A supposedly conservative U.S. senator from Missouri – a man who claims to believe in limited government, understand the First Amendment to the Constitution and respect our nation’s traditions of free enterprise – insults all three with a birdbrained bill to establish a “fairness doctrine” for social media companies.

Under the pretext of stopping supposed bias against conservatives, Sen. Josh Hawley would empower federal bureaucrats to regulate sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others, effectively forcing those private publishers to publish offensive content or expose themselves to crippling lawsuits.

Hawley’s target is a little-known part of the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 that protects these platforms from legal liability for libelous user content because they’re theoretically neutral forums, not curated like newspapers.

But, his twisted logic goes, since those websites now often seek to sideline some hateful speech – Louis Farrakhan comparing Jewish people to insects, or Alex Jones calling Newtown victims “crisis actors,” to name two examples – they must prove they aren’t being biased in their decision-making, or risk losing the law’s special protections.

This is madness. Twitter, Facebook and other sites surely make mistakes, failing to boot truly odious content, like incitement to commit acts of terror, while sometimes freezing or canceling the accounts of people who simply challenge prevailing orthodoxy.

Only an idiot would defend their every decision.

But only a far larger idiot would claim that their attempts to keep their otherwise free forums sane and civil should force their choices – which, after all, are a form of speech – to be subject to federal oversight.

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