Facebook Has Banned Alex Jones. Should They Have?

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Things are getting real:

I dunno, folks. These three add nothing to planet Earth by their existence, so I don’t mind banning them. But who made this decision?

Legally, there’s no First Amendment issue here since Facebook is a private company. Still, freedom of speech is an American tradition, not just a legal concept, and social media is where people speak these days. If you get banned from Facebook and half a dozen other big platforms, you’ve been effectively silenced.

Do we want a few faceless committees at Twitter and Pinterest and Instagram deciding on these things? If Facebook had been around in the 60s, would Huey Newton have been banned? David Duke in the 80s? Pat Buchanan in the 90s? Ayaan Hirsi Ali today? Should they? Once you start banning people, you’re inviting public pressure to ban even more people, and profit-seeking companies are pretty sensitive to public pressure.

We’ll see how this plays out, but I’m not sure that banning high-profile nutballs is the right way to go here. It invites endless trouble and it’s really not the biggest problem that social media has anyway. It’s the armies of flamers and trolls that really need to be brought under control.

In any case where speech is curtailed, the question to answer is: Who decides? This doesn’t mean that speech is never curtailed. We already do in some ways. But you should always ask: Who decides?

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"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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