“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”-United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
I wanted to begin with this statement, I’ll get back to it in a sec.
However, I feel it is vital to say the following: I am against, and was repulsed by, the actions of those that chose to “storm the capitol” last week. I am against taking up arms against our country. I am against people taking the life of public servants doing their job. And I am against anyone who incites such activities.
That being said, I may be against it, but I’ll defend with my dying breath your freedom to speak your mind and heart. I fear though, that I’m fast becoming a dinosaur in this belief.
Financial guru Jim Cramer has coined an acronym: FAANG. This stands for the five big tech/social media companies: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google. Here’s one thing I know about big tech: they RARELY, IF EVER, ban together for anything. However, this week they came together to ban a social media app (Parler) and permanently ban people from social media (chief among them, President Donald Trump from Facebook and Twitter) because they were deemed to be dangerous/inciteful of violence. The only thing scarier than a government deciding who has the right to free speech, is a group of the most powerful companies in the world doing so with no pushback from people or government.
And why is that?
Well, legally they can’t.
That’s right. Unlike any and every industry in our country, tech/social media has little to no governmental oversight or regulation whatsoever. Oh sure, the Mark Zuckerbergs (Facebook/Instagram) of the world can be called before Congress. They can be admonished for Draconian behavior. They can even be fined.
BUT THAT’S IT.
It’s like a parent who can yell all they want at the misbehaving child, but at the end of the day, they can’t punish in any real way.
Look, I get your rights end where others’ begin. I understand you can’t run into a crowded theater and scream, “fire.” That being said, it is a very slippery slope when unregulated cowboys get to become the arbiters of what is “proper,” and what is “hate” speech.
We all can agree that telling people to arm up and storm the capitol is bad. What happens though, when these same “judges” ban/remove speech just because it does jive with their ideology? Think it doesn’t happen? Twitter didn’t agree with some of the NY Post’s posts this summer. These were links to articles posted in one of the largest newspapers in the country. So, Twitter locked them out of their own account. When called out on this before Congress basically CEO Jack Dorsey said, “Our bad, sorry.”
What was the punishment?
Nothing. Remember, they are an industry that operates by their own whims and nebulous rulebook.
So what is the solution? I don’t know. I just know that banning and cancelling by an unelected, unregulated third party is a dangerous road to go down. And I think this is perhaps even more dangerous to our Democracy that anything that happened last week.
“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”-George Washington
And that’s something you can hang your hat on.