Is the 'freedom of speech' rhetoric now just reserved for actual speech?
February 23, 2023 3:23 AM   Subscribe

I, a simpleton and slave to social media forums and dialogues such as this, have become curious how in such a short period of time the common knowledge that we had the freedom to speak in our own voice about our own opinions as long as it didn't interfere with anyone elses freedoms or alter the truth of the moment. This is my own understanding of that concept, but if I'm not mistaken it is a Constitutionally protected human right. Now, in the year 2023, I'm being mocked by the very construct of "social media" that dares to invite society in to share the social aspect, but then arbitrarily ban or 'jail' those whose ideals once spoken irritate another user of same. i can elaborate:

Any one of us who have a Facebook account may have heard the term "Facebook jail" which is something the bounty hunters of 'fake news' started instilling when a post, usually something that was shared media from a third party source, violated some standard of political correct behavior such as gossip, or hate speech. This is the part of the rule i can understand somewhat, because it will curb people from making offensive posts in vain and then blaming the originator for the content that offended people. But the 'banning' people for sharing part is not quite sitting well. Or other forms of social media that engage in dialogues, but when someone asks a question regarding someones personal opinions you can be banned from using the site just by having one opinion that contradicts the person asking. Its like the answers are subject to such scrutiny that you are really just there to coddle the masses with whatever words are not on the "reportable offenses" list. How did this means of societal babysitting become the new norm? Are social media sites really so in danger of being blamed for the content, or rather, opinions of its users? Are any of us able to point out the nod to communism this represents or is that also not free for me to say? Does interacting with conversational media change our freedom of speech and is so, why?
posted by The_imp_inimpossible to Human Relations (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you trolling us?

Anyway, I will assume you are asking in good faith and try to explain how free speech is intended to work and why.
Freedom of speech appeared as a concept in the 18th century. The idea was that it should be every citizen's right to speak up against the powers that be, back then: the king and his government and the church. As a part of that, it should be every citizen's right to expose corrupt government officials and judges. My impression is that in the beginning, it was perhaps more about the ambition to have a transparent government that could enforce the rule of law. Some absolute monarchs embraced free speech. But it became a constitutional part of the democracies that appeared in the 19th century.

There has never been a time where freedom of speech was unlimited. Different nations have had different limitations. In my own country, hate-speech was made illegal during the 1930s because of the threat from fascist propaganda in neighboring Germany and other fascist countries.

Slander and lying have never been permitted, though as we have seen during the last couple of decades, it can be difficult to limit those.

During those same decades, or at least here, closer to about 25 years, a schoolyard understanding of freedom of speech has risen. That is, what schoolkids who didn't listen in the relevant civics/history classes scream at teachers and parents when they are disciplined for lying, slandering or otherwise denigrating other children.

I believe most of the educated adults who claim they are just using their freedom of speech when they are expressing racist opinions or peddling conspiracy theories are well aware that they are being disingenuous. But some may truly be uneducated.

So that was the basic premise.

On top of that: no media is forced to communicate anything they don't want to. It's that simple. They are private companies and they can publish whatever they want within the limitations stated above. If Meta doesn't want to spread lies, they are free to deny anyone access to their platforms. And they can do so for any reason they like, with no government restrictions.

I hope this was helpful.
posted by mumimor at 3:45 AM on February 23, 2023 [53 favorites]

In the United States, the idea is that the government isn’t allowed to punish you for speech (outside of a few well-regulated situations). However, Facebook is not our government, and it’s allowed to set standards for what kind of speech it is willing to host. It has no obligation to give you a venue for your speech.

This isn’t a speech qua speech thing. This is a third party hosting thing. For example, I can’t have you thrown in jail for calling my mother a whore. What I can do is restrict your access to my house if you do. I can tell you you’re not allowed to say rude things in my space — and indeed, if other people who might be hurt by your rudeness are present, I actually have some obligation to my other guests to do that, up to and including throwing you out if you won’t listen. That’s what social media companies — like Metafilter dot com! — are doing when they enforce standards on speech in their spaces.

