Below is my column in USA Today on the recent call by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) for Amazon to steer readers to “true” books on climate change. It is the latest example of Democrat’s embracing a type of corporate governance model to carry out tasks barred to the government under the Constitution. Companies are now being asked to protect us from our own dangerous interests and inquiries. An array of enlightened algorithms will now watch over citizens to help them make good choices and read “true” things.
Two centuries ago, rulers sought to convince subjects that they should embrace the notion of “enlightened despotism,” living without rights under the beneficent watch of overlords. Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II summed up the idea with the maxim “everything for the people, nothing by the people.”
Today, we seem to be living in an age of enlightened corporate despotism, where social media and technology companies watch over what we read and what we discuss to protect us from ourselves.
That corporate governance model was on display this month when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called on Amazon CEO Andy Jassy to use algorithms to steer readers away from books that spew “misinformation.”
Enlightened algorithms are already responsible for large-scale censorship across social media platforms that reach global audiences. They “stand the wall” as sentinels against dangerous ideas.
Warren argued that people were not listening to the enlightened views of herself and leading experts.
Instead, they were reading views of vaccine skeptics by searching Amazon and finding books, including “falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and cures, including those written by the most prominent spreaders of misinformation.”
Warren blamed Amazon for failing to limit searches or choices:
“This pattern and practice of misbehavior suggests that Amazon is either unwilling or unable to modify its business practices to prevent the spread of falsehoods or the sale of inappropriate products.”
In her letter, Warren gave the company 14 days to change its algorithms to throttle and obstruct efforts to read opposing views.
What was most striking about this incident is that Warren was eager for others to see her efforts to promote a form of censorship.