comes to deciding who has “purchasing” power, whether they be individuals or companies.

The question recently arose after Donald Trump was booted off Twitter and Facebook permanently: is censorship of users legal or illegal?

The question is generally framed from one of two perspectives. First, is this type of censorship by a private business enterprise a violation of someone’s First Amendment rights? The answer is “probably not.” But it’s a murky area legally, which means we’re likely to see many courtroom battles in the coming months. The reason the answer is probably not is simple: the First Amendment protects the right to free speech not in general, but when considering potential government restrictions. What we say or do still has consequences dependent on what anyone else thinks. 

The second perspective comes from a discrimination standpoint, i.e. does this private business have the right to potentially discriminate against someone based on the person’s views or soundbites? And the answer is almost undeniably “yes.” This is the case because the Supreme Court has already ruled numerous times that private businesses can neglect to serve groups of people — take selling wedding cakes to same-sex couples, for example. The Supreme Court says if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. That’s the result of our so-called Religious Freedom laws, bogus or not.

But that leads to a somewhat tricky confluence of two important laws: one regarding free speech, the other regarding discrimination. What happens when we consider them both together is not without precedent, but considering this case involves a former president — it’s hard to say how things will turn out.

New COVID-19 Cases Could Threaten Los Angeles Businesses

Big cities have been inundated by a new surge of COVID-19 cases in the past few weeks — and a far greater number are expected in the next few. Analysts have projected hundreds of thousands of American deaths by February. These problems are compounded by economic realities across the country. Thousands of small businesses have already closed, and thousands more might not survive this current round of cases without more help from Congress.

One Los Angeles, California business — Go Kart World — shut down business operations when coronavirus cases first arose in March. Or rather health department officials forced the business to shut down.

Co-owner Cynde Harris said, “I was freaking out. Our season runs February through September. We were losing like $1.4 million a month. There’s no way to recover from that.”

Go Kart World had to let 35 workers know that they would be — at least temporarily — out of a job. The businesses eventually reopened thanks to the economic stimulus provided by the CARES Act. Harris and her husband obtained two federal loans worth a combined $270,000. Another $30,000 was provided by Los Angeles County.

Unfortunately, the family-run business is still on thin ice because of debts already incurred due to shutting down. Harris said, “You can only take on so much. It’s bitter medicine to be told, ‘You can borrow the money,’ when a government closure just drove a truck through your business.”

The CARES Act was worth $2.2 trillion, but it wasn’t enough to hold them over. Another stimulus is much needed, but many believe it won’t easily pass through Congress — especially with Republicans in stark opposition to an incoming president’s agenda, and Democrats’ stark opposition to placing business interests over individual ones. Neither side seems willing or able to compromise for the good of all.

Businesses are likely to close again — even if not mandated by the government — because flu season is here, coronavirus cases are on the rise, and social distancing guidelines and regulations will almost certainly become far more strict in the coming months.

California director of the National Federation of Independent Business John Kabateck said, “The loans they got gave many businesses some moments of respite. But they were Band-Aids on a very big wound. Now they’re very, very terrified.”

None of these projections are speculation anymore. Small business revenue plummeted 29.3 percent in the last month alone. The holiday season might not be enough to turn things around. Only 28.8 percent of small business operations in California are still active. The rest have already closed down either temporarily or permanently.

UC Santa Cruz economist Robert Fairlie said, “Many of these closures may be permanent because of the inability of owners to pay ongoing expenses.”

California currently averages over 11,000 new cases every day — and that number is only going up. The same is true for hospitalizations, which have risen 78 percent.

What Are The Long-Term Economic Consequences To Coronavirus?

There are harsh realities for every tragedy. When we get hit by a natural disaster, we calculate the potential cost by analyzing the total damages to infrastructure, people, productivity, etc. It’s even more complicated than that when we consider the economic impacts of man-made climate change — because we know those natural disasters will occur more often and will be worse. But what about the economic consequences of a virus or disease? 