Could some such guidelines be bad? Absolutely. I don’t think forcing people into the closet is great, for instance, and if Facebook had been around in the eighties I’m guessing there’d have been some of that. But then it’s the standard itself that’s the problem, not the existence of the standard. I know this is a less satisfying position to be in than being able to claim your inalienable rights have been violated, but this is the state of things.
posted by eirias at 3:46 AM on February 23, 2023 [43 favorites]

I'm going to paraphrase the text of a webcomic that spoke on this issue, because it sums up things very well.
Public Service Announcement: The Right to Free Speech means the government can't arrest you for what you say.
It doesn't mean that anyone else has to listen to your bullshit, or host you while you share it.
The 1st Amendment doesn't shield you from criticism or consequences.
If you're yelled at, boycotted, have your show canceled, or get banned from an Internet community, your free speech rights aren't being violated.
It's just that the people listening think you're an asshole, and they're showing you the door.
Social media platforms are businesses, at the end of the day, and when you sign up for an account with them you are agreeing to their terms of service. Many of those terms of service include standards of conduct, and the vast majority of those standards of conduct include a prohibition of topics or a baseline requirement for treatment of other members. When a social media platform bans someone, they're not saying "You can never say this thing at all," they are only saying "you can't say this thing HERE." If you get banned by Facebook you still have the ability to say something on Twitter or Truth Social or what have you, or you could take out an ad in a paper (if they will take your money) or you could write something down and photocopy it and shove it in people's mailboxes.

So you can still say what you want to say, all that's happening is a private entity is not allowing you to use their tools to amplify it and you have to find your own tools. So it's not a loss of a free speech right - it's a loss of CONVENIENCE. That's all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:53 AM on February 23, 2023 [43 favorites]

Has the US government put you in jail?


Then you still have your American constitutional right to free speech.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:20 AM on February 23, 2023 [29 favorites]

As noted above, your understanding of your protections for free speech is wrong. Common, and understandable! But wrong.

But so is your notion of social media as something that invites "society" as a whole to a discussion. Pretty much every social media site invites only whatever chunk of society is both able to access it and willing to sign onto its terms and conditions, which will just about always include both a) limits on what you can say and b) a right for the site to change those limits arbitrarily at any time. Most of us at this point click through those terms without reading them, but they're part of every sign-up process somewhere, and they limit our speech on those platforms in any arbitrary way that site has chosen to do so. You signed on to abide by a rule (or at least to give the site the right to make arbitrary rules later), you broke the rule, you can be banned, is typically how that goes. There may be some arguable cases there where e.g. if a site is specifically targeting demographically protected groups for banning, that might be cause for some sort of complaint or action about discrimination. But "we don't like what you talk about " isn't a protected demographic.
posted by Stacey at 4:31 AM on February 23, 2023 [7 favorites]

Are social media sites really so in danger of being blamed for the content, or rather, opinions of its users?


If, for example, Facebook allows people to publish child porn on its site then many of their users will consider that unacceptable. If Facebook becomes primarily known as a place that hosts child porn then the majority of its users may vote with their feet. Facebook sells access to its users. It will be unable to make money if it loses the majority of its user base. Therefore Facebook has an incentive (and potentially an obligation to its shareholders) to put limits on range of content/opinions its users may share on the site.

You may think that child porn is an emotive issue to pick. But the principle works for everything.

Metafilter works similarly, although the legal owner of Metafilter is likely to have considerations in addition to financial ones. Metafilter users vocally object to the appearance of racist, homophobic, misogynist and transphobic content/opinions on the site and will blame Metafilter if it is not being deleted.

Free speech has never been an absolute right to say anything anywhere, and organisations with a global reach must take into account the legal framework in jurisdictions outside the USA (where many dozens of people with internet access live).
posted by plonkee at 4:36 AM on February 23, 2023 [8 favorites]

You could read Freedom of speech in the United States which should clear most of your questions, rebuttals, nonsense rhetorical asides and furtive hand-gestures.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:58 AM on February 23, 2023 [9 favorites]

Are social media sites really so in danger of being blamed for the content, or rather, opinions of its users?

Yes. There is a Supreme Court case currently being argued on this very topic.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 5:02 AM on February 23, 2023 [9 favorites]

How did this means of societal babysitting become the new norm?

Just about this specifically: it's not new. Not even a little.

What is very new is for people to be able to broadcast their opinions to strangers at scale. We're the first generations that have ever had this.

It used to be that either you said something in person to people who were physically present to listen to you, and might shut you down and shut you up if they didn't like it, or you wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper, which they might or might not decide to publish, or you submitted some longer text to a book or magazine or newspaper publisher, who might or might not reject it, or you could pay to print and distribute your own pamphlets or even newspaper - usually, though not always, within your local community, because that stuff is expensive and hard. More recently you had the option of calling in to talk radio, which might or might not cut you off if they didn't like what you were saying.

