The NYT on free speech
Their supercilious writer below, Kara Swisher, is perfectly correct but largely irrelevant. Conservatives such as Mr Trump do often express their concerns in free speech terms but what they are basically objecting to is political bigotry. They object to Leftists censoring their words. They object to politically discriminatory treatment. They object to being discriminated against on social media.
It cannot be long before conservatives start to us use anti-discrimination law to pull the social media censors up hard. The range of categories that get anti-discrimination protection is ever widening and it just needs one Southern State government to add conservatives to the list of protected categories for the social media companies to be in big trouble. It might not even need new legislation
I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell the president, but someone has to: Social media is not the public square, not even a virtual one.
Not Facebook. Not Reddit. Not YouTube. And definitely not Twitter, where a few days after Facebook announced it was barring some extremist voices like Alex Jones, President Trump furiously tapped out: “I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms. This is the United States of America — and we have what’s known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH! We are monitoring and watching, closely!!”
He can monitor (yes, that’s definitely a creepy word) and watch all he wants, but it will not matter one bit. Because the First Amendment requires only that the government not make laws that restrict freedom of speech for its citizens.
Here’s the whole text if you need a refresher — and anyway, it’s kind of short: “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.”
With all the loud opinions and screechy videos and belligerent tweets — and that’s just our president on any given Sunday — many people have mixed up the actual free-speech rights of “AMERICAN CITIZENS” with the ability of loudmouths and bullies to spew whatever they like to tens of millions of people any time of day or night.
The confusion is understandable. Those inventive entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, with their smooth libertarian groove and anything-goes tone, let users huff and puff away so much that you would think that they were actually committed to the idea of a free-for-all. And they were, until it became clear that humanity could get really ugly and out of control pretty quickly and turn it into a Free Speech Thunderdome.