News outlets have been widely reporting that Facebook has issued the most severe ban yet against “hate speech” or free speech, depending on your view of the issue. The social media gods at Facebook have imposed total bans against several people and one group the company has proclaimed extremists whose speech is too “dangerous” for we mere mortals to hear and discern for ourselves.
If you agree these individuals are political extremists, that’s one thing. But if you also feel that niggle in your patriotic, libertarian, American gut that tells you Facebook’s actions smack of George Orwell’s “1984,” join the club.
According to Forbes.com, the ban includes Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopolous, Paul Joseph Watson, Paul Nehlen, Laura Loomer, and InfoWars. People generally consider InfoWars and the latter five individuals to be right-wing. Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, is harder to pin down ideologically, but it’s left-wingers who tend to support him.
For example, a co-founder of the Women’s March, Tamika Mallory, refuses to condemn his anti-Semitic and anti-gay remarks. And while it’s easy to find photographs of Farrakhan with prominent Democrats, including former presidents (finally, the concealed one with Obama), though not an exhaustive search, I found no photographs of Farrakhan with high-profile Republicans.
Folks like Louis Farrakhan and Alex Jones often spout vile nonsense. But I just don’t have it in my American DNA to trample on their free-speech rights because I disagree with their views. I do something that so many on the left seem to have forgotten how to do. I change the channel, I don’t listen to them, and I don’t read their stuff. Try it.
Prospect.org reminds us: “As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis [a liberal icon] advised, in his famous Whitney v. California opinion in 1927, ‘If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.’”
The Bill of Rights restricts government, not individuals or corporations. I understand that. But what happens when a business entity becomes so enormous, dominant, and politically and economically influential that its effect on society rivals that of a government entity?
I’m not saying I have the specific answers to tame this and other corporate Kraken, but the people we elect should look for some, right? After all, their suppression of conservative and libertarian political speech could accomplish what the Russians have failed to do: affect the outcome of future elections. Are Republican leaders paying attention to this ominous eventuality if this corporate bias against conservative political thought remains unchallenged?
Global goliaths such as Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon control enormous free speech and commerce platforms critical to the economic health of so many business enterprises of every size—and of every political slant. They have a special responsibility to the public to uphold American ideals, especially free speech, and the right to conduct commerce (pursuit of happiness).
When global companies such as these ban certain individuals from their massive platforms, they literally take food out of people’s mouths. Perhaps these companies believe it’s right to do this to people who are “so evil.” But just because you don’t like what a person believes or says (barring actual criminal actions) doesn’t mean you should deny him or her the services you offer to the public.
After all, if liberals denying conservatives access to these platforms becomes the new American ideal, then what happens if the pendulum swings back, and the free speech abridgers become the free speech victims?
What happens if conservatives were to unilaterally decree liberals’ political speech “hate speech”? But that’s the unfair advantage the neo-left has, isn’t it? Its willingness to trample rights if it serves its religiopolitical agenda. Conservatives, and certainly libertarians, have an ethical inhibitor. They believe vehemently in free speech and commerce—for everyone!
The obvious historical corporate example, though admittedly not identical, is the quintessential communications platform we call the telephone. Can you imagine the damage that would have been done to free speech if a conservative or liberal Ma Bell would have banned their opponent’s political speech as “hate speech” over its phone lines?
Wondering how the phone company would know your politics? Well, back in the day, operators could listen in on phone calls and, with party lines, so could your neighbors. Just as Facebook’s algorithms can “listen” to what it considers “hate speech,” even if it’s only conservative political speech.
You can use a phone to call 911 to get an ambulance to come to the aid of an injured person. You can also use that same phone to call to promote your political message. For that matter, you could even use the phone to arrange your crew to rob a bank. The platform, the phone, remains neutral. The law enters the equation only when a criminal action occurs, and with the restriction of warrants.
While the Constitution limits what government can do, as individual Americans and corporations, shouldn’t we honor, preserve, and promote the intent of the Constitution when and where we can? Though there are differences with governments, shouldn’t we, as individuals and corporations, adhere to our nation’s ideals whenever possible? Shouldn’t we err on the side of free speech and free commerce? We should. Otherwise, we risk the seesaw battle of “hate speech” determinations by political parties, which is not hate speech but merely political speech with which we disagree.