So until very recently there was mass pruning and filtering of what speech actually reached a wide audience, whose values and situations might be very different than your own. Very few voices actually made it through those filters. And even if you managed to reach such audiences - or even local audiences within your community - they often did "cancel" speech and speakers they didn't like - whether through shunning, or through shaming, or through violent means like a mob shutting down your press or burning your books or running you out of town on a rail. Or putting you in jail for obscenity or other charges.

I do not think there has ever been a community at any time, in any part of the world, that made room for all types of speech, no matter how offensive or how critical of the existing social order. What there is today is a completely new level of being able to express yourself - but at the same time, consequences still exist, even if way less than before.

To me, a lot of complaints about things like "societal babysitting" and "nanny states" and "snowflakes" and so on are kind of funny in an ironic and depressing way. You're complaining that you can't post a certain level of broadly offensive content for free, in your pajamas, with no more effort than the click of a button, to a global audience? Is that not a snowflake, baby complaint? You can always go back to the traditional ways: go speak in front of a live audience or print your pamphlets and spend your days distributing them. Put some actual work into it. Just keep in mind that you're much less likely today, in our "delicate" society that cares at least somewhat about your life, health, and emotional well-being, to be physically attacked for offensive content than you were back in the day when men were men and chests were hairy and the law was a tool to use against troublemakers. (Not that those days are completely over: see here for an actual free speech case.)
posted by trig at 5:16 AM on February 23, 2023 [46 favorites]

A very brief oversimplification: Social media sites are private businesses and you are on their property, so to speak, when you post on them. Which means they can kick you off their property at their discretion. It's a little bit like the signs in convenience stores that say "no shirt, no shoes, no service." It's not illegal to be barefoot, but the store can still kick you out for it.
posted by cubeb at 6:07 AM on February 23, 2023 [9 favorites]

Sometimes the world is confusing and answers are non-obvious to me. Metafilter is probably a pretty good place to come with confusing questions asked in good faith.

I hadn't heard about the supreme court case. From the article linked above: The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear oral arguments in Gonzalez v. Google, a lawsuit that argues tech companies should be legally liable for harmful content that their algorithms promote.

I read recently that some org did an experiment and made a TikTok account that watched whatever TikTok suggested. With no prompting, in one hour they had been directed to nazi propaganda. The algorithms want you to watch terrible stuff so you get upset. If you're upset, you're engaged. That's what algorithms can do.

It's not about the speech, it's about the microphone.
posted by aniola at 6:25 AM on February 23, 2023 [3 favorites]

What cubeb said. Also yes, there's always been filtering and social pressures against saying certain things.

What's interesting is the turn against the concept itself. People used to affect that noble "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" attitude but no, everyone is now fully sick of speech in general. There's just too much of it! I expect a tightening in the libel and slander laws in future, which everyone will come to regret as online will still somehow be incredibly annoying.
posted by kingdead at 6:34 AM on February 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that most social media make money via ads, and a lot of effort goes towards "brand safety"- advertisers don't want to run ads next to speech that they think is going to cause a headache for them. It's bad PR, basically, for Coca-Cola to find itself running ads next to some types of speech. Porn, gore, virulent racism... McDonalds doesn't want to run a banner ad next to those, or have people start running news stories about them subsidizing that stuff.

Some brand safety stuff is pretty gross- and networks have been credibly accused of demonetizing pages that might touch on LGBTQ topics because the brands don't like them.

Basically, any website that doesn't shut down certain types of speech will find itself known as "that website overflowing with awful stuff", and advertisers will stay away. It will also drive away potential eyeballs who don't like that stuff, which will again drive away advertisers, and now the website's investors start asking what happened to all that growth you were promising.
posted by BungaDunga at 6:43 AM on February 23, 2023 [2 favorites]

I'm going to expound on my answer a tiny bit, actually, after rereading your question - because I have a funny feeling you're not asking the question everyone else thinks you are. I'm going to pull out some of your phrases and repeat them in my own words, and expound on that - if I've misunderstood you, PLEASE correct me, of course. But I have a feeling that you're asking something different than the rest of us might think you're asking.

Because I have a feeling that you're not asking about free speech - you're actually asking about what OTHER PEOPLE THINK about free speech, and how it got that way.

[I have] become curious how [it became] the common knowledge that we had the freedom to speak in our own voice about our own opinions as long as it didn't interfere with anyone elses freedoms or alter the truth of the moment.

