Calls seem to be increasing for government controls on social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Former President Donald Trump, conservative gadfly Dennis Prager and others have sued one or more of these sites, seeking court orders to prevent the sites from removing or flagging content that the outlets deem false or incendiary. Liberals have called for regulation of the sites, blaming them for not removing content they say helped provoke the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, promote challenges to the 2020 general election and efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You’re killing people,” President Joe Biden charged Facebook officials Friday during a news conference, accusing the medium of spreading “misinformation” that led people to avoid vaccination against the still-potentially fatal viral disease.

CEOs have been called to testify before Congress to explain their policies almost every recent year, either for not doing enough to remove questionable content or for being to aggressive in its removal. One of the 11 items on the agenda for the Texas Legislature’s special session is a bill that would prevent social media outlets from “censoring” content they find offensive or false.

Proponents of such controls, on both sides of the political aisle, need to remember the constitutional protections against their efforts, and recognize that they are prime examples of tyranny.

Outlets that allow third-party postings, from Facebook to comment lists on newspaper articles normally do their best to address false, obscene or provocative content, but it’s virtually impossible to catch everything. Major social media invest heavily in efforts to keep posted content clean, accurate and fair; it’s in their financial interest — people will stop using a medium that becomes unreliable.

Government controls are something altogether different. While public pressure is allowable and even advisable, regulation of content crosses the kind of line that separates free states such as ours from dictatorships.

It’s also unconstitutional.

Most people understand that the First Amendment’s protection of free speech prevents government from controlling what people say. We also must recognize a corollary to that: government can’t force people to say anything against their will. Compelling social media to carry content it ordinarily would purge, regardless of the reason, violates that protection.

In fact, asking our government to force social media to carry — or remove — conservative content against their will is exactly the same as the Chinese government ordering newspapers to print Mao Zedong’s writings, or the Iranian government forcing broadcasters to recite passages from the Quran.

Major social media already police themselves; some think they do too much, others not enough. People have every right to comment on their efforts and request — even demand — improvements. Imposing government controls — controls that can change with every change in administration or party control — violate everyone’s speech protections, and threaten to create fissures that weaken the very democracy that keeps us all free.