Unfortunately, it works much the same way.

A warming climate means that these infections and diseases will become much more common in the future, which is disastrous for our long-term economic outlook. In fact, COVID-19 itself might be a consequence of climate change. 

President Trump has done his best to ignore these problems, which has resulted in a large number of lawsuits against his administration. Some have succeeded. Some have failed. Others are forthcoming. While the president himself isn’t liable personally for any unintended consequences of executive actions he takes while in office, we can still try to prevent future damages by legally turning him away from some of these decisions. 

But the consequences are already adding up. First and foremost, many Americans have been ruined financially after losing their jobs — and subsequently their health insurance — which means they can’t contribute to the overall economy. Add to this fact that automation was experiencing exponential growth before so many businesses lost their workforces and what you get is a country led more by robots than by people. That means good news for businesses but bad news for families. 

The economic impacts will be felt more strongly in the coming years as we forget about legitimate concerns amidst ongoing struggles. Will anyone still be wearing a mask in a year or two? It’s hard to say yes considering how widely politicized such a simple thing has become. The virus won’t be gone, though. That means more cases and a higher cost.

Calculating The Economic Impact Of Automobiles In The United States

Many environmental laws are passed in order to preemptively undercut the eventual economic impact of doing nothing. That’s one reason why environmental laws are often aimed at automobile manufacturers: because cutting carbon emissions from cars and trucks could significantly reduce the opportunity for climate change-related natural disasters to affect us financially in the future. But environment is just one of the economic impacts of automobiles in the United States.

Did you know that the economic impact of traumatic brain injuries in the U.S. is about $76.5 billion? That doesn’t even begin to evaluable the real burden for everyday families, who must acquire the legal services of a car accident, personal injury, or brain injury lawyer after suffering from a TBI. This adds yet more billions to the pricetag.

The Trump administration has fought to eliminate carbon emissions restrictions — an action lamented even by the car manufacturers it was aimed to help — which might produce short-term profits in exchange for long-term catastrophic loss. Economists and environmentalists know this already, but the GOP doesn’t seem like it cares. And even Democrats are careful about the promises they make regardless of the magnitude of the problem.

There are a number of ways to reduce the economic burden associated with automobiles. One, make safer vehicles. New safety features are a staple of modern vehicles. Automatic parking or lane changing, sensors that detect a potential collision before one takes place, etc. These reduce the number of accidents even as distracted driving increases (which is another major cause of car accidents). 

Two, reduce emissions. Thanks to Tesla, automakers are looking to produce more electric cars in 2021 than ever before. Automated vehicles are also part of the lineup. Not only will these make driving safer, but they will also optimize driving to reduce gasoline use, and therefore lower emissions as well.

Three, take care of people who are in accidents. TBI is one of the most common injuries after any car accident. Victims sometimes require lifelong care. That means state, local, and federal governments must make access to disability insurance and social security disability benefits easier to obtain. Right now, wait times can extend for years. This is unsustainable in the long-term.

Thankfully all 50 states have passed new legislation in the last fifteen years to make prevention and treatment easier for car accident victims, sports injury victims, and veterans. Much of the legislation forces hospitals and insurance adjusters to help cover costs for survivors. 

The support system is critical for survivors of TBI because most victims suffer from acute memory loss for months or years — or forever. That means they need their family and friends to help them more than ever. TBI can also result in damage to the logic and reasoning centers of the brain, making victims far more susceptible to con artists and scammers, who know that these are easy targets. That means more legislation in the future should be aimed toward increasing criminal penalties associated with scammers who target TBI victims.

Wondering how else automated vehicles could make our world less costly? Check out this video:

Environmental Law Waivers Basically Ignored Due to Riots, Pandemic

By now most of us understand Trump’s tactics pretty well — even as they continue to work. For example, we know that sleight of hand is one of Trump’s favorite strategies when pushing through legislation that many Americans probably wouldn’t like all that much. Like the environmental reviews he just waived by executive order. Most of us, if we had noticed, probably wouldn’t be too crazy about waiving these reviews at a time when the world is overheating to an extent we can’t even fathom.

