The funniest part of the Google CEO Sundar Pichai testimony before the House Judiciary Committee was when Representative Lieu (D-CA) said that Google and other for-profit corporations have First Amendment rights—after Democrats were denying, protesting, and suppressing such rights for decades and had a derangement syndrome over Citizens United. Soon, they might figure out that bakers refusing to make cakes for a “gay marriage” ritual have First Amendments rights too.
Google does have First Amendment rights and exercise them on its corporate blogs, by speaking to the media, placing ads on the sites of third parties and its own site, and in many other ways. But Google Search, YouTube, and most other resources are services, not speech. They are not different from auto repair or accounting. This is how Google has been marketing them, and this is how users understand them.
The Supreme Court has decided this matter long ago:
To determine whether an actor’s conduct possesses “sufficient communicative elements to bring the First Amendment into play,” the Supreme Court has asked whether “[a]n intent to convey a particularized message was present and [whether] the likelihood was great that the message would be understood by those who viewed it.”
Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 404 (1989) (quoting Spence v. Washington, 418 U.S. 405, 410-11 (1974) (per curiam)).
Google denies that it delivers any anti-conservative message on YouTube or in search results. And that message is not particularized for any search query, and hardly any users understood it. Additionally, Section 230 shields Google from many kinds of responsibility but also reaffirms that its services are not constitutionally protected speech:
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider. (47 U.S. Code § 230[c])
When prompted by one of the Democratic members, Sundar Pichai refused to claim that Google’s services are protected by the First Amendment, essentially admitting that they are not.
Google has been marketing its search by saying that it aims to deliver search results that are most “relevant” and/or “useful and helpful” for the users. Now we know it is not true—Google aims to deliver search results that are helpful to the Democratic Party, the European Commission, and Merkel’s government. This is fraud, and Google is not above the law.
BTW, Google and Facebook silence not only conservatives and Republicans, but doctors and scientists who warn about the dangers of their products for children. Big Tobacco were angels compared with Big Tech.
Once again, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are neither Masters of the Universe, nor natural part of the “internet landscape”. They are not even media, whose products are protected by the First Amendment. They are just huge corporations, subject to all laws and liable for each fraud and tort they commit. They’ve got used to operate with impunity, and conditioned the public to see that as a new normal. Section 230 is a two-edged sword, and it is doubtful that the protective edge applies to them. Also, Google, Facebook, and Twitter seem to fall under the definition of Title II common carriers.