The right to censor free speech: Part one

Brittany Hunter writes for the Foundation for Economic Education. quote.

Between Trump?s tirades against alleged ?fake news? outlets and the recent banning of Alex Jones from Facebook, Apple, and YouTube, our society appears to be obsessed with trying to silence the opposition by controlling the flow of information. And while the recent Jones prohibition has sparked a national debate over who the First Amendment applies to, there is more to this story than just the issue of state-protected free speech.

To be sure, the [US] Bill of Rights is vital to individual liberty and was written explicitly to restrain the government from infringing upon the rights of the people. And while Facebook may sometimes be more accommodating to the government than many of us would like, the fact remains that it is a private company and it has the right to ban whomever it chooses. The same goes for YouTube and Apple.

And while we are each free to disagree with the decision to censor certain users, debating the constitutionality of Facebook and Apple?s decision ignores the real heart of the matter: Facebook, CNN, Apple, YouTube, and Fox News are not responsible for the spread of misinformation, no matter how much believing so may reinforce our own narratives. When all is said and done, the only person responsible for distinguishing fact from fiction is the individual. […]

The freedom to choose and think for ourselves is one of the most sacred attributes of the individual. But over the last several years, many Americans have adopted an attitude that puts political opinions ahead of individual responsibility.

Politics has created a divide in which everyone is accusing those with different opinions of spreading misinformation. And to be sure, in the political world, there is a lot of misinformation. This is not exclusive to just one party; everyone is guilty of it. But the finger-pointing has gotten out of hand. And the recent banning of Alex Jones and the Infowars podcast has demonstrated just how severe the problem has become.

While Facebook and others have denied that the banning of Jones has anything to do with the fear of spreading ?misinformation,? that is essentially what their argument boils down to. Facebook, YouTube, and Apple have all stated that Jones was removed from their platforms for violating their respective terms of use. Specifically, the social media giants have each cited hate speech and bullying as the primary causes. And out of fear that people will subscribe to Jones? beliefs, which some do, these organizations have made the decision to censor information they deem to be false or misleading.

By allowing people to freely associate with unsavory people, we can make better use of that same freedom by choosing to disassociate ourselves.

Hateful opinions will exist whether Jones is on social media or not, but at least by allowing him to say his peace, we allow people to make their own decisions about his views. And if those decisions include the foolish choice to judge someone based on their race, immigration status, or sexual orientation, then at least we know who to avoid. By allowing people to freely associate with unsavory people, we can make better use of that same freedom by choosing to disassociate ourselves. Alleged ?hate speech? should be treated as a social signal, not an excuse to ban.

The best way to combat bad ideas is with good ideas. And by allowing a plethora of different opinions to be circulated on social media, you give individuals the opportunity to judge the merits of each opinion and ultimately make their own decision. And if our ideas are truly the ?right? ideas, then we have nothing to fear. End quote.

Many have expressed concern about Facebook, Google, et al shadow banning, censoring, search de-ranking and so on but, as Brittany points out, they are free to do as they please with the platforms they own. The fact that we contribute to them more than we may contribute to the daily newspaper or the evening TV channel, does not make these platforms “ours”.? We may feel that they are “ours” but a feeling or impression does not make it so.

Similarly, the privately owned media in New Zealand feel it is okay not to bother with good investigative journalism or showing both sides of a story and that is their prerogative. What about the state-owned TV and radio?

We will look at that when we continue tomorrow.