The goal?

Trump says we need to speed up infrastructure projects in order to jumpstart the economy, which is still flailing about due to the coronavirus. No one will ever argue that American infrastructure is a joke, or that it doesn’t need an influx of cash, but to abandon long-term environmental concerns for short-term “maybe” benefits yet again is about as irresponsible as it gets. 

The executive order reads, “Unnecessary regulatory delays will deny our citizens opportunities for jobs and economic security, keeping millions of Americans out of work and hindering our economic recovery from the national emergency.”

Naturally, affected industries are all too eager to make a buck. CEO Rich Nolan of the National Mining Association said, “Today’s executive order provides an opportunity to jumpstart our economic recovery by ensuring that we are rebuilding and modernizing with American-made materials, equipment and jobs, [including] copper for wiring, metallurgical coal required for steelmaking or zinc for galvanization.”

Not everyone has been so kind.

Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said, “Instead of trying to ease the pain of a nation in crisis, President Trump is focused on easing the pain of polluters.” She described the order as “utterly senseless.”

Naturally, the executive order will end up in court — as long as enough people are paying attention. That’s because the order is exceedingly broad. As such, many will deem it unlawful.

What Does Economic Law Have To Do With The Coronavirus

Economic law is an umbrella term regarding regulations and codes of conduct used both domestically and internationally. What does that mean? It means we have rules for what we can and cannot do when trading with other countries — even if it might seem like we don’t sometimes. These laws regard banking regulations, labor and services, tax law, debt, and even evironmental law. What does that all have to do with the coronavirus covid-19? 

A lot, it turns out.

Covid-19 has already had a major impact on the way Americans live their daily lives. That was made exceedingly clear when grocery store shelves emptied out seemingly overnight. And the mania hasn’t gotten anywhere close to dying down. In fact, because we’re only now ramping up the number of covid-19 testing kits in this country, we’ll probably see the number of cases spike over the next few days.

And that could mean even more panic and general unrest. Economic law helps determine how our country’s businesses react to the crisis. Many have already closed their doors voluntarily, while many have been forced into a mandatory shutdown as state and local governments try to restrict movement outdoors.

Many schools have closed down, but in states where the weather is warming up, parents have taken this as an opportunity to bring the kids outdoors — which means they’re missing the point of these closures completely. When the same kind of public indifference occurred in France, more draconian measures were implemented. Now, French citizens require a written document explaining their reasons for traveling if they decide to venture outdoors. They face steep fines for ignoring the government’s orders.

We can expect more drastic measures to be implemented here in the United States as well, but economic laws might require that some businesses stay open — or even that some people be allowed to travel freely. There’s a lot of red tape to implement measures meant to save us here, which means we have a lot of work to do if we want to remain safe from the coronavirus’s spread.

Wondering what you can do to help? 

First, stay indoors whenever possible. Some scientists believe that the virus can stay alive on surfaces for days. They also believe that people can spread the virus even when they have yet to display symptoms themselves. That’s why it’s so contagious, and that’s why people should restrict their movements. 

Second, take note of who may need help in your community. Know any older residents who are on their own? Check in on them — even if that means no more than making a quick phone call once a day.

Will Economic Law Someday Move Primarily Off-Planet?

The very idea of a branch of law moving entirely off-planet sounds perverse without context. Won’t our society always need an economy to thrive? Well, yes and no. We can certainly imagine a future that does not include money as we know it. Star Trek certainly showed us how to imagine it. But do we think it a likely future? Certainly not. But there are many other reasons we might consider the possibility that many of our economic laws could one day move primarily off-planet.

