This past week, Twitter suspended several accounts of racist demagogues (sorry, "alt-Right movement leaders") and the political Right went apoplectic. Twitter was interfering with their freedom of speech, they whined. Actor and Donald Trump fan James Wood pounced Twitter.... on Twitter... to say that he was going to stop using Twitter. The most prominent of the white supremacist hotheads banned, Richard Spencer, whose white power "think tank" also had its account suspended termed the move "corporate Stalinism."
Some white racist groups have even gone the route of sour grapes, claiming that having the tools they used most effectively to spread racism like wildfire - namely social media - will actually help them. Well, good luck with that.
First. Of. All. These self-professed Constitutional luminaries should actually maybe try reading the Constitution. The First Amendment provides only protection against government action leading to the loss of free speech, not private action. You cannot come to my house and wear your triangular hat. You cannot walk into a cattle ranch and plaster the place with veganism posters and not expect to be removed by force.
As a matter of fact, not only does the First Amendment not protect anyone against an intrusion of speech in private spaces, the First Amendment actually protects the right of private entities to limit speech on their own domains. It's why TPV has an unfettered right to ban Right and Left wingbats, conspiracy theory nuts, bigots etc. Our freedom to decide what is and isn't seen on our platform is an integral part of our freedom of speech. In other words, if we were to legally ban Twitter, Facebook and other private companies from deciding what can and cannot be said on their platform, that would be a violation of the First Amendment.
As much fire as Twitter has come under for taking a stand to enforce their policies against spreading hateful, racist ideologies, and as much as we, the supporters of a diverse, pluralistic society applaud this move, this must only be the beginning. For Twitter, but also for other companies whose platforms are used to spread information.
The right time to take these stands would have been before President Pussygrabber got installed into the White House against the will of the people. The right time to take these stands was before the spread of hate speech and fake news caught on like wildfire and came straight out of the mouths of people in the highest echelons of the Trump campaign. The right time to take these steps would have been before fake news outperformed real news on social media sites like Facebook.
But it's better to do this late than to do this never at all. I applaud Twitter for finally taking a stand. I applaud Facebook and Google for taking a stand to starve fake news sites of advertising dollars.
And they must do more. For example, Google-owned YouTube must follow up by suspending accounts like Spencer's and his "think tank's" so that they cannot use the powerful video platform to spread their hate or complain about having their "right" to hate speech being impeded by a private entity. Facebook must actively start banning groups actively promoting white separatist and racist ideology as well as other ideologies of hate and bigotry.
They must crack down on white supremacist hate groups (start with the Southern Poverty Law Center) using their platforms the same way they would crack down on terrorist groups in other parts of the world. The hateful ideology of white, Christian supremacists is every bit as dangerous as that of ISIS, and the rise of the white power movement must not be given oxygen on platforms that aim to be a force for good and platforms that are created, maintained and improved daily by engineers who come from the most diverse of backgrounds.
Even if social media companies do everything in their power to curtail hate speech and fake news, however, that will not be enough if we as citizens do not begin to hold the mainstream news accountable as well. We must watch, we must protest when the mainstream media starts giving daylight to hate, and we must make it known that when they do, there will be consequences. The Right has hounded the media for 40 years; now it's our turn.
We cannot Constitutionally rout out the white supremacist alt-right movement from the public sphere. But we must drive it back into the fringe, dark closet where it belongs.