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Social media can and should limit hate speech


Observer columnist

Published on August 15, 2018 12:25PM

A memorial in Newtown, Connecticut, featured images of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Photo by Alexisrael

A memorial in Newtown, Connecticut, featured images of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

It’s safe to say that many people don’t really understand the First Amendment, and those are usually the same people who claim that you’re stepping on theirs.

The First Amendment, which is evoked in American society second only to the Second Amendment (ironically), guarantees a whole host of things like free press, freedom from established religion, and the right to peaceably assemble. However, it’s generally only brought up in relation to “freedom of speech,” when people are being told that they need to stop talking about this-or-that.

Here’s an example: “Jim, you’re a racist.” “This is a free country. This is my First Amendment right.”

While everyone’s constitutional rights are always relevant, this one is being discussed a lot more frequently lately because of social media and the unintentional role that they are playing in politics, society, and literally everything that happens in the United States.

Last week, a crazy person named Alex Jones was banned from nearly all social media sites (Facebook, YouTube, Apple, Pinterest, etc.), with the notable exception of Twitter. Jones owns the website and media platform “InfoWars.”

Now, I have a really unfortunate habit of calling people “crazy” or “psychopath” for doing things like putting milk in their bowl before their cereal, so I’m not sure that that’s even the correct word to for this beast of a human.

Maybe, “villainous” would be a more apt descriptor

Regardless, he’s a bad dude, and I really only have to tell you about one of his conspiracy theories to get you to believe me …unless you’re also a psychopath, in which case, c’est la vie.

Denying Sandy Hook

Everyone with a beating heart will remember the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 in which 26 children and six adults were murdered inside of an elementary school by a domestic terrorist, who I refuse to name here. Jones is currently being sued by the families of four of the children and two of the adults who died that day, as well as one of the FBI agents who responded to the shooting.

Jones notoriously espouses the view that the shooting was staged, no one was killed on that day, and that all of it was made up.

“I mean it’s fake … it’s fake … you’ve got parents acting … it’s just the fakest thing since the three-dollar bill,” Jones said. He has repeatedly accused parents of pretending that their children — six- and seven-year-olds — were murdered.

So obviously I do not like this man nor do I agree with anything he has ever said, probably. Still, he does have a right to say these things… but he does not have the right to use the services of a of privately owned business, which is to say every single social media site, as a platform for his rage-inducing conspiracy theories.

Social media should enforce standards

And why is that? How can these social media sites justify their censorship?

The main thing that people do not understand about the First Amendment is that it only gives people the freedom from government limitation on their speech. If Jones had been arrested and jailed for saying the ridiculous things that he does, I would I agree that yes, this is an infringement on his freedoms as an American citizen. He still has inalienable rights, no matter how simple-minded he is.

But that’s not what’s happening. He’s being banned from privately owned businesses because he is violating their policies, which they are absolutely free to do. Just like many of the KKK members who demonstrated in Charlottesville lost their jobs; it’s absolutely legal and arguably even appropriate for these people to be punished for (mostly) socially unacceptable, public declarations.

Just because the government can’t punish you for your idiotic views doesn’t mean that businesses can’t, and it doesn’t mean that society can’t. So get off our Internet, Alex Jones, and don’t blame anyone but yourself.


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