Jeff Bezos, who you may have heard announced a $10 billion investment in the fight against man-made climate change, owns a company called Blue Origin. The company was built for many of the same reasons that similar companies — like SpaceX — were built. They strive to spread humanity throughout the solar system. And perhaps even farther.

But Bezos wants to commercialize space for another reason. He believes that it is the perfect place for “heavy industry.” Factories spew smog into our atmosphere. Coal plants and oil refineries poison us and make the planet warmer and warmer, the effects of which ripple outward like a wave, ever growing in size.

Renewables like wind and solar are now cheaper to build and maintain than dying industries — that continue to be subsidized and politically propped up — like coal and oil. Imagine if renewable energy was all we needed! Imagine if factories were transported to off-world locations like Mars. There are untold resources on other planets and inside asteroids. We haven’t even scratched the surface of the riches that are out there because we’ve only ever looked for them on Earth.

But if Bezos is successful, someday those riches will be ours. If Earth becomes a primarily residential biosystem, as he envisions, then most of our economic laws will become pointless. Sure, people will still buy and trade on Earth. But many of our regulatory laws will have to change to oversee transportation of goods from where they are manufactured on other planets to our home on Earth.

That reality might not be as far away as you think. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders is widely considered a socialist by those who want to scare people away from voting for him, but his policies are actually incredibly popular. If they’re ever implemented, expect to see wealth change hands. Expect to see a greener world as companies are held accountable for their actions. Expect to see big changes in economic law.

Should Economic And Environmental Laws Overlap?

Economic law is simple in its discipline. It can mean two things: the basic laws that regulate the economy or an actual system of law governed by the economy. For the purpose of further simplification, we’re referring to the laws that help regulate our economy. Our legislators write these laws to prevent businesses from taking advantage of people (thus closely intertwining economic law with business law) and to try to prevent the economy from weakening.

Basically, the idea is simple but the implementation is difficult — if not impossible.

Environmental law is even easier to define. This branch of law prevents businesses and individuals from damaging our environment. It exists to protect our natural world from those who would abuse it.

When one considers these two branches of law, an obvious question arises: how do they affect one another? The answer is complicated. Obviously, how we treat the environment can have a great effect on our financial wealth overall. For example, Australia is on fire right now. This is a direct result of man-made climate change. These wildfires won’t only kill off potentially billions of endangered animals, but they’ve already led to dozens of human casualties. How many people have lost their homes?

The effort to prevent these fires from spreading further is an effort in futility, and we know it. The cost of these fires will be astronomical, and we know it. How could the damage have been prevented? With better environmental laws? Or with different economic laws? Should we watch one branch of law when considering the other? The obvious answer is yes. One branch affects the outcome of the other.

And it goes in the other direction, too. Economic law can affect the resources we have at our disposal to fight these climate catastrophes. The more wealth we accumulate, the easier it is to prevent disaster or protect our environment. And, hopefully, to enact even more stringent economic and environmental regulations. 

That’s becoming a much more difficult prospect around the world as conservative governments begin to tighten their hold on political power and do even more damage. The great irony is that conservatives are supposed to be fiscally responsible — but their actions have led to costs that can’t even be measured by traditional methods. On the other hand, liberal governments have done their best to reign in damaging behavior by those who pose a danger to the economy and environment, saving us money over time.

Of course, that’s a generalization. Followers of political parties do tend to hold to the party’s core beliefs, however. Here in the United States, the Republican party is only now waking up to the dangers of man-made climate change.

Are Most Lawyers Democrats Or Republicans?

When considering the rule of law, political bias shouldn’t matter — because law, by definition, is something determined by a set of facts, or at the very least by the general moral beliefs of our society as a whole. But the political bias of lawyers matters for another reason: It provides us with another way of gauging how closely intertwined law and economy really are. Would you be surprised if we said most lawyers give more money to the Democrats?

When Robert Mueller was compiling his report on potential Russian interference in the 2016 election and the possibility that the then-presidential candidate Donald Trump may have conspired with Russian officials to steal the election, many Republicans cried foul because some of the attorneys working with Mueller had donated to Democrats. 

