Things are getting real:
Facebook bans Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, InfoWars’ Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos and other high-profile people from its platforms https://t.co/Jm11J1x52y pic.twitter.com/aqriaRlLAu
— CNN (@CNN) May 2, 2019
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?