“I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
These words, written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall to describe the philosophy of Voltaire, should be written on Mark Zuckerberg’s forehead in indelible ink.
Zuckerberg’s Facebook — and Instagram as well — have permanently banned several people they deem “dangerous” from their sites. Among the deplatformed are Infowars’ Alex Jones, Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.
Jones is a lunatic conspiracy theorist, Farrakhan is a hate-filled anti-semite and Yiannopoulos has pushed anti-liberal trolling to the point of fascism. It would be too little to say I disagree with their points of view. I despise their points of view.
But it is not only wrong for Facebook and Instagram to silence them, they have no right to do it and they should be forced to allow them back on their sites.
Facebook and Instagram are platforms not publishers. Unlike publishers, who can curate their content and are thus responsible for their content, platforms cannot be sued if slanderous material appears on them. In return for that immunity, they should be forced to allow all voices to speak. They should no more be able to censor people than the phone company should be allowed to stop Milo and Farrakhan from having a phone chat about whom they hate the most.
Facebook’s blatant and, to my mind, illegal act of censorship has nothing to do with keeping people safe. It has to do with silencing conservatives. Farrakhan — who has swanned around with Barack Obama, Eric Holder and most of the black congressional caucus — is the spoonful of leftist sugar meant to make the poisoning of the right go down. All the other targets are on the right.
Donald Trump has been so successful in taking over the phrase “fake news,” it’s easy to forget it originated on the left as part of a plan to shut down conservative speech. That plan is now in full operation.
Sharyl Attkisson, the investigative reporter who was forced out of CBS News when CBS refused to run stories that exposed the corruption of the Obama administration, has traced the origin of the “fake news” concept to a company called First Draft. First Draft got much of its funding from Google, whose parent company is run by one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest supporters. After First Draft started beating the “fake news” drum during the 2016 campaign, the cry was taken up by Hillary and Obama and, most urgently, by left-wing activist David Brock, who ran the George Soros-funded Media Matters, and other pro-left attack sites.
But the anti-conservative “fake news” campaign really took off in December of 2016 after a man fired off some bullets in Comet Ping Pong, the D.C. pizza parlor associated with Pizzagate. Pizzagate, you’ll recall, was the lunatic right-wing conspiracy theory that involved Hillary and others running a child sex ring out of Comet.
But did the conspiracy theory really originate on the right? Comet, after all, was run by one of Brock’s former boyfriends.
In any case, Brock had promised he was going to get Facebook and other major platforms to curate their content with the help of left-leaning organizations like Southern Poverty Law Center and Factcheck.Org. And after the shooting, he succeeded. Since the “fake news” push, right-wingers, almost exclusively, have become targets of censorship on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
It’s got to stop, and the government’s got to stop it. If Facebook is a publisher who can silence Jones and the rest, then we ought to be able to sue Facebook for every slanderous comment that appears on the site.
If they are not a publisher, but a platform, then they must let every voice be heard.
No one wants to stand up for clowns like Jones and Farrakhan. But while their rhetoric may indeed be ugly, it is nowhere near as dangerous as censorship of Americans by huge, powerful, monopolistic corporations like Facebook.