Maya Sen, a political scientist at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) said, “The Trump administration surrogates [have found] an argument that’s really resonated. It’s that ‘Bob Mueller can’t really be trusted with this investigation and his investigation is inherently partisan because he’s amassed a team where many more members have donated more money to Democrats.”

But as it turns out — that’s just what lawyers are most likely to do. Should that really be a reason to call out the investigative process or results of any lawyer-led report to Congress? 

Sen said, “What’s interesting about it is that if Bob Mueller was throwing darts at a wall and the wall had names of elite attorneys [on it], and he was randomly choosing, he would choose a team where the people mostly donate to Democrats… According to our research, 68 percent of lawyers who’ve made any political contributions give more money to Democrats than Republicans.”

Should we start looking at political contributions as a factor when choosing lawyers? We obviously see political bias as an extremely important factor when installing Supreme Court justices. Then again, should we simply take money out of the equation by making it illegal for people in certain occupations to donate money to political campaigns? That wouldn’t do anything but make bias more invisible, but it would give us less of a reason to smear results based on political leanings, at the very least.

Sen goes on to explain that the trend toward liberal attorneys is relatively new from a historical point of view. Lawyers were conservative at least through the 70s. One of the reasons the trends changed might be the turn of the Civil Rights era. But that’s just speculation. Sen says that we really just don’t know for sure.

All we can really do is look at where the money goes.

Sen dismisses the aforementioned arguments made in the hopes of diminishing the Mueller report, though. He said, “Trump himself has given a lot of money to Democrats….Members of his family have donated in large numbers to Democrats, and members of his staff have donated in large numbers to Democrats.”

In other words, there are a lot of reasons why a person might donate to the Democrats — because even Republicans do it all the time.

Is Economic Law About To Catch Up With Big Tech Companies?

Some presidential contenders — Elizabeth Warren, namely — have been firing shots at big tech companies like Facebook and Google. She says they need to be broken up. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has been candid in his responses. He says his company will be ready to fight that battle when the day approaches (of course, that’s only if she or someone of a similar mind, like say, Bernie Sanders, is elected in 2020). 

As we all know, Trump is more “business friendly.” Even though that friendliness usually comes at everyone else’s expense.

But sometimes all a big name has to do is mention change for the process of change to begin. Former President Obama said as much when people asked him about his opinions on minimum wage. He thought the minimum wage should be higher — and as soon as those opinions were known, the fight for fifteen began in earnest. The federal government has done little for minimum wage, but state governments haven’t been waiting around doing nothing.

That’s why the recent California law passed recently is such a big deal. It forces big tech companies to stop treating their employees like contractors, and start treating them like, well, employees. Of course, tech companies seem to think laws are more of a suggestion than a certainty. If a law can successfully be flouted, then that law doesn’t matter. That’s exactly why Uber is being investigated five times over.

And not all is sitting well with the drivers who the new law applies to, either. They went on strike recently after Uber randomly decided to cut their pay by a massive 25 percent. That’s on top of the juggling going on within Uber’s corporate structure. Former CEO Travis Kalanick was ousted for his inability to nix the apparent sexual harassment that pervaded the company.

It’s difficult to see this kind of behavior from the leaders of big companies today and not compare it to the leaders of corporate empires yesterday. We’re thinking of those tech-heavy empires like Rockefeller, Dupont, JP Morgan, etc. The rampant corruption in the 1920s, in a lot of ways, was even worse. But that’s no reason not to hold big companies accountable now. 

Americans were quicker to make it to the polls back then, a massive response to the unreasonable leaders of those technological entities. And perhaps the recent wave of Democratic wins in Kentucky and Virginia are a sign of what’s to come: bigger turnout because more Americans want to see their leaders — and the corporate leaders who have them under their thumbs — held accountable for their illegal actions.