It sounds here like you are asking, "why did so many other people end up thinking 'free speech' meant 'we're not allowed to say anything controversial', because clearly it doesn't." If that's what you're asking - well, social media is a fairly new phenomenon, and it's still finding its footing in some ways. And society is still coming to grips with its influence. When it first got popular, it got REALLY popular, and that meant a whole lot of people were saying a whole lot of things on a much wider platform than they could have done before. But that included the jerks. Now, before Facebook, a jerk could still say something stupid on his own blog or in a forum with a much smaller reach, and the people who heard it probably said or did something - but the rest of the world didn't know, because it wasn't as publicly visible. Or - maybe nothing happened because no one saw what the jerk said in the first place. But when social media came along, suddenly all the jerks had a public platform - and everyone saw them. And additionally - Facebook is designed to show you when your friends do or say ANYTHING on Facebook, so even if you never saw something a jerk said, if your friend saw it and left a comment, you would be informed. So - if a jerk said something stupid, and your friend told them they were stupid, you would hear about what your friend said - and that would in turn make you aware of the jerk and give you a chance to go tell the jerk they were stupid too.

This made things ENORMOUSLY chaotic, as you can imagine, because now instead of one person being a jerk and only ten people responding, you now had 10,000 people responding, and another 10,000 people coming in to defend him, and then those 20,000 people starting to go seek each other out and keep up their arguing - which in turn brought more people into the fray, and that's all coming from just one jerk. So that's when social media started to tighten the reins a bit in terms of what was acceptable or unacceptable speech on their platforms, and making it easier to complain if someone was harrassing you. It was partly to preserve the peace, and partly to spare themselves and their servers the weight of 200,000,000 or so conversations every hour between people who weren't saying anything more weighty than "you're a poopy!" "Am not!"

Now, the jerks who would most often run afoul of these new rules would then start complaining that they were "silenced" and that their free speech rights were being violated. They were wrong, but they were loud, and their supporters would repeat their complaints and it fed into the popular narrative amongst conservatives that conservatives are being silenced by liberal elites, and that's how that gained traction.

So in short - other people have started thinking "free speech means we're not allowed to say anything controversial" because either they said something controversial and got appropriately spanked for it and didn't like that, or they know someone who did.

Any one of us who have a Facebook account may have heard the term "Facebook jail" which is something the bounty hunters of 'fake news' started instilling when a post, usually something that was shared media from a third party source, violated some standard of political correct behavior such as gossip, or hate speech. This is the part of the rule i can understand somewhat, because it will curb people from making offensive posts in vain and then blaming the originator for the content that offended people. But the 'banning' people for sharing part is not quite sitting well.

This is a similar misunderstanding of what "Facebook jail" is, which has been spread by those who ran afoul of Facebook's terms of service. Quite simply: Facebook has come up with some terms of service, which they are 100% allowed to do. They state what these standards are, and they state that if you run afoul of them, there will be consequences. They also state that they are the arbiter of whether a given thing violates those consequences and the degree to which they have been violated. So if someone is banned outright by Facebook, then that simply means that the powers that be at Facebook have ascertained that someone violated the terms of service to such a degree that they no longer wanted to associate themselves with that person. (And consider - Facebook also bans people for posting pornography or criminal activity, so it's not only about viewpoints.)

Incidentally - I am afraid I have no idea what you mean when you say "the bounty hunters of fake news". Who are you referring to?

Or other forms of social media that engage in dialogues, but when someone asks a question regarding someones personal opinions you can be banned from using the site just by having one opinion that contradicts the person asking.

Can you give us an example that you actually saw happen?

Are any of us able to point out the nod to communism this represents or is that also not free for me to say?

Do you understand that the very fact that you were able to post this question answers your question above? You successfully posted this question, ergo, this was free for you to say. .....You're wrong, and we're telling you that, but you were still free to say it. You understand that, right?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:49 AM on February 23, 2023 [11 favorites]

There's no law against starting up your own social media website with no rules, but good luck making any money off it when nobody wants to do business with you. Just ask Elon Musk, who was shocked that his chaotic takeover of Twitter sent advertisers fleeing. Everyone who is fed up with the current place's rules and then decides they're going to make their own cool place without those lame rules finds themselves rapidly having to institute very similar rules (except, perhaps, with an ideological valence that satisfied themselves a bit more). It's sort of the iron law of internet forums: first you get mad at the moderators, then you make your own forum, then you become the moderator, and then people get mad at you.

