Do We Have Free Speech on Social Media?
Does free speech extend to online social media platforms? Do we truly have the right to express ourselves freely on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and other social media outlets without the fear of having our accounts suspended or banned altogether?
The debate rages on especially in the wake of the recent “Twitter purge” in which thousands of accounts that Twitter allegedly deemed to be bots or in some cases “Russian bots” were deleted. This seemed to hit the conservative Twitter accounts harder than any other accounts on the social media platform, I personally lost roughly 1,700 of my more than 60,000 followers overnight. Were they indeed “Russian bots”? The world may never know, nonetheless I did regain back nearly all of the followers I had lost, and my account continues to grow.
The Twitter purge continues as a quick Twitter search for the hashtag “TwitterPurge” brings up countless instances in which users are consistently losing hundreds if not thousands of followers every day for the past few days.
This is a joke, right?
— Linda Suhler, PhD (@LindaSuhler) March 10, 2018
Another #twitterpurge? I've lost over 50 followers in a day.
— Leslie-Ann Stoffel (@LA_Stoffel) March 10, 2018
The biggest issue here is not Russian bots or fake accounts, it is Twitter’s alleged attack on the Conservative Twitter accounts and the fact that their approach to dealing with monitoring hate speech and enforcing their community guidelines doesn’t seem to be applied evenly across the political spectrum. There have been countless instances of deragatory, harassing, and even threatening Tweets posted against Conservative accounts and even against our President and those accounts are still alive and well.
We have seen first hand what the atmosphere is like on the inside at Twitter thanks to James O’Keefe’s underconver videos in which he was able to question a few Twitter employees asking them just how they police this social media platform.
Here’s what they had to say!
In this video James O’Keefe’s operation helps to expose what appears to be going on behind the scenes at Twitter. Keep in mind this is just one of the major social media platforms and this mindset seems to be running rampant throughout Silicon Valley as they all do their best to drive a narrative and silence speech they do not agree with.
For example, in this video Twitter employees speak about a practice referred to as “shadow banning” in which they implement algorithms to hide content posted by people with a specific opinion. In this case they spoke about shadow banning Conservatives and Trump supporters. This even goes as far as to giving specific Twitter employees the power to ban accounts they may not agree with.
Now that we have a little insight as to what appears to be going on behind the scenes at Twitter, the question arises – what can be done about this?
As a publicly traded company complete with a set of community guidelines that are supposed to govern how they operate. Of course these guidelines are quite vague leaving open the door for those at Twitter to implement them as they see fit.
According to Business Insider, Roger Stone intends to file an anti-trust lawsuit against Twitter for banning his account.
Roger Stone, the longtime Republican strategist and an informal adviser to President Donald Trump, plans to file an antitrust lawsuit against Twitter after the company permanently suspended his account on Saturday.
“I am going to sue Twitter on multiple grounds,” Stone told Business Insider on Sunday.
He did not elaborate when he would file the suit, and when asked what grounds he planned to sue Twitter on, he replied that he would let the suit “speak for itself when filed.”
Stone told New York magazine, which first reported the news, that he had been advised he has a “very strong legal case.”
“Twitter wants to avoid being regulated like a utility,” he told the publication. “No one has been willing to file the anti-trust case. I am.”
A lawsuit is also being filed by Jarod Taylor, an editor of a journal publication called American Renaissance.
According to Breitbart,
The genesis of the suit is Twitter’s November 2017 announcement that they would start banning and sanctioning users based on their offline behavior and associations. On December 18, 2017, Twitter, five years after their top British executive described the company as “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” made good on this threat, “purging” hundreds of mostly right-wing users. Twitter’s new policy refers to association with “violent extremist groups,” and a company blog post claimed, “If an account’s profile information includes a violent threat or multiple slurs, epithets, racist or sexist tropes, incites fear, or reduces someone to less than human, it will be permanently suspended.”
One of those purged is Jared Taylor, founder and editor of “American Renaissance,” a fringe-right journal on race and immigration. He is frequently described as an “extremist” and a “white supremacist” by left-wing groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the latter of which sits on Twitter’s “Trust and Safety Council,” the largely leftist group of activists and non-profits Twitter assembled in 2016 to help decide which speech to censor.
It’s clear that Twitter has made Mr. Taylor out to be some sort of “right wing extremist” as they do most Conservative minded individuals. Jared has since filed a complaint against Twitter in an attempt to clear his name and restore his account.
Taylor is a graduate of Yale University and Paris’s Sciences Po, the former West Coast editor of PC Magazine, and author of several books. He describes himself as a “white advocate” or “race realist” and condemns Nazism and antisemitism.
According to the complaint, in his more than six years on Twitter, Taylor never made threats, harassed anyone, or otherwise came under scrutiny for his behavior on the platform. Even the SPLC notes Taylor “scrupulously avoided racist epithets employed the language of academic journals” in his writings, and Taylor once wrote an article urging people to be more civil on Twitter.
As the complaint puts it:
Mr. Taylor has always expressed his views with respect and civility towards those who disagree. He has never engaged in vituperation or name-calling, on Twitter or elsewhere.
Neither Mr. Taylor nor American Renaissance has ever promoted or advocated violence, on Twitter or anywhere else. Indeed, they have urged their followers to maintain a dignified and respectful tone towards those who disagree with them. Neither Mr. Taylor nor American Renaissance is affiliated with any groups that promote or practice violence.
At no time did either Mr. Taylor’s or American Renaissance’s accounts engage in “trolling,” insults, or harassment, nor did they ever encourage anyone else to do such thing
It’s always good to er on the side of free speech and the idea that Twitter and other social media platforms are private entities therefore they should be able to operate freely and govern their social networks as they see fit.
The question becomes what happens wen that private entity becomes public, and what happens when that private entity begins shaping the news narrative and silencing the first amendment right of those whom they don’t agree with?
Should we now let government step in and begin demanding social media platforms be held accountable by government to ensure free speech is upheld? And can we rely on government to ensure that we all have a voice and we all have the ability to be heard equally?
Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have become powerful tools to influence opinions on a variety of topics and it shouldn’t be up to a select few within these businesses decide the narrative.