Duane is an avid reader and follower of all things social, spiritual, and political, and a committed leftist.
The 1st Amendment states:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
The 1st Amendment is an agreement between the American people and their government. One can feel free knowing that they won't be pursued or prosecuted by the government for their speech. Social media platforms, which are privately owned, are not beholden to 1st Amendment promises. Social media can and does ban unsavory content on their platforms.
These outlets are open to the public, but they are privately administered by terms of service agreements that their users must comply with. Lately, social media platforms have been blocking some right-wingers from posting on their sites. Proponents of hate groups, conspiracy theorists, and those deemed purveyors of "fake news" are all being blocked because they are typically purposeful creators of inaccurate or deceptive content.
Social media content crackdowns have increased since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas claimed the lives of 17 teenagers. Many right-wing sites, most notably InfoWars and its associates, called the shootings "a false flag" that was perpetrated by opponents of the 2nd Amendment. InfoWars in particular targeted and smeared students who protested lax gun regulations. Alex Jones and InfoWars committed the very same human decency violations following the Sandy Hook school shooting. They even claimed that the reported 26 deaths of young children were "fake," and they accused the grieving parents, first responders, and teachers of being "crisis actors."
Taunting and slandering people who experienced a mass shooting is clearly incendiary, purposeful, and hateful. Social media sites are not obligated to publish cruel and false sentiments, nor are they required to provide a platform for people who express those points of view.
One of the most glaring traits shared by right-wing evangelical Christians and White nationalists is an enormous persecution complex. Whenever society moves to rectify its systemic injustices by becoming more credible, inclusive, and equitable, there is loud screeching from some conservative thought shepherds who complain that social justice campaigns are actually oppressing them.
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Speech May Be "Free," but There Are Consequences
The New York Times reported that part of YouTube's terms of service states:
"The Company’s guidelines prohibit..., harmful or dangerous content, hateful content, threats, spam, misleading metadata, or spam."
Recently, Laura Ingraham, a right-wing flamethrower and television host at Fox News, was forced to issue an apology for a loathsome tweet she posted about 17-year-old student activist, David Hogg.
The LA Times reported that "Hogg has been one of the most vocal, speaking at the March for Our Lives rally against gun violence in Washington on Saturday. Since the shooting, the teen has frequently appeared on television and rallied his growing number of Twitter followers to become civically engaged if they are frustrated with the status quo."
The status quo Hogg is civically engaged in challenging includes the country's gun laws. This is a hot button issue that makes gun fetishists furious. Ingraham tried stoking gun nut's anger at the student protest. She has the ability to unintentionally prompt a gun nut to cause Mr. Hogg harm. That's called "stochastic terrorism." Ingraham's actions demonize her ideological and political opponents to the degree that they become targets of acts of violence or terror.
David Hogg brought Ingraham's words to light and encouraged advertisers to stop doing business with Fox News on Laura Ingraham's show. As of this writing, 10 major advertisers have stopped running their ads on Laura Ingraham's show. A report on Ingraham's loss of advertisers can be found here.
InfoWars and other sources of right-wing vitriol desire to dominate spaces of public opinion. Right-wingers swarm comment threads on social media, article comment sections on news sites, and YouTube comments sections. Their ideological leaders publish the most outlandish misinformation and irresponsible commentary. Most of this hateful content amounts to unhinged conspiracy theories, dog-whistle racism, anti-Semitism, and various flavors of gun-nuttery. Donald Trump brought that element of the lunatic fringe into the mainstream spotlight with his presidential campaign. Trump used many of the aforementioned tactics to gain support from deeply prejudiced conservative voters.
Trump's actions convinced the regressive right and its conspiracy theorists that their time had come, and that everyone had to listen to them and take them seriously. Because these people have a like-minded president in power, they have begun to run amok in public spaces, and they believe they're entitled to a platform and a microphone. But that's not how free speech works.
"It's Hard to Predict What Youtube Would Deem Too Toxic for Advertisers."
Freedom of Speech? Not in My Space
Freedom of speech does not entirely apply to privately owned spaces. When one signs up for a social media site, it is required to agree with the host's terms of service. Terms of service (TOS) agreements are legally binding. By signing up to use social media sites, one is agreeing to compromise their 1st Amendment rights in order to occupy that space. One must agree to conduct themselves in a manner that complies with the TOS of the platform you're seeking access to.
Vice reported that Facebook removed white nationalist Richard Spencer's pages from its space. Mark Zuckerberg said in testimony before Congress a few days before:
“We do not allow hate groups on Facebook, overall. So if there’s a group that, their primary purpose or a large part of what they do is spreading hate, we will ban them from the platform overall. . .”
Cynthia Collins wrote, "There is a difference though between freedom of speech and a free-for-all. Defamatory comments do not accomplish anything except to hurt and demean their intended subject. Those who insist on this type of desperation for page views are not using the right of free speech in a responsible way. When a claim of freedom of speech hurts others with hateful remarks, accusations, and false statements, it is not freedom."
One can hold whatever opinion one pleases. One cannot spew one's opinion any time, anywhere, whenever one pleases. Especially defamatory, hateful, false, and intentionally incendiary speech. No one is entitled to a platform and a microphone. If one wants to practice the full extent of their 1st Amendment rights, they can start their own webpage or vlog on their own platform. It is likely that a TOS agreement will be necessary there too, however a person will have more freedom to publish whatever they want. People should keep in mind that having the right to freedom of speech does not prevent them from facing the consequences of irresponsible or incendiary speech, and a likely consequence of making inflammatory statements is that a person may lose access to various social media platforms if their statements violate a particular site's terms of service.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2018 Duane Townsend