Two recent developments from social media giants have perfectly contrasted the difference between the left and the right’s view on free speech. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter have come under fire from Democrats and Republicans respectively for conflicting reasons.
In late October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to the Hill to attend what could only be described as an embarrassing display of arbitrary questioning rooted in virtue signaling, ignorance of technology, and a disregard for the First Amendment. Democratic officials of Congress pressed Zuckerberg as to why the popular social media platform doesn’t ban “hate speech” and take steps towards curbing “fake news.” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went so far as to accuse The Daily Caller, a conservative online publication, of having close ties to white supremacy and arguing the outlet should not be allowed to fact check.
AOC’s analysis of a conservative publication and what constitutes as fake news is indicative of how the left views their own opinion. To the left, their opinion is not a subjective take on a particular issue but instead reflects objective reality and any dissenting voice has no place in public discourse. Rather than caving to the attacks, Zuckerberg stood firm in his defense of free speech and the free flow of a diversity of information. Facebook by no means has a purely libertarian approach to the free market of ideas, with many conservatives finding themselves being subject to censorship for a violation of vague “hate speech” standards, but Zuckerberg still has a baseline understanding of the importance of open dialogue.
Zuckerberg’s resistance to banning “fake news” (a.k.a. news the left doesn’t agree with) and his cooperation with the First Amendment came with a litany of criticism from Democrats and praise from Republicans. Juxtapose the left’s response to Zuckerberg with their response to Jack Dorsey and we can very plainly see what Democrats think an open forum of ideas will do to their agenda.
Jack Dorsey announced that Twitter will no longer run political advertisements. Unlike Zuckerberg’s approach, Democrats hailed Dorsey’s stance as a defense of truth and justice. Again, we can see how Democrats view their opinion. Not only is Twitter’s decision to ban political ads a blatant attack against our free expression of ideas, it has major cultural and political implications.
Senator Ted Cruz correctly pointed out that banning ads on social media benefits three groups – the mainstream media, incumbent politicians, and Silicon Valley elites. I would add a fourth to Cruz’s assessment – the Democratic Party. The prohibition of political ads will give incumbent candidates, which of whom already have hefty donors and large pocketbooks, an even larger leg up on challengers. The mainstream media has a vested interest in social media banning content and ads because it gives them a louder megaphone, not to mention an increased influx of dollars when politicians have no choice but to advertise with networks.
However, no one gets a higher concentration of power than the Silicon Valley elites when it comes to censorship. Those running Big Tech, as we see happening already, will become the ultimate gatekeepers of information. When the free market of ideas goes uninfringed, the arbiters of truth are fact, logic, and reason. The people are given the opportunity to act on their own liberty to discuss, divulge, and disseminate information. But when censorship is enacted, the arbiters of “truth” are the social media tycoons and their own inherent bias.
Stopping the spread of misinformation quickly turns into stopping the spread of information you don’t like when we attempt to limit speech. The slippery slope argument, although considered a logical fallacy, couldn’t be truer when it comes to the First Amendment. Only those in power may determine what is true and what is false, what is considered hate and what is merely unfortunate fact, and what is considered relevant for the public to hear and read.
Mainstream media, especially in the age of Trump, has undoubtedly become anti-conservative. Neutral to positive news coverage of Republicans is dismal while Democratic politicians remain untouchable against media scrutiny. Social media quickly became a safe haven for alternative news outlets combating the mainstream bias. This safe haven is under attack and to replace it is an echo chamber of progressive ideology.
A free market of ideas operating under an open platform does not benefit one side or another. It benefits the will of the people, productive ideas, and constructive discussion. Censorship of speech is not a virtuous endeavor of truth but rather an admission of the incompetence of thought. Republicans support the free flow of information because they are confident in the conservative ideology. Democrats loathe free flow of information because they don’t believe their ideas are strong enough to hold their own.
The left attempting to stymie the First Amendment, create ambiguous “hate speech” standards, and become the gatekeepers of information is a political weapon, not a righteous crusade. An exposition of varying viewpoints is the kryptonite of the Democratic Party platform, making the defense of free speech a partisan issue and more important than ever.
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