Facebook & Free Speech do not Mix

Censorship is the strongest drive in human nature; sex is a weak second.” Phil Kerby.

Facebook fascismFree speech and facebook—oil and water—they don’t mix. I am not a fan or follower of the people facebook just banned from their social media platforms: Laura Loomer, Milo Yiannopoulos, Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson and Louis Farrakhan, but I oppose the banning of these people from facebook and instagram for a number of reasons:

  1. “Facebook is a platform not a publisher, therefore they have no right to ban anyone, even if Facebook is a private company. Facebook is akin to a public utility like the old Bell Telephone System, which the government broke up because it was a monopoly. When Facebook bans users like Alex Jones and Louis Farrakhan because of their political positions, it is like a phone company refusing someone phone service because they might use the phone to promote white supremacy, black nationalism or conspiracy theories. It is not the same as a newspaper deciding to not publish someone’s racist letter.” The New York Daily News wrongly asserts that facebook is a private organization and “can set their own standards with respect to decorum and taste.” No! Facebook is a communications venue and a public utility.
  2. I am not comfortable with cyberpunks and their al gore rhythms deciding what hate speech or extremism is. I am old enough to remember when Martin Luther King, Jr. was called an extremist.
  3. The fear of being banned from facebook will have a negative effect on the serious content of facebook, which as a platform is already set up to promote trivial content rather than serious content. In his book, Anti-Social Media, Siva Vaidhyanathan concluded from his facebook newsfeed, “Nothing prompted me to think deeply. Everything made me feel something.”
  4. Banning people not only violates their right of free speech, it can hurt an individual’s right to earn an income.

For a long time, I have debated closing my facebook account. Facebook, however, has helped keep my business in the black. For the time being I have decided to stay with facebook, fight facebook and protest its policies. Meanwhile, I will not buy another facebook ad as I have done in the past.

Meanwhile, I will keep reading books and limiting my time on facebook. While not all books prompt us to think deeply, they are more likely to do so than facebook and instagram. I highly recommend two books that intersect with facebook’s anti-free speech policies, even though they were written before facebook was created. They are The First Freedom: The Tumultuous History of Free Speech in America and Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other. Both are by former Village Voice writer, Nat Hentoff.

Don’t have time to read? Limit your facebook time and you will. If you are spending an hour a day on facebook and you minimize your time to 15 minutes a day, you will have time to read one 300+ page book every week.

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