Individuals from all corners of the political spectrum have been rilled up by the recent bannings of various figures from social media platforms including Alex Jones and Louis Farrakhan. Some have praised these bans for providing good restrictions on what they deem “fake news” or “hate speech”. Others have attacked these bans for being influenced by nefarious motives that are contra free speech. The debate regarding the extent to which social media sites may regulate speech has been going on for years now. Perhaps it is time for a reassessment.
Times change but our rights do not. This sentiment, repeated mostly by conservatives and libertarians, aims to show that no matter what changes in our society, our rights should always stay the same. This is a good mindset for any freedom loving individual. But what happens when society changes so much that the way we enforce these rights change? No, we aren’t talking about guns. We are talking about the mother of all rights, freedom of speech. More specifically, we are talking about how it is threatened on social media.
Facebook announced the banning of multiple conservative media personalities and Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan from the platform. Conservatives banned include Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Alex Jones. Alex Jones, who has previously been banned, had his personal Facebook account and Instagram account barred from the sites. A Facebook spokesman who spoke to CNN said that it will remove any user, groups, or organizations who attempt to represent the banned individuals. This will essentially erase their existence from the site. Facebook cited the individuals banning being due to their “dangerous” rhetoric.
The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights affirms that all people have a right to freedom of speech. This means that the government cannot suppress or ban someone for their political ideology or their belief. However, a private organization could do such a thing; for example, a church or private school can ban profanity on their grounds. There is a free speech gray area relating to what public/private partnerships can and should do about it; this is a problem with our crony capitalist system.
Former Governor of Massachusetts Bill Weld announced today he is running for president against Donald Trump, hoping to secure the Republican nomination.