Free speech takes another hit as Facebook boots wackjob extremists such as Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones and others from its platform, and the libs are lovin' it.
There was a time, not too long ago, when liberals loathed censorship, cherished the idea of freedom of speech and held fast to the dictum, often misattributed to Voltaire, that, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Not anymore. Each new day brings us more examples of so-called progressives abandoning their principles and either clamping down on free speech themselves or applauding when others do it. Take Facebook’s latest censorship blast on Thursday, May 2, targeting the Facebook and Instagram accounts of such squirrelly trolls and extremists as Milo Yiannopoulos, Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones and Jones’ tocsin of conspiratorial insanity, Infowars, among others.
Ostensibly, Facebook removed the accounts for violating its policy against providing a platform to “dangerous individuals and organizations.” Various mainstream (read, “liberal”) outlets cheered the move. For instance, the Los Angeles Times’ deputy editorial page editor, Jon Healy, hailed Facebook for silencing these “provocateurs and conspiracy theorists.”
Facebook Has Every Right To Ban Louis Farrakhan and Alex Jones. But It's Still a Bad Idea.
— reason (@reason) May 3, 2019
Similarly, the Washington Post declared that, “The link between what people say online and what people do offline has never been clearer, and neither has the need for companies to do something about it.”
And Atlantic technology writer, Taylor Lorenz, suggested that Facebook may not have gone far enough, though what she described regarding the banning, even of links to some of the offending material, sounded fairly draconian:
Infowars is subject to the strictest ban. Facebook and Instagram will remove any content containing Infowars videos, radio segments, or articles (unless the post is explicitly condemning the content), and Facebook will also remove any groups set up to share Infowars content and events promoting any of the banned extremist figures, according to a company spokesperson. (Twitter, YouTube, and Apple have also banned Jones and Infowars.)
Jones, Yiannopoulos, Watson, Loomer, Nehlen, and Farrakhan are all personally banned, as are any accounts set up in their likeness. But users may still praise those figures on Instagram and share content related to them that doesn’t violate other Instagram and Facebook terms of service. “We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology. The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today,” a Facebook spokesperson said via email.
Naturally, many on the right were ticked with Facebook’s metaphorical bloodletting and felt that it confirmed their worst fears about Silicon Valley’s attempting to silence them. Breitbart columnist Allum Bokhari, identified elsewhere as Yiannopoulos’ ghost-writer, decried Facebook’s “link-banning,” and pointed out the nefarious implications of the practice.
This takes censorship on social media to altogether new levels. If you post Infowars content on Facebook or Facebook-owned Instagram, your post will be removed. If you post it repeatedly, you will be banned.
Note the wording, too — you’ll be banned unless you’re condemning Infowars. Facebook is now brazenly using its power to reward certain political positions and punish others.
(It’s worth noting that many on right were fine with Facebook axing notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam. Farrakhan had his defenders among some who are at least putatively in the liberal camp — such as Snoop Dogg, who has supported Democrats in the past, mostly.)
There have been voices critical of Facebook that don’t hail from the conservative camp, including that of Politico columnist Jack Shafer, who skews libertarian. Shafer observed that Facebook was “within its rights to evict the accounts, even if they’ve done nothing criminal.” And he rightly noted that, “because the government isn’t involved it’s not a First Amendment issue.”
But free speech as a concept is much broader than the First Amendment, and, as Shafer explained, it involves what sort of speech we are willing to tolerate in the public square.
Facebook and Twitter and other social media are the de facto town squares of our day. If some wacko takes to a soapbox and starts spouting off about the Bilderbergers and the illuminati, you might stop for a moment to listen to his insane rant. If you tarry any longer, that’s on you.
Alex Jones has been banned from Facebook
Laura Loomer has been Banned From Facebook
InfoWars has been banned from Facebook@PrisonPlanet has been banned from Facebook
Milo Yiannopoulos has been banned from Facebook
No more hate
No more lies
No more misinformation!
— Brian Krassenstein (@krassenstein) May 2, 2019
Those in favor of Facebook’s censorship argue that sharing poisonous “hate speech” on Facebook, Twitter, et al., leads inevitably to such mass shootings as have occurred in New Zealand, Powar and Pittsburgh.
However, the deadliest mass shooting in American history to date has been the October 2017 Las Vegas shootings by Stephen Paddock, which killed 58 and left hundreds wounded. Paddock’s motive remains a mystery.
A report by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office found, “no evidence of radicalization or ideology to support any theory that Paddock supported or followed any hate groups or any domestic or foreign terrorist organizations.”
So, banning purveyors of hate speech will not eliminate mass shootings or other forms of violence, any more than censoring video games or violent films will prevent murder.
Those wishing to sanitize popular culture, whether on the left or the right, should always be told to take a flying leap off the top of the Empire State Building. These folks say they want to protect us from aberrant images, video, Facebook posts, Tweets, speech, et al.
Thanks, but no thanks. The price of living in a free society is that it’s often unsafe and chaotic. Police states, whether ruled by the right or the left, sound pretty dull by comparison.