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The buzz last week surrounded conservatives getting banned on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, punctuated by the President Tweeting about it. While it’s good that more attention is being brought to this long-rising challenge, it’s unfortunate that it’s being framed as an issue of freedom of speech. It’s not. This is all about freedom of thought.
It’s important to understand this distinction because there are two poor scenarios that could come if it’s continued to be discussed as freedom of speech. First, there is already a push for the government to get involved in regulating and/or pulling down certain protections currently enjoyed by sites that are considered to be platforms rather than content producers or aggregators. Second, it plays into the narrative being pushed by the left that speech is only protected as long as it’s not “hate” speech.
As conservatives, we should NOT want government to step in and regulate, nor should we want them removing the platform protections. These knee-jerk reactions to the problem are completely understandable until we dig beneath the current problem and see the ramifications long-term. Government generally messes everything up. This is nearly invariable and limited-government conservatives should realize this. Once they start exerting their power to regulate venues such as social media sites, we will see the rapid degradation of both quality and freedoms. They will do what they can to make it “fair” for now, but doing so will mean placing limits deemed by government bureaucrats. Though we’d have to worry about how leftist bureaucrats handle it more so than conservatives, it’s a likely outcome that even conservatives charged with regulating speech on social media platforms would take it too far.
One does not need to be a free speech absolutist to recognize the dangers of a government that is constantly ebbing and flowing between Republicans and Democrats having any level of control over regulating social media.
The problem with removing their status as platforms is they’d instantly have to switch to censor MORE, not less. Those protections are in place to prevent the platforms from being sued for things that happen on their site. Therefore, anything that could be construed as potentially harmful to anyone opens the social media sites up to frivolous lawsuits. Imagine a business that gets lambasted by a popular social media user and eventually is forced to shut down. That business would be able to sue both the platforms and the individuals who participated in the lambasting.
Freedom of speech is a right of Americans that protects them from government suppression. It does not protect people from suppression or consequences pertaining to each other or private organizations.
What we are faced with is a challenge to our freedom of thought. That’s not in the Constitution, but it’s an important component of discourse in America. It always has been. Freedom of thought allows us to not only have and express our opinions, but also to engage with others whether they share our opinions or not. We’ve seen attacks on freedom of thought most clearly on display at colleges that either choose to not allow certain conservative speakers or whose students attempt the “hecklers’ veto” by drowning out speakers with their protests. Now, we’re seeing it on social media. If we look at the problem framed as an attack on our freedom of thought, we can maintain the high road.
These social media sites are not suppressing speech. They are suppressing thoughts, particularly conservative thoughts that are difficult to counter logically and historically. This is the real end game for these and other websites. They realize that if certain realities are spread through the masses, the result will be a change in hearts and minds. Conservatives have truth on our side, but the truth is not what drives the agendas of progressives both using and controlling social media today.
The reality is this: whether on college campus, social media, or any other online or real world venue in which thoughts are suppressed because they do not align with the owners of the venue, it is incumbent on us to address the issue. We shouldn’t beg government to get involved, as so many have done lately. Instead, we should work together to inform the venues with our own thoughtful protests. They need backlash from the people, not regulations from the government.
When we recognize that WE are their product, we understand that the power to remove their product is what can actually drive better change. Is it easier than just demanding Congress get involved? No. Is it more effective in the short term? No. Is it the right way to do it and the only way to prevent government from coming in and destroying it? Absolutely.
We the People have the power over these site and that must be how we react. Calling on government to punish the is shooting ourselves in our own feet. This is our problem to solve. We do it by speaking out and giving them the backlash they deserve.
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