This week, Facebook banned Paul Joseph Watson, Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Laura Loomer from the site, claiming they are engaging in hateful, abusive content that is not appropriate for the platform. In a statement, Facebook denied that the right-leaning approach of the banned individuals had anything to do with their dismissal from the site.
“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology. The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today,” Facebook said.
The site also banned left-wing, Muslim provocateur Louis Farrakhan, apparently in an effort to prove that they were being balanced in their discernment. If that was the game being played, it was spoiled by media outlets like The Atlantic and the Washington Post, both of which carelessly lumped Farrakhan in with the rest of the “right-wing extremists.”
Meanwhile, over on Twitter, actor James Woods was locked out of his account for tweeting about the Mueller report.
“‘If you try to kill the King, you best not miss’ #HangThemAll,” Woods wrote.
Apparently the “HangThemAll” hashtag was too much for Twitter’s sensitive ears, and they relieved him of his posting privileges.
In his own tweets this weekend, President Trump blasted the social media titans for trampling free expression.
“I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms,” Trump tweeted. “This is the United States of America — and we have what’s known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH! We are monitoring and watching, closely!!”
After mentioning Woods, Watson, and viral conservative stars Diamond & Silk, Trump said: “It’s getting worse and worse for conservatives on social media!”
As private companies, of course, Twitter and Facebook are allowed to ban whomever they want for whatever reason they want, and that’s probably the way it should remain. It might be tempting to bring the heavy hand of the U.S. government to bear on this unfair, biased situation, but that would likely create many more problems than it would solve. It would be nice to have social media networks that respected free speech and protected unpopular points of view, but that’s for an enterprising entrepreneur to figure out, not Congress.
Free speech will live on, regardless of what Zuckerberg and Dorsey do on their respective platforms. Those that want to seek out Alex Jones and Laura Loomer can still do so. We may not care for Silicon Valley’s approach to conservatism and/or other right-wing viewpoints, but the answer lies in finding new homes for our social media discourse. Unfortunately, this can lead to the creation of even more echo chambers and “safe spaces” where no one on one side ever hears a word from the other side. But until we collectively agree that it’s better to argue it out than to stamp our feet in separate rooms, that’s just going to be the way that it is.