(It strikes me as a bit funny that you're asking this question on Metafilter, a place that literally employs professional moderators who hand-moderate discussions here- this is a very moderated space!)
posted by BungaDunga at 6:51 AM on February 23, 2023 [4 favorites]

The key question is: who do you feel is restricting your speech? At the simplest, 1A only says the government cannot restrict your speech.

It doesn't apply to anyone else. It's a limitation on government powers, not on speech.
posted by Dashy at 7:15 AM on February 23, 2023 [4 favorites]

The first amendment doesn't force anyone or anything to give people a soapbox and microphone.

Also, hate speech genuinely hurts human beings. Not just in some kind of emotional feelings way, but in actual quantitative living their life way. Discrimination can ruin lives, lead to slavery and murder and genocide. Racism and bigotry can mean people don't get hired for jobs, housing, loans, education, healthcare. If everyone espoused love, peace, acceptance and helping your neighbor who is after all, a human being, how many mass shootings would we have?

The USA government largely won't prevent someone from being an ass with their speech. But it's absolutely not required to protect people from the consequences of being an ass.
posted by Jacen at 7:24 AM on February 23, 2023 [6 favorites]

Are any of us able to point out the nod to communism this represents or is that also not free for me to say?

That is not at all what communism is and if you regularly consume media that uses it as a catchall term for things it doesn't like (which is to say Fox News and its ilk), I'd suggest pondering that some of the confusion you express here is what those propaganda media outlets are attempting to create.
posted by Candleman at 9:18 AM on February 23, 2023 [19 favorites]

The local newspaper has never been obligated to published your letter to the editor, and Facebook is not obligated to publish your opinion. This does not remove from you the ability to speak your mind in the literal public square. The mistake is in thinking that Facebook is the public square.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:32 AM on February 23, 2023 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Several comments removed. Please stick to the Ask Metafilter content policy by responding to the question asked, and doing so in good faith, thank you
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 10:13 AM on February 23, 2023 [2 favorites]

Inspired by EmpressCallipygos, I'm also going to expand on my comment(s). I wrote mine when I first woke up and was probably snottier than I should have been.

This is my own understanding of that concept, but if I'm not mistaken

This is the root of the problem. Your understanding of the concept *is* mistaken, probably because it's based on second- and third-hand sources, usually with an agenda, rather than any actual legal or historical understanding of the concept.

Constitutional rights and human rights aren't the same thing. The US Constitution does protect speech, but there are plenty of other countries that don't, most notably the UK, which does not have a constitution. They do have some free speech protections there, but that's getting into some weeds about UK law which is irrelevant.

We do have to get into some weeds, though, because the US Constitution is itself just a legal document, limited in scope. The most fundamental thing about the Constitution is that it exists solely for the purpose of explaining exactly what the federal government (that's important; each state has a different constitution) can do. It was originally implied that if the Constitution didn't say the government could do something, the government couldn't do it. Some people (the Anti-Federalists) opposed the Constitution because it didn't explicitly say the government could not do certain things. So that's where the Bill of Rights came from: a list of things saying things the government explicitly can't do.

But the Framers had fairly limited imaginations, and nearly all of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights are just things that the English government had done to the American colonists in the years before the Revolution. (This is why there are rights that nobody cares about, like the third amendment, which says that the government can't tell soldiers to live in your house.) And the Framers (like a lot of libertarians, tbh) were also pretty naive. They were thinking about their own situations 15 years before, when they'd get thrown in jail (actual physical jail) for expressing a sincere, good faith opinion. It never occurred to them that, for example, someone would stand at the door of a synagogue and tell arriving congregants that the Holocaust did not actually happen.

So yeah, for the past 234 years, there's been a lot of lawsuits about exactly when the government can and cannot tell you not to say. It's a lot of detail, people have written Ph.D. dissertations about it, but it boils down to yeah, the government usually can't stop you from saying/typing/holding a sign about something. The government can't. Because remember, the Constitution, is a law that applies only to the government.

There are some other laws regulating commercial speech. I can't choose to remain silent on how many calories this chocolate bar I'm selling contains, because nutrition labels are regulated. My landlord can't tell me that he only rents apartments to white people, because housing discrimination is regulated. I can't tell my hot co-worker how I'd like to have sex with her, because sexual harassment is regulated. But for things that aren't regulated, people and businesses (which are people, in the eyes of the law) can do what they want.

You might be saying "but then business owners could decide to discriminate on the basis of race, too", which, yes, in fact, they did, for quite a long time. Until the government (state or federal) passed laws to make racial discrimination illegal. They could pass laws making things like "Facebook jail" illegal, too (or at least, regulating how the concept works in practice), and actually, a lot of legislators have proposed such laws. But they haven't passed, yet.

Facebook and other social platforms have chosen to implement their moderation regimes for business reasons. They've run the numbers, and determined that they'd lose revenue if they put fewer users in Facebook jail. Or if they put more users in Facebook jail. All they're doing is responding to market pressure to maximize profits (which, incidentally, is the very definition of capitalism).

There's actually a pretty heated debate going on right here at Metafilter at this moment about moderation. Check out MetaTalk - there are a few several-hundred-comment thread about a recent mod action (the Metafilter equivalent of Facebook jail). But nobody is saying Metafilter isn't legally allowed to do that. What they're saying is that, if the mods are going to moderate like that, they'll consider leaving Metafilter. Voting with their feet, if you will, which is the market response to a business that conducts itself in a way with which you disagree. Again, the very definition of capitalism.

Communism, on the other hand, just refers to collective ownership of the means of production. It's an economic system. Applied to social platforms, it would mean that you, as a Facebook user, own a share of Facebook, and as a part owner, you and the other owners would make the decisions about how Facebook should moderate instead of Zucc. This is actually possible under capitalism, too, as cooperatives. The most famous example in the US is property insurance. Many property insurance companies, like State Farm, are mutual insurance companies, which means that buying a policy is also buying a share of ownership, and they hold policyholder meetings every year where policyholders can do things like vote to fire the CEO. It's like stock ownership, except literally every customer owns stock. The difference is, under capitalism, there are also companies that are owned by one person, or by multiple people. Under communism, everybody owns everything, which is not exactly the same as saying nobody owns anything, but close.

You probably meant to say "authoritarianism", which is a type of political system, and one often found in countries with communist economies. But it's possible to be authoritarian and capitalist, like Singapore or South Korea 40 years ago or Pinochet's Chile. And it's theoretically possible to be democratic and communist, although in practice that doesn't really happen.

And yeah, I agree, corporate authoritarianism IS bad. But Facebook jail isn't a particularly egregious example of it. Next time you go into the office, try wearing a pair of gym shorts and flip flops. You'll quickly be sent home for a dress code violation. But don't you have the human right to wear whatever you want? Not unless your company is progressive enough that they've gotten rid of dress codes. Or, if you work at a call center, try taking lunch at 2:23pm. Heck, try even using the bathroom at 2:23. Ope, better ask permission first, or you'll get in serious trouble. But don't you have the basic human right to pee whenever you have to go? Nope, management tells you when you can pee and when you have to hold it. Compared to that, tell a social media user that you can't say the n-word really doesn't seem like overreach, does it?

What's interesting to me is that the people who push the "Facebook jail is creeping communism!" line are the same people who reject any attempt to regulate any other form of business. Try telling one of these people that you favor legally mandated six month maternity leave or single-payer health care. As it turns out, *that* is a nod to communism, too! And boy, if you think Facebook will ban you quickly, watch how quickly right-wingers will shun you if you even suggest the notion of raising the corporate income tax. You literally won't be able to run as a candidate in the Republican primary!

One might even go so far to say that this whole social media censorship panic is actually a distraction from the real agenda...
posted by kevinbelt at 10:19 AM on February 23, 2023 [15 favorites]

I can't tell my hot co-worker how I'd like to have sex with her, because sexual harassment is regulated.

At the risk of nitpicking, I think this is not technically true; the business is regulated and you are not. A business is liable for creating a hostile work environment, which keeping on a harassing employee would do, so while you (as an individual) can say whatever you like to whoever you like, a business has a powerful incentive (legal liability for your actions at work) to discipline you up to and including termination for doing so.

In some ways, this is a good example of how the government's regulation is "soft power". Something like "hostile workplaces are grounds for a civil lawsuit, and a workplace is liable if they knowingly allowed it" can and does affect speech but at an arm's length; enforcement is ultimately at the discretion of businesses. It's not a perfect system (in particular, businesses can and do tell plaintiffs who can't get legal representation to get bent), but it's one that's awfully compatible with free-speech libertarianism: it's not the government deciding you're a bad person, it's a business deciding you're a liability.
posted by jackbishop at 1:01 PM on February 23, 2023 [3 favorites]

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