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Missing the point on free speech

By Scott Tibbs, August 17, 2018

If I have not made myself 100% perfectly clear: Alex Jones is an evil man. Alex Jones is a liar. He is not crazy. Alex Jones is a perfectly rational person who knowingly and intentionally lies and defames innocent people (including the families of murder victims) for monetary gain. Alex Jones worships a demon named Mammon. Christians should not support this evil man.

With that said, Christine Emba misses the point regarding free speech. Legally, Apple, Google and Facebook have the right to ban Jones or anyone else, and Jones' rights under the First Amendment are not violated. But the concept of free speech is bigger than just the First Amendment and what government is and is not allowed to do in response to speech the government dislikes.

If social media companies pulled my accounts, or if my blog hosting service took down ConservaTibbs.com, my free speech would be restricted. It is legal, but it absolutely is censorship because I would not be permitted to state my opinion on their servers. If we believe in free speech, we should encourage social media companies to allow a wide range of opinions on their services, with limited exceptions such as exposing private information (doxxing) or direct threats of violence. An environment where free speech is encouraged is healthy for democracy, and allows the worst ideas to be exposed and debunked.

It is important to remember that Facebook and others silenced the evil Alex Jones not because of slander or libel (which is legally actionable) but for the nebulous concept of "hate speech." No one knows what hate speech really is, which is why rules banning "hate speech" will always be arbitrary and subject to the whims of the moderators. And we should be very clear: The extreme social justice warriors draw no distinction between someone who screams invective and argues that transgenders should be executed and someone who simply argues that there are two sexes and refuses to use a pronoun that does not match someone's biological sex. Alex Jones is only the first step toward a wider ban of mainstream conservative thought.

However, we should not support having the government regulate social media companies to prevent them from censoring opinions. Just as the government may not restrict free speech, government may not compel anyone to say things. Compelled speech is an even worse violation of First Amendment rights than censorship, because government forces people to endorse an opinion they oppose or even hate. I would argue that having government force social media companies to keep speech they consider anathema is forced speech, as their servers (their private property) is used against their will to promote objectionable content.

Private censorship of free speech does not eliminate undesirable opinions. Censorship only creates resentment and hardens the minds and hearts of those who hold undesirable opinions. By sending "hate speech" to an internet ghetto, we also lose the opportunity to refute it for the general public or even convince people why they are wrong. The best solution, then, is not banning people from social media, and it is certainly not creating a mob that ends the careers of people who say objectionable things. The best solution is open, unrestricted debate, trusting that the best ideas will prevail in the marketplace of ideas.