The First Amendment does not permit the outlawing of conduct merely because the speaker intends to annoy the listener and a reasonable person would in fact be annoyed. Many legitimate political protests, for example, contain both of these elements.
But is the era of free speech ending? Everywhere we look, it seems, there are more and more attempts to shut down offensive and provocative speech. Sometimes, this is done in the name of protecting kids or the sensibilities of marginalized ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. Other times, calls for censorship are made in the name of protecting the political process from “dark money” or foreign influence, or in the name of national security.
In a world not that distant from 1984’s dystopia, social companies are rushing to install algorithmic moderation that would monitor our every word and delete any nonconforming views before we have the chance to share them. More importantly, Facebook recently noted the importance of it being able to log every violation of its thought rules and archiving a copy of the offending speech.
As censorship moves from a post facto review process towards active deletion, speech that social platforms disagree with will no longer even have brief moments of circulation, but instead will be prevented from ever seeing the light of day in the first place.
As Facebook reminded us this past March, that can include silencing debate about its business practices, including calls for regulation or greater data privacy laws.
Eventually these rules won’t apply only to public posts but instead will be used to censor our private phone calls and in-person conversations.
Please read the full article. Then consider